About this Class
Do you ever feel like your daily Bible reading is like creating post-it notes from your Bible journaling to cover your refrigerator, but that there is not much coherence between them? Or maybe your Bible reading is like reading a Dictionary; a lot of important pieces of information but no thread to the story. Bible Survey will help you make sense of all those pieces about the books of the Bible. Dr. Downs will give you a file cabinet containing major folders into which you can insert your individual file folders. By the end of this course, you should be able to write out in just a few minutes, the books of the Bible in a diagram that shows how they are related.
Bible Survey by Dr. Downs will enhance your Bible study and help you understand the articles in a Bible commentary by giving you an understanding of the structure and major themes of the books of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible help you understand the direction of God’s plan for the world beginning with creation, the consequences of original sin and then the creation of a nation that he would use to redeem the world. Your Bible reading in this section gives you a picture of God’s law and how he encouraged the people of Israel to have faith in him as they lived out their daily lives. Then read the poets and the prophets that God sent came to remind, reinforce and illustrate the principles of the law that God had given them to live by. The Bible lessons apply to both the nation of Israel at that time, and to us today.
In the chronological Bible, between the writing of the last book in the Old Testament and the first book of the New Testament, there was a period of about 400 years. It was a period of cultural, political and religious change in the nation of Israel and the world that set the stage for the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.
Then, Dr. Downs leads you through the four gospels to begin the New Testament by telling you from four different perspectives who Jesus is and what he did. Then, the Bible teachings in Acts show you what happens as the Gospel spreads to different people and locations. The life-changing letters in the new testament Bible not only help you understand more about the good news of Jesus and how to live your life as a fully devoted disciple of Jesus, it shows the personal love and concern that believers in the early church had for each other. The Bible lessons in the book of Jude remind you of the importance of defending the faith and finishing well. As you learn and review the big-picture overview in Bible Survey, the benefit you experience in your life and ministry will far exceed what you may have expected.
In this first session, we’ll examine why having a “big screen” perspective for the entire Bible is so vital for all disciples and critical for those called to leadership. Through this journey, you’ll be introduced to the structure of your English Bible and how, in learning that structure, you can develop the skill necessary to manage the Bible’s content, purposes and applications throughout your life. You’ll also begin to learn how to use this big picture, Bible-management skill to enhance your own teaching and mentoring impact. Okay. This will be 30 fast minutes. Get your biblical track shoes on and get ready to run.
In our next 30-minute sprint we’ll explore the foundational books of the Old Testament. Known formally as the Pentateuch (literally, “the five books”), these writings set the course for our OT journey helping us understand the characteristics of the history we’ll examine later and the nature of the instruction being directed at the people living out that history. In these compass books we’ll see the plan of God with respect to his creation and then with his people, Israel. We’ll begin to understand how these writings reflect God’s desire to redeem his people from the consequences of original sin and transplant his character into that redeemed people, with the larger goal to offer redemption to all of mankind.
A Christian writer recently observed, “. . . among new Christians – and many older Christians as well – a relationship with God today is framed exclusively around beliefs that make little difference in the way we live.” It’s not a new reality as our trip through the Historical Books reveals. Our journey through this section covers about 1000 years during which you’ll see that reality at work: when belief and real-life connect the result is a culture of life, health and power, and when belief and everyday life disconnect, the result is selfishness, sickness and chaotic weakness. The key to watch for in these 12 books is how to the leaders and the people do in living out the foundational things recorded in Genesis through Deuteronomy.
The Instructional Section (Job – Malachi) contains 22 books that we’ll break into two units: Poetical Books (5) and Prophetical Books (17). In the Foundational Section we engaged God’s compass-setting for his people and in the Historical Section we observed how the people did in relationship to the compass. In this section, we’ll see the peoples’ experience through the eyes of the poets, examine heart issues in that experience and feel both the encouragement and correction of good instruction. Welcome to the poets! Get ready for some soul food.
The instruction of the prophets falls along two lines: the rewards for doing right (fulfilling foundational things) in God’s eyes and the necessary corrections when “wrong” becomes part of the picture. Within that paradigm we’ll find mixtures of judgment and promise, encouragement and warning, present and future. The prophets, an interesting lot often called on to not just speak but to live out their prophesies, consistently call the people of Israel to craft their present-day realities in light of the foundational aspects of Scripture and the future hope of promise. If you think of the poetical books as revealing the heart of the people in their history, then it would be equally helpful to think of the prophetical books as revealing the heart of God in that history.
The history found in the Old Testament comes to an end about 400 years before we take up the story of the New Testament. In between the testaments is a period often called the 400 silent years because by Jewish reckoning no prophets spoke in the land of Israel during this period. Well, it may be called silent, but as you’ll soon see, it is anything but that. Rather, it’s a dynamic period of conquest, political and religious developments, and conflict around compromising or not compromising the foundational values and traditions of Israel. It’s a period that has the feel of God setting the cultural/historical table for the coming of His Son.
Through the books that we know as the Gospels we enter into the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Each of the Gospel books – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – give us a different facet of this life that will change everything . . . but not without resistance as the one also called the Son of Man lives, teaches, touches and then gives His life a ransom for many . . . a ransom accepted by God the Father and affirmed in an ultimate miracle, Christ’s resurrection.
With Gospel foundations in place, the disciples have only to put Christ’s mandate – “go and make disciples” – into action. But all isn’t that simple. With numbers small, their leader in heaven and plenty of confusion and opposition to go around, it’s going to take some miracle level experiences to get these early leaders and the church they’re called to launch on the move. And as always, God delivers just what they need just when they need it with the result that a church explodes into the Roman Empire and beyond. Let’s see how it all happened.
Instruction comes in many forms. We’ve been using one form . . . the video classroom. Needless to say, it was a form not available to the early church leaders. If they wanted to minister to someone not in their presence, they had to rely on the most personal approach available next to an actual meeting – the personal letter. As we look at the 22 letters that make up the Instructional Section of the NT we need to remember that are just that . . . personal . . . letters . . . sent with love, care and concern to those bringing Christ’s life to His followers, the early church. And they bring that same personal love and concern to you and me.
We’ve arrived at our final review which will conclude with the biblical author Jude helping us see the importance of the outcomes of our Scripture-wide journey. Remember as you move on from these sessions, that review is a crucial element in making this big-picture tool your own. Some consistent review over the next few weeks, and you’ll be building on this tool for a lifetime of spiritual growth and ministry. Conversely, with no review the tool will slowly slip away and along with it, its value to the life and ministry the Lord has for you. The message? Just a little more personal investment (review) and the return on your investment will far exceed what you might have expected. Both your maturity in Christ and your ministry for Him will be the beneficiaries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are the programs intended for?
The Foundations program is intended for everyone, regardless of biblical knowledge. The Academy program is intended for those who would like more advanced studies. And the Institute program is intended for those who want to study seminary-level classes.
Do I need to take the classes in a specific order?
In the Foundations and Academy programs, we recommend taking the classes in the order presented, as each subsequent class will build on material from previous classes. In the Institute program, the first 11 classes are foundational. Beginning with Psalms, the classes are on specific books of the Bible or various topics.
Do you offer transfer credit for completing a certificate program?
At this time, we offer certificates only for the classes on the Certificates page. While we do not offer transfer credit for completing a certificate program, you will be better equipped to study the Bible and apply its teachings to your life.