Welcome to the Bible: Books, Chapters, and Verses, Oh My! (Part 1) Why Two Testaments?
Sixty-Six Books, 1,189 Chapters, and 31,173 Verses
The Bible has 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,173 Verses. Oh, my!
At least in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation, it does.
There are many different translations of the Bible. If there weren’t, only those fluent in the original language could read it. Know ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek? Me either.
Obviously, we’re not going to look at each book, chapter, and verse today. But I hope you will eventually.
Last time we talked about the authors. Today, we’re going to and look at why the Bible has two halves, namely, two testaments.
The Two Halves of the Bible
The Bible is split into two: the Old Testament and the New Testament.
They’re equal in importance, but not in size.
By the way, the Old Testament is longer.
The Old Testament is the front half of the Bible. It was written before God’s Son, Jesus, came to earth in the form of man.
The New Testament is the back half and starts with Jesus’ coming as the Savior. It ends with His return as Ruler over all.
The word testament originally meant covenant, as in a promise or agreement.
God’s covenant—promised agreement—with the world is the heart of these two divisions.
The Covenant of the Old Testament
All 39 books of the Old Testament center around God’s original covenant—the old covenant—which He made with his people Israel.
It’s also about how God’s people responded, which is to say how miserably they failed to keep His covenant.
This failure trend began with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve.
They believed the lies of God’s enemy Satan and disobeyed God’s one law not to eat the fruit of one tree.
One law. That’s it. And they couldn’t do it.
None of us would’ve been able to do it either.
Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s one law brought in catastrophic consequences – slavery to sin and separation from God. Forever. (Otherwise known as death.)
But God revealed His amazing grace toward them.
He promised a Savior (Jesus) to rescue and restore them into His love. Forever.
God covenanted His promise of a Savior to the nation of Israel—and the world—and gave them a set of ten laws (AKA the Ten Commandments) and 613 rules.
These laws and rules taught Israel how to safely approach a holy God.
It’s not easy to do when your heart is filled with sin, but God made a safe way.
The laws also revealed that sinful hearts can’t fully obey God.
Who can flawlessly obey ten commandments and 613 rules every day?
We couldn’t even obey one of them for our entire life. Not perfectly.
Man’s only hope was to receive a new covenant based on grace, rather than law.
Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.
But only a sinless Savior could make such a covenant.
Speaking of . . .
The Covenant of the New Testament
The 27 books and letters (epistles) of the New Testament tell the story of the new covenant through Jesus Christ.
God created the plan for this covenant long before He laid the foundations of the earth and before sin entered the scene (I Peter 1:19-21).
The New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled the old covenant by living a sin-free life and paying the full price of our sin by dying on the cross.
Jesus ushered in the new grace covenant when He defeated sin and death and rose again.
Through this new covenant, He offers salvation to all, Jew and Gentile alike, if they believe and trust in Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB).
The rest of the New Testament focuses on the birth and growth of Christ’s church, i.e. Christians.
The church is people, not buildings.
It teaches how Christ empowers Christians to live their new life in Him free from sin’s power, even while their old nature clings to them, refusing to die.
The New Testament also reveals as much as God was willing of Jesus’ return to earth, and how He’ll destroy sin, death, and Satan and his demons forever.
It ends with Jesus’ judgment on those who refused to believe in Him and His glorious reign in the new heaven and new earth.
And that is the short of why we have two testaments.
The Old Testament shows us:
- There’s a holy and perfect God in heaven.
- He created us to know and walk with Him.
- Sin destroyed our relationship with Him.
- God had already created a plan — a covenant based on law — to restore us back to Himself.
- God began to unfold His covenant plan and point forward to Christ.
The New Testament shows us:
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- He fulfilled the old covenant through His sinless life, death, and resurrection and ushered in the new covenant based on grace.
- God sent His Holy Spirit to those who’ve trusted in Jesus. The Holy Spirit and God’s Word teach Christians and empower them to live their new life in Christ free from sin’s power, even as their old nature clings to them and entices them to return to sin.
- Jesus is coming again and next time He comes, He’ll set up His eternal kingdom.
Next time we’ll look at the 66 books. There’s a rhyme and reason to their order that might surprise you.
In case you missed these earlier posts in the Welcome to the Bible series, click the photos:
An Introduction to the Introduction to the Bible, See the Big Picture:
An Overview of Who Wrote the Bible