Rightly Dividing the Bible

Luke 24:44

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”



The Bible consists of 66 different “books.” It is written by many different authors, and has had some apparent editing, although not nearly as much as critics claim. For example, Deuteronomy is said to be written by Moses and records his death.


The Bible is written by different kinds of people, living in different circumstances and is written in different styles. All of these issues are relevant for getting at the meaning of a passage. One does not interpret straight forward narrative in the same manner that one interprets prophecy, poetry, parables and proverbs. Let me give you an example from the teaching of Jesus:


Matthew 5: 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.


This passage is as clear as it can be in terms of what is said. Is it Jesus’ intent that all people be blind? Our eyes cause us all to stumble. It is His intent that we all go without hands? We all sin with our hands. Or is He using a common literary device called hyperbole to drive home a point? It is important to understand Him.


John 6: eat my flesh and drink my blood. My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink. Jesus is using metaphor to get people to understand that He is offering them life in the spirit, true life. If we take it literally, like the people who heard Him did, then we will miss out of what He wants us to know.


The Book of Revelation, which is obviously full of symbols and metaphorical pictures is not interpreted correctly when it is taken literally. Grasshoppers are not helicopters. It’s not helpful!


This is why I think it is so helpful to view the first five books of the OT, as the Gospels of the OT. They describe what it is that God has done to “save” or to “create” a people for Himself. And because of that the main point of the Bible is for all of us to know how we can live in God’s world and have the best life possible.


Ecclesiastes 12:

11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.


In any event, let’s break the Bible up into it’s basic divisions:

Luke 24:44

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”



  1. Old Testament and New Testament


  1. Law and Gospels/Acts


What has God done to save? How are we to respond to Him?


First five books of each Testament.


  1. Prophets and Epistles


Explanation and evaluation that applies the law to the actions of the people of God.


Most of the OT books


From Joshua to Esther, and then Isaiah to Malachi. But these       books do not make sense if we do not have a grasp of the first   five!


All of Paul’s writings and the general epistles. Everything from      Romans to Jude. These books shine a light on the work of Christ.      “in Christ”


  1. Writings and Revelation

        From our passage: Psalms


        Practical “wisdom” literature, (The writings)

Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job

Apocalyptic New Testament explanation of suffering in the   Kingdom of God.


Having had an overview, now we focus in on the Torah!


  1. Breaking Down the Law


  1. Historical narrative

“The Law” also called the Torah. Also called the Pentateuch. This is what God has done in establishing a covenant with people. The    law contains historical narrative that describes what He has done    and what they have done as it pertains to their relationship with        God.


What has our experience with God taught us? God has worked in our lives as well. What should we expect from Him and from us in      our relationship with God.


        If you will remember from what we have said about covenants in the past, covenants are based upon actions of the greater party.        What has God done? It is in the law.


  1. Legal instruction


  1. Priestly/ sacrificial laws


  1. National laws


  1. Moral laws


And covenants have stipulations. What are we agreeing to with    God? The laws, strictly speaking are what we are agreeing to do in order to maintain a good relationship with God.


Because the Jewish people are a nation as well as a religion, there are national laws. There are laws related to things as basic as what they eat, types of fabric, holidays, ethics, and other practical issues. Half of Exodus, all of Leviticus, half of Numbers and a lot of Deuteronomy consists of legal requirements.


  1. Book breakdowns


                Genesis: means beginnings. Beginnings of what? Of the      people of God!  How did the COI get down to Egypt to live as     slaves? Historical narrative. Genesis has two main topical       divisions, but several narrative divisions.


Genesis has a change at chapter 12. The narrative changes    from overview stories that relate to thousand plus years in 11 chapters to direct stories about the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (later named Israel) and his sons, the namesakes of the tribes of Israel.


Exodus: word literally means to come out. The stories of    the coming out of Egypt. This book is divided between historical         narrative stories of salvation and laws given.


Leviticus: all law all the time.


Numbers: similar to Exodus, historical narrative relating to         the Israelites in the Wilderness. (Key story is the refusal to enter       the Promised Land disaster). And also lots of laws given here as       well.

Deuteronomy: word means “second law” and deals with    the re-statement of the covenant between God and His people.      Because of the further experience with God in the wilderness and       the second time around for establishing the covenant, this book       is more foundational in terms of how to have a relationship with God. I call it the gospel of John in the OT.


III. Biblical Introductions

        Having had an overview of the whole, and focusing in on the Torah, now we focus in on the introduction to the whole of it!

  1. The first eleven chapters of Genesis


        Creation, marriage, family, work, law, blessing, grace and salvation, sin and judgement. The reason God is hard, the reason life is hard and often disappointing. The real possibility to live well regardless. The consequences of sin. The reality of temptation. There is so much in these chapters it’s almost unbelievable!



  1. The big picture truths are all here

        God has revealed Himself in nature, but we need more information in order to come to Him so that we might have abundant life. And so:

Hebrews 1: God has spoken in the past to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.


When we correctly understand what He has said and submit our lives to His will and truth, then we live best!


  1. When you read, what do you see?

God is the main subject of the Bible. What we know about God is all here. And we also should see ourselves. What we know about ourselves is here too! Our weaknesses and challenges are exposed. Our needs met by God. The stage is set for us to be challenged to obey God!!