The Story of the Entire Bible, Part One: The Super Short, Ten-Minute Version
35 bullet points + extra fun facts
I used to think I was Bible literate.
But sometime in college, my mind was boggled when I realized I couldn’t even get straight who was the father of whom, and I never even caught on to the fact that at one point, Israel had a civil war and split into two countries!
See, I grew up listening to Bible stories, but out of order. I never made the connection between the stories. And they are connected.
So this is my attempt to make the Bible more accessible for anyone who is interested but not extremely familiar with it.
WARNING: I’m not a trained theologian.
This is just the story of the Bible summarized in a way that makes sense to me, and hopefully to you.
Reading this does not take the place of reading the actual Bible for yourself. I just hope it will help you put things in context.
P.S. I recommend exploring The Bible Project for more detailed overviews on each book and on different themes and concepts found in the Bible. They make professional animated shorts on every book of the Bible and more that are easy to watch and understand.
Before we jump into the 35 points, here is…
The Bible in one sentence:
God created everything, but humanity rebelled against Him, broke the world, and messed up their lives — so God sent Himself in the form of Jesus in order to pay for humankind’s sins and save broken humanity, and He will one day restore both humans and the world to its original perfect state.
The Story of the Bible in 35 Bullet Points:
The Old Testament
- God creates the world, and people. Everything is good.
- Then people disobey God. They leave their first home, the Garden of Eden. They multiply.
- People get so wicked God wipes them all out with a flood — except for a man named Noah and his family.
- Noah’s descendants include a guy named Abraham, whom God promises will be a father of a great nation. But first he has to leave his old home and travel to a new home (on the eastern border of the Mediterranean Sea).
- Abraham’s grandson Jacob steals his older twin brother Esau’s birthright and blessing, and goes on the run. He eventually makes things up with his brother and God and his name is changed to Israel. He has 12 sons with 4 different women, including one named Joseph.
- Joseph is sold by his jealous half-brothers into slavery in Egypt, where he eventually works his way up second-in-command of all Egypt.
- During a massive famine, Joseph makes up with his brothers and brings his family down to Egypt, where they stay. Eventually, the Israelite population grows so much so that the Egyptians are afraid of them, so they enslave them.
- This is how Abraham’s descendants, now called the Israelites, eventually end up as slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, until God rescues them using a guy named Moses, and ten plagues, etc. (Prince of Egypt, anyone? This is the story that movie is based on)
- Moses (well, God) takes the Israelites on a long-winded journey through the desert to the Promised Land, Canaan (aka the place where Abraham used to live). During this journey, the Israelites have lots of miraculous experiences including getting the 10 commandments delivered to Moses by hand from God.
- Joshua, the guy who becomes leader of the Israelites after Moses dies, takes the Israelites into the land of Canaan.
- The Israelites struggle with their pagan neighbors, alternately fighting with them and befriending them. They are not faithful to God, and become oppressed over and over again by foreign nations.
- When the Israelites cry out, God sends them judges and prophets to help them win back their freedom, remind them to stay loyal to God, etc.
- During the lifetime of the last prophet, named Samuel, the Israelites ask to have a king, which pisses Samuel off, because God is supposed to be their king.
- God lets them have a king — Saul, who starts out well, but later sinks into moral decay and madness.
- At this time, the Israelite’s biggest oppressor is a group of people called the Philistines, who have a champion soldier — a giant man named Goliath. A shepherd boy named David defeats Goliath and God designates him as the next king, which makes Saul mad. Saul tries to kill David, and fails. Saul dies in a war.
- David becomes king. He’s a pretty good king, mostly, until he commits adultery and murder. But he repents and is forgiven (although there are still consequences for his sin)
- David’s son Solomon becomes king next, and brings in the golden age of Israel. He also builds the first temple for God in a city called Jerusalem. When Solomon grows old, his 1000 wives and concubines get him to lose his focus on God and start worshipping their gods, so God tells him his kingdom will be split up.
- Solomon’s son Rehoboam becomes the next king, pisses off the people with his arrogance, and Israel splits into two countries: Israel in the north ruled by this guy called Jeroboam, and Judah in the South ruled by Rehoboam, descendent of David.
- Northern country Israel has a succession of terrible kings (who worship foreign gods, murder and oppress people, etc.), until eventually the entire country is conquered by the Assyrians from the East, and taken into captivity.
- Southern country Judah does slightly better, but eventually they, too, are conquered — this time by the Babylonians — and taken away into exile. And God’s temple is destroyed. (Both Israel and Judah are repeatedly warned by God about their imminent doom, via a bunch of prophets, like Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, etc, who wrote eponymous books that are included in the Old Testament)
- (During this time of exile, the stories of Daniel and Esther happen, as recorded in the Old Testament)
- Stuff happens, the Babylonian kingdom eventually gives way to the Persian kingdom, and the Israelites are allowed to go back to their land and rebuild (this is where the books of Ezra and Nehemiah fit in)
- The Israelites who choose to go back to Israel slowly rebuild their homes and God’s temple, and the walls of their city, Jerusalem.
