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SBS Suggested Teaching Topics for each Book

Julian Spriggs M.A.

This page is intended as a resource for staff on YWAM's School of Biblical Studies (SBS).

It provides a list of suggested topics that could be covered as part of the teaching on each book of the Bible. The list is not exhaustive, so other topics should be added as required.

Basic Required Information (BRI)

The BRI includes background information about the book, including the authorship, historical setting, and reason for writing. This should be taught for each of the books. However, for some books there is more information and certainty about the authorship and the historical setting available than for other books. For some books there are on-going controversies over authorship and other issues. See the SBS syllabus for more information.

General topics for the whole Bible

The Canon of Scripture - why do we have these 66 books?
The Apocrypha - and why it is excluded from the Protestant Bible
History of English translations of the Bible (for English-speaking schools)
The inspiration of Scripture
How to interpret and apply each type of literature in the Bible

General topics for the New Testament

The nature of the Kingdom of God - the 'Now but Not Yet'
The Geography of Israel
The fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
The Herod Family
The Jewish religious groups of the first century - Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Zealots etc
The history and administration of the Roman empire

General topics for the Gospels

How to interpret Gospel literature
Distinctive features and themes of each gospel
Characteristics of Jesus described in each gospel
Unique passages in each gospel
The main periods of the life and ministry of Jesus
How to interpret and apply the parables (Matthew and Luke)
The synoptic problem
The Olivet Discourse (Matt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21)

Matthew's Gospel

Emphasis on the kingdom of heaven and fulfilment of Jewish expectations for the Messiah
The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes

Mark's Gospel (often in introductory seminar)

Nature of the Messiah (expectation of Jews)
Jesus as the Son of Man
Emperor Nero and the Fire of Rome (AD 64)

Luke's Gospel

Birth narratives including the Magnificat and other songs
Emphasis on Gentiles, women and the poor
Eschatology of Luke

John's Gospel

Was John the disciple who Jesus loved?
Differences from and relation to the synoptic gospels
Gnosticism and docetism
Structure (Seven signs and seven "I AM" statements)
The Upper Room Discourse and teaching on the Holy Spirit

Acts of the Apostles

Geography including Paul's missionary journeys
Chronology and historical background
Occasion and purpose of the book
The problem of historical precedence
Significance of the Council of Jerusalem
Work of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders

General topics for all letters

Background, occasion and fit into Acts for each
How to interpret and apply the letters


Occasion of the book (unity between Jewish and Gentile believers, and Paul's travel plans)
Righteousness through faith
Original sin (Adam / Christ)
Chapters 9-11 (Israel and God's sovereign choice)
Romans - a message to the capital of the Roman Empire

1 Corinthians

Immoral environment of Corinth
Greek dualism - separation of the spiritual and physical worlds
Marriage and singleness (ch 7)
Food offered to idols and Christian liberty (ch 8-10)
Head coverings and the role of women (ch 11)
Spiritual gifts (ch 12-14)
The physical resurrection (ch 15)

2 Corinthians

Paul's correspondence with the church in Corinth
The strange structure of the book - digressions
Defence of Paul's ministry
Paul's boasting as a fool
Paul's collection for the saints in Jerusalem and lessons on giving

Galatians (often in introductory seminar)

Where is Galatia?
Controversies over the date of the book
Theological significance of the book
Law vs. grace (Christian freedom)

Ephesians (often in introductory seminar)

Structure of the book
Comparative study with Colossians
Our position, riches and authority in Christ
Gifts and positions of authority in the church
Christian relationships
The armour of God and spiritual warfare


Theme of disunity and humility
Hymn of Christ as an example of humility (ch 2)
Joy and suffering


False teaching - identifying the Colossian heresy

1 Thessalonians

Paul's eschatology and application to life today
What is the rapture?

2 Thessalonians

The man of lawlessness

The pastoral epistles

Arguments over authorship
Theory of a fourth missionary journey and Paul's final years

1 Timothy

Life and character of Timothy
Women in ministry
Spiritual situation in Ephesus

2 Timothy

Date and Paul's second imprisonment in Rome

Titus (often in introductory seminar)

Character and role of Titus
Relation between grace and good deeds
Church structure and leadership

Philemon (often in introductory seminar)

Slavery in the first century


Debates over the authorship of the book
Use of Old Testament in the New Testament
Types of Jesus
Supremacy of New Covenant over Old Covenant
Issue of predestination and free will


Authorship of the book
The person and Jewishness of James
Structure of the book
Faith vs. works

1 Peter

Purpose of suffering
Christianity in the Roman empire
Life of Peter
Preaching to spirits

2 Peter

Canonicity and authorship
Teaching on the second coming (ch 3)
False teachers

1 John

Life of John the apostle
What is Gnosticism?

