Bible: Outline for non-Christians

One of my good friends is pagan, and she wanted to educate her children about the basics of the Bible so that they’d have a clue about the Christian faith, and so they wouldn’t miss the cultural references that are made in passing.

I got the bug in my ear, so I spent two hours yesterday making a quick and dirty Bible guide for her.   Please don’t pick on it too much – this is a) intended for someone who is completely Biblically illiterate, b) not intended for the Christian audience and c) two hours, but God wasn’t letting me out of the chair until I was completely done.

I do feel “I am only an egg” about the whole thing, but Alte said I should post it, so here you are.  This is long… obviously.  (It runs six pages in Word.  If you want me to email it to you, drop me a note). (It’s prettier in Word, but I”m not reformatting it).

Old Testament


Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

–          History, law, genealogies

–          Called the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible.

–          Moses is the author (note:  Moses received a classical Egyptian education to age 40)

–          Key passages

o   Creation Story, Adam & Eve:  Genesis 1-3

o   Noah and the Ark:  Genesis 6 – 9:17

o   Tower of Babel:  Genesis 11:1-9

o   The Burning Bush:  Exodus 3

o   The Plagues of Egypt:  Exodus 7-12

o   Passover:  Exodus 12:42

o   Division of the Red Sea:  Exodus 14

o   Ten commandments:  Exodus 20:1-17

o   The Golden Calf:  Exodus 32

o   The cloud by day, fire by night:  Exodus 40

–           Key Players

o   Abraham: Genesis 12-25

  • THE patriarch of patriarchs.  Father of Ishmael and Isaac.  The one to whom the promised land was promised.   Extremely wealthy herdsman and capable warrior in need.
  • Promise of Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-3
  • Hagar and Ishmael:  Genesis 16
  • Isaac born:  Genesis 21:1-8
  • Isaac almost offered up as sacrifice:  Genesis 22:1-20

o   Isaac:  Genesis 21-26

  • Basically a peaceful guy who dug wells.  Very sweet story about his wife Rebekah.  Son of Abraham, father of Jacob and Esau.

o   Jacob: Genesis 27-26

  • Quite the tricky dude – stole the birthright from his brother Esau for a “mess of pottage”.  Served seven years for one wife, had a bait and switch and given her less-desirable sister, so served another seven years for the one he’d wanted in the first place.
  • Ended up with two wives and two concubines (Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, Zilpah)
  • Renamed Israel.
  • Father of the twelve tribes of Israel (twelve sons) and one daughter, Dinah.

o   Joseph:  Genesis 37-50

  • Son of Jacob .  The elder son of the favorite wife.
  • Given the coat of many colors, because he was the favorite.
  • Had the gift of prophetic dreams/interpretation of prophecy.
  • Brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt and told their dad (Jacob) that he’d been killed by wild animals.
  • Fat cow/Thin cow dream:  Genesis 41
  • All of his brothers and the tribe of Israel end up moving to Egypt.  This saves them from starvation.

o   Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

  • Saved from death, adopted by Pharoah’s daughter – he was raised as royalty.
  • Left Egypt at 40 after killing an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite slave.
  • Herded sheep for 40 years in the wilderness.
  • At 80, saw the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • Spent 40 years in the desert herding Israelites (they got time out for bad behavior, it doesn’t take a million people 40 years to walk from Egypt to Israel).
  • Never entered the promised land


Joshua, Judges, Ruth

–          History, vignettes, examples

o   Joshua tells the story of the capture of Canaan and the settlement of the Israelites into what is now Israel.

o   Judges tells the story of how Israel fell into sin and all the tragic consequences of that fall.  Occasionally judges (aka champions) would rise and pull Israel out of the fire, but it didn’t last and each episode is more tragic than the last.

o   Ruth is a love story – it’s very short.  It tells the story of a foreign woman who chose God and faith to her widowed mother in law and how her goodness was rewarded.

