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One Great Story


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Historical Overview

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The One Great Story: Historical Overview

Through 66 books and two Testaments, Bible tells One Great Story. It is the story of God's first making, then redeeming and restoring the world that he made; the story of God's rescuing, forgiving and restoring a relationship with us his creatures. Its central idea is the often repeated promise: "I will be your God and you will be my people" (e.g., Genesis 17:7-8; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 31:33; Revelation 21:3).

We understand that story better when know where we are in the story. The following chart highlights twelve major periods of biblical history.

Period Began People History Books Other Books
Creation and Fall   Adam and Eve Genesis 1-3  
Flood   Noah Genesis 4-11  
Patriarchs 2100 B.C. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph Genesis 12-50 Job?
Exodus 1440 B.C. Moses Exodus-Deuteronomy  
Conquest 1400 B.C. Joshua Joshua  
Judges 1370 B.C. Gideon, Samson, Samuel Judges-1 Samuel  
United Kingdom 1050 B.C. Saul, David, Solomon 1 Samuel-1 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles Poetic books
Divided Kingdom I - 930 B.C.
II - 722 B.C.
Israel and Judah
Judah, Jeremiah
1-2 Kings, 2 Chronicles Prophets, some Psalms
Exile 586 B.C. Ezekiel, Daniel 2 Kings Ezekiel, Daniel
Return 538 B.C. Zerubabbel, Ezra, Nehemiah Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Intertestamental 400 B.C.     Apocrypha (part)
Christ 4 B.C. Jesus, Apostles Matthew-John Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Church 33 A.D. Apostles, esp. Peter, Paul, John Acts Letters (Paul, General), Revelation

The story begins with God's Creation of the world. The Fall into sin in spoiled God's world and prompted his great restoration project, which is the One Great Story of the Bible.

When sin became rampant, God sent a Flood to destroy all but a handful of people.

The period of the Patriarchs began about 2100 B.C.1 God's promise to Abraham became the foundation of all that follows.

The period of the Conquest began about 1400 B.C.,1 preceded by 40 years of wandering in the wilderness between the Exodus and the Conquest.

The period of the Judges began some years after the Conquest (perhaps 25-30 years), immediately following the death of Joshua, the leader of the Conquest.

The period of the United Kingdom began about 1050 B.C.2 with each of the three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon ruling for about 40 years. [2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 11:42]

The period of the Divided Kingdom began about 930 B.C. following the death of Solomon and consists of two smaller periods. Two kingdoms, Israel and Judah co-existed for about 200 years, until Assyria carried the northern kingdom of Israel into exile in 722 B.C. [2 Kgs 17] Judah alone remained for another 140 years, until conquered and carried into exile by Babylon in 586 B.C. [2 Kgs 25]

The period of the Return (the post-exilic period) began about 538 B.C, with the decree of Cyrus, the king of Persia, permitting the people of Judah to return to their land [Ezra 1]. The seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah appear to date from the first deportation of 605 B.C. [2 Kgs 24:1; Dan 1:1-2].

The Intertestamental period is, in one sense, not a period of biblical history, because the Bible does not tell us much about the period between Malachi (the last prophet) and Matthew's Gospel. (We learn a few things about this period from the books that appear in Roman Catholic Bibles but not Protestant Bibles--the books commonly called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books.)

The New Testament opens with story of Christ in the gospels.

The story continues as people from many backgrounds and nations believe the good news about Jesus and join the Church.

That is all of the story that has been written so far, but it is not the end of the story. The prophets of the Old Testament and the book of Revelation in the New give us hints about how the story will end and all that awaits us in the renewed world God will create for those who trust him.

Read more about the One Great Story.

  • The heart of the story.
  • Recurring themes summarize the Bible's message.

To find out more about a workshop that will help you understand the One Great Story better, click here.

1 The traditional date of the exodus is based (in part) on 1 Kgs 6:1, which states that Solomon began building the temple 480 years after the Exodus. Since historians are able to date the beginning of Solomon's reign (970 B.C.) with some confidence, this would yield a date of about 1446 for the exodus. Many scholars, however, would date the exodus about 1260 B.C., based on their reading of Egyptian history and the archaeological evidence for the conquest of Canaan. Other scholars, with some warrant, have continued to defend the traditional date.

2 The length of the reign of Saul is disputed and there seem to be problems with the text of 1 Sam 13:1 (see also Acts 13:21). The date of 970 for the beginning of Solomon's reign seems to be well established. If Saul's reign is reduced in length, then the date for the beginning of the United Kingdom would be moved back by a corresponding amount.

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