- There is a huge gap of time between the Old and New Testaments, during which stuff happens that is not recorded in the Bible (something about the Maccabbees and this is also where Hanukkah traditions start). At some point, the Romans show up on the world stage and take over everything, including destroying God’s temple in Jerusalem again, which Herod the Great, one of the Roman puppet kings, rebuilds once again — which is why there’s a temple during Jesus time.
The New Testament
- When the New Testament opens, the Romans have taken over the known civilized world, including what used to be Judah and Israel.
- Jesus is born in Bethlehem, and about 30 years later starts traveling around the areas that used to be Northern Israel and Southern Judah, teaching, healing, gathering disciples, etc.
- Jesus claims to be God, bringing the kingdom of heaven back, and opposing religious hypocrites, which pisses off a lot of people, especially the aforementioned religious hypocrites (who, sadly, are also religious leaders).
- These jealous religious leaders get the Romans to kill Jesus via crucifixion
- Jesus resurrects after three days, and after spending some time with his followers, and giving them some final instructions, goes back to heaven.
- The disciples and other followers of the Way (aka Christians) spread the gospel (aka good news, or, in other words, the news about Jesus) in the Judea area to Jews and non-Jews (called Gentiles).
- The followers of the Way are persecuted, and scatter, taking their message around the world.
- During this time, one major Christian leader is Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, who is converted in a miraculous way when Jesus talks to him via light from heaven.
- Paul writes a bunch of letters to the various churches springing up all over the Mediterranean area. These letters make up a good chunk of the New Testmament. Other contributors include disciples and people who knew Jesus personally, like Peter and James.
- All but one of the original disciples, Paul, and many other Christians are killed for their faith (not all the deaths are recorded in the Bible. Just James, and a guy named Stephen, who was not one of the original 12, but an important member of the early church. The reason we know how the other disciples died is through the writings of other non-biblical ancient historians).
- And the Bible ends with the book of Revelations, which contains prophesies about the end of this world and Jesus coming back to make earth new and perfect once again.
Extra fun facts about Israel
Hundreds of years before it happened, the Bible predicted that Israel would be destroyed after the death of Jesus “the Anointed One” (See Daniel 9:24–26. Also, Jesus predicted the imminent destruction of the Temple and of Israel before he died in Matthew 24:1–2), but that a long time later, it would come back, this time as one nation, not divided like before (Ezekiel 37:22).
In around 70 AD, 40ish years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Jewish nation was pretty much obliterated by the Romans, the temple was destroyed one last time, and the Jewish people were scattered.
On May 14, 1948, after World War II, the State of Israel was officially re-created by the United Nations.
Extra fun facts about names:
The words “Judaism,” “Jew,” “Judea,” etc., comes from the name of Judah, the fourth son of Leah, first wife of Jacob (who was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham). Judah was an ancestor of David and eventually, Jesus.
Why do we say anti-semitism, instead of anti-Judaism? “Semitism” comes from the name of Shem, the son of Noah who was the ancestor of the Jews.
The Bible is not merely a giant storybook. There are lots of stories in there, that are all related, but there are also books that aren’t stories (like Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, the epistles, etc.), and there are books that are a mix of story and other things (poetry, laws, and loooong lists of facts and descriptions like genealogies and temple-building materials and dimensions).
The 12 Tribes of Israel
Jacob (aka Israel, from whom the name “Israelites” and the modern country name “Israel” comes) has 12 sons, and there were originally 12 tribes of Israel. But the tribes’ names don’t exactly follow the sons’ names.
This is because Jacob’s favorite son Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who were given tribal status. So there’s a tribe called Manasseh and a tribe called Ephraim, but no tribe called Joseph.
But we have a problem now: we have 13 tribes. How do we get back to 12?
Well, the tribe of Levi was not given a portion of land when Joshua split Canaan up among the 12 tribes, because they’re special.
You see, originally, firstborns were supposed to be special, set apart specifically to serve God (which is why, during the Passover in Egypt, the firstborn not protected by blood markings on their doorframes were killed).
But while Moses was busy getting the 10 Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai and the Israelites were “downstairs” worshipping a golden calf idol (big no-no, to say the least), the Levites alone stayed true to God.
As a result, they were “set apart,” dedicated to serving God. And the specialness reserved for the firstborns was given to the Levites instead.
So when the Israelites finally reached the Promised Land, instead of being given a chunk of land like all the other tribes, they were told to scatter among ALL the tribes, in different cities.
This was likely to help keep Israel unified and faithful to God.
While the priests (Aaron’s descendants) were supposed to stay with and serve in God’s temple (which Solomon built in Jerusalem), the Levites’ job was to spread out and keep the teachings of God alive among the people of all 12 tribes.
(Unfortunately, they didn’t do this job very well for very long)
Thank you for reading!
…and stay tuned for Part Two: the novella-length version of the Story of the Bible. Also, constructive critism and advice is much appreciated! Is there anything that needs to be added? Anything that is unclear? Let me know!