–          Major Players:

o   Joshua

o   Samson

o   Ruth & Boaz


1 & 2 Samuel

–           History

–          Major Players

o   Samuel – a prophet of God.

o   Saul – First king of Israel, insane.  Persecuted his son-in-law, David.

o   David – A shepherd boy who became a war hero who became the king’s son-in-law who became an outlaw who became king.  A man “after God’s own heart” – not because he was perfect, but because he had faith in God and not in himself.

  • Wrote the psalms
  • Got the idea for the Temple, designed it, and got the materials together.  (Was not permitted to build it)
  • Father of many, including Solomon.
  • Stories:
  • David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • David’s prayer (2 Samuel 7:8 – 17)
  • David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12)


1 & 2 Kings

–          History

–          Record of the kings of Israel (and the split between Israel and Judah).  A few bright spots, but mostly it’s about the fall from grace.  Starts with Solomon and goes downhill until the captivity in Babylon.

–          Solomon –

o   David’s second child by Bathsheba (the first died).

o   Wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon

o   Extremely wealthy.  Everyone is always looking for the wealth of Solomon, which is odd since the histories discuss how the subsequent kings used it to pay off mercenaries or had it stolen during occupations.

o   Built the Temple

–          Elijah/Elisha –

o   Prophets during the post-split Israel.  Enemies of Ahab and Jezebel.  Various miracles.  Elijah taken bodily to heaven in a chariot of fire.


1 & 2 Chronicles

–           Same history as 1& 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, but told from a different perspective.


Ezra, Nehemiah

–          History of Israel after they were allowed to return to the land.



–           Story of a Jewish woman who became queen of Babylon and how she saved her people from genocide.



–           Poetry

–          Story of a rich man who loves God, and how he is afflicted by Satan in order to prove that he loves God for God, and not for His blessings.

–          “Job’s comforters” is an allusion to the jerks who came to visit him and spent *chapters* saying, “If you didn’t sin, why would God treat you like this?  You did *something*”.

–          Some very nice astrological and natural observations scattered throughout.  For those who say the Bible says the world is flat – it doesn’t.



–          Poetry

–          About half, maybe more, written by David (they usually say – there is choir/music direction throughout).

–          To read:  Psalm 23



–          Advice to a young man – it is categorized not as poetry, but as “wisdom”.  Lots of two-liners.

–          Written by Solomon

–          Fun/easy to read in small doses – quippy

–          Ideal wife:  Proverbs 31:10-31



–           “Jaded”, in a word.  Written by Solomon … discusses life’s futility without God.

–          Key passage:  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8


Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs)

–          Written by Solomon

–          Poetry

–          A metaphor of marital love and God’s love.  Lots of layers, and it gets pretty steamy in spots.




Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

–          Called the “major prophets”.  Prophecy, and some history of the fall of Jerusalem/Israel.  Note:  The phrase, “Major prophets” refers to the length of the books, not their relative importance.



–          A lament over Jerusalem, written by Jeremiah.

–          This is where we get the term “jeremiad” to describe a sad history.



–          History and prophecy

–          Story of a noble-ranked teenager who was taken in the Babylonian captivity with his friends.  They were castrated and put in training to be the intellectuals of the day.  Daniel stayed in power through three kings and one dynastic change.

–          The book is not especially in chronological order, which is confusing.

–          Vignettes

o   Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: Daniel 2:31-49

o   The Fiery Furnace:  Daniel 3:8-30

o   The writing on the wall:  Daniel 5

o   Daniel and the lions’ den:  Daniel 6



–          History and slight prophecy

–          Jonah and the whale:  Jonah 1

–          It’s short.  Basically God tells Jonah to go tell people who have been killing off his people that unless they repent, God is going to squish them.  Jonah doesn’t want to do that, so sets sail for somewhere very far away from Nineveh (where he was sent).  God causes a storm.  Jonah gets cast overboard to save the ship, ends up in the belly of a fish (type not specified).  Gets upchucked on the coast close to Nineveh, gets the point and tells them what he was told to.  Nineveh repents, Jonah pouts.  (Later Nineveh goes back to their old ways, and they get squished, see the book of Nahum).


Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

–          The minor prophets.





The New Testament


Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

–          Gospels… basically they’re the history of Jesus’ earthly life.   They are written by different people for different audiences, so (as you would expect) tell the stories of Jesus’ life from different angles.  John is the most mystical, and focuses on His divinity.

–          Story of Jesus’ birth:  Matthew 1: 18-2:23

–          John the Baptist is NOT John the apostle.  John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, and preached about repentance and the soon coming of the Messiah before Jesus got to town.  He baptized Jesus, on Jesus’ order.

–          Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 5-7

–          The Lord’s Prayer:  Luke 11:1-4

–          The Good Father:  Luke 11:9-13  (This is very special to me)

–          Render unto Caesar:  Luke 20:19-26

–          A relatively concise telling of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, death & resurrection:  Luke 22:39-24:53

–          Parables:  Stories to illustrate a point

o   Parable of the Sower:  Matthew 13

o   Parable of the Vineyard:  Matthew 20:  1-16

o   Parable of two sons:  Matthew 21: 28-32

o   Parable of marriage feast:  Matthew 22: 1-14

o   Parable of the Talents:  Matthew 25:14-30

o   Parable of the Two Debtors:  Luke 7:40-50

o   Parable of the Prodigal Son:  Luke 15:11-32

o   Parable of the Good Shepherd:  John 10: 1-18

–          Read Matthew if you’re going to read a gospel for the history and miracles.



–          A history of the early church.  (Written by Luke, Paul’s Greek doctor).

–          Key characters:

o   Peter, the apostle

o   Paul, the apostle (started out as Saul, a Pharisee – highly educated and scrupulously religious Jew)



–          Theology, fairly heavy theology.

–          Written by Paul to the Roman church prior to his incarceration there.

–          Central theological doctrines of the Christian faith herein – but this is not easy reading.


1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

–          Epistles to various churches throughout Greece and Turkey

–          Mostly fairly short, as epistle = letter, and Paul wrote these.

–          Subject:  Christian living


1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

–          Written to Timothy and Titus.

–          Epistles

–          Discuss Christian living, with emphasis on qualifications of elders, pastors, deacons, etc.






–          Epistle written by Paul on behalf of an escaped slave who came to Christ to the slave’s owner, who had converted to Christ and was personally known to Paul.   Short, short, short.



–          Epistle written to the Jews, discussing how the Jesus fulfills the OT Law (aka the Torah)



–          Epistle written by James, a brother of Jesus

–          Subject:  Christian living

–          Lots of admonitions about speech and the difference between truth and hypocrisy.


1 & 2 Peter

–           Epistles written by  Peter the apostle

–          Subject:  Christian living, with emphasis on the inevitability of suffering for the faith


1, 2 & 3 John

–          Epistles written by John the apostle

–          Extremely short.   Read 1 John for a nice summary of Christian faith.



–          Epistle, very short.

–           Written by James’ brother (so also a half-brother of Jesus)

–          Mysticism and apostasy



–          Prophecy, the end times, apocalypse, armageddon

–          Written by John the apostle when he had been banished to a small island off of Greece (Patmos).  He was quite old when he wrote this book.

–          Properly, this is the “Revelation of Jesus Christ”, it shouldn’t be referred to as “revelations” although it often is.

–          Some of this is metaphor, some of this is literal.  Organization is given in the first chapter.  It skips about a bit.

–          You can find the symbols in Revelation throughout the rest of the Bible.  It is a heavily symbolic book, but the Bible is consistent in its symbolism, so you can look that up easily enough.

–          Message to the churches:  Revelation 2-3

–          Four riders of the apocalypse are the first four of the first seven seals:  Revelation 6

o   Rider on the White Horse – Conqueror

o   Rider on the Red Horse – War

o   Rider on the Black Horse – Famine

o   Rider on the Pale Horse – Death

–          Armageddon:  Revelation 16:13

–          Marriage of the Lamb (aka Christ and His Church):  Revelation 19:7-10

–          The end of the story…. Revelation 22

4 thoughts on “Bible: Outline for non-Christians

  1. fiberaddict

    Also, the book of Ruth is how Christ followers should act. It lays it ALL out there….from leaving your false gods and accepting Christ. It’s one of my favorite books!


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