2 & 3 John

Hospitality - reception of travelling preachers / heretics


Similarity with 2 Peter
Use of non-Canonical books in the New Testament
Fallen angels


Literary style and apocalyptic literature
Different views of the millennium
Different interpretations of the book
Structure of the book

General topics for the Old Testament

Jewish styles of literature
Geography of the Near East and the Fertile Crescent
Overview of OT history (covenants)
OT Theology

General topics for the Pentateuch

Authorship and documentary hypothesis (JEDP)
Names of God as a revelation of his character
How to interpret and apply the Mosaic law
Early empires (Amorites, Hittites, Egypt)


Creation / evolution
Covenants in the Old Testament
Abraham and the roots of Israel as nation
The purpose and theology of the Book of Genesis
The origin of the book - toledots (these are the generations of ...)


Date of the Exodus
Plagues against gods of Egypt
Hardening of Pharaoh's heart
Geography of the route of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings
Significance of the Exodus to the nation of Israel
The Tabernacle and its significance to the New Testament
The glory of God
Interpreting and applying the Ten Commandments
The theology of Exodus


Holiness of God and his people
The sacrificial system
The Jewish feasts / festivals
The Day of Atonement


Balaam and Balak
Problem of the number of people in the exodus
Rebellion and consequences


Suzerainty covenants and the structure of Deuteronomy
Differences from Exodus (wilderness / land)
Relevance of OT law to Christians
Applying aspects of law (tithing, sabbath)


Israel's enemies in the Promised Land (-ites)
Why did God command the destruction of Israel's enemies?
Geography of the conquest and occupation
The long day
Canaanite gods and fertility religions


Chronology and geography
Cycle of judges
Incomplete conquest of land
Samson's character and Jephthah's oath


The purpose of the book
Cultural aspects of the book
The kinsman redeemer

1 & 2 Samuel

Theology and the significance of the monarchy
Samuel (prophet, priest and judge)
King Saul - rejected
King David - chosen
Dynastic defence theory

1 & 2 Kings

Chronology of the two kingdoms and the prophets
History of Syria, Assyria and Babylon
Issue of idolatry, the high places and the sin of Jeroboam
The division of the kingdom
The deuteronomic view of history
The ministry of Elijah and Elisha
The rise and fall of Solomon

1 & 2 Chronicles

Differences from 1 & 2 Kings
Occasion and date of the book
Problem of large numbers
Significance of the genealogies


Post-exilic history - the Persian empire and return from exile
Life back in the land in the post-exilic period
The chronology of book (with Nehemiah)
Ezra's spiritual role for Israel


Chronology of the book (Ezra ch 4)
Who are the opposition?
Lessons in leadership from the life of Nehemiah


The Book of Esther in the history of the Persian Empire
Purpose of the book (no mention of God)
Chiastic structure
God's providence / man's choice
Character study of the main people
Version in Septuagint (LXX) and Apocrypha

General topics for wisdom literature

How to interpret and apply wisdom literature
What is wisdom and how do we get it?


The problem of suffering and how do we respond to it?
God's justice
Epistemology of Job's 'friends'


Hebrew poetry
Psalm titles, comments and types
Use of Psalms in Israel's worship
Interpretation and application of Psalms
Messianic psalms
Imprecatory psalms


How should we interpret and apply Proverbs - are proverbs promises?
Themes including money, speech, wisdom and raising children
The fear of the Lord


Authorship and setting of the book
How can this book be in the Bible?

Song of Solomon

What is it about? (physical/spiritual)
Different ways the book has been interpreted

General topics for the prophets

Introduction to prophetic literature
The prophets as covenant enforcers
What is predictive prophecy, how is it fulfilled
Historical background for each book
Main themes and message of each book


Historical background of the book
Controversy over authorship, unity of book and date
Servant passages
Eschatology of Isaiah
Sign of Immanuel as a sign to Ahaz or the virgin birth of Jesus (ch 7)
The fall of Satan? (ch 14)


History and chronology in the book
Structure of the book
Biography of Jeremiah - the weeping prophet
The call of Jeremiah (ch 1)
The temple sermon (ch 7)
Jeremiah's symbolic actions
Jeremiah - the deuteronomic prophet


History and the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC)
Grief and grace
Acrostic structure


History and dating of passages
Ezekiel's symbolic actions
Glory of God leaving and returning to the temple
The fall of Satan? (ch 28)
Gog and Magog (ch 38)
The new temple (ch 40-48)


History of the silent years (Ptolemys and Seleucids)
Person and life of Daniel
Different interpretations of the book
The 4 beasts = 4 kingdoms
Interpreting the seventy weeks (ch 9)
Vision of Israel's future and connection with inter-testamental history (ch 10-12)


God's steadfast love (Hesed) for Israel
Question about Hosea's wife. Did Hosea marry a harlot?


What is the Day of the Lord?
Description of locusts / armies of Assyrians
Peter's quotation of Joel on the Day of Pentecost


Restoration passage (quote in Acts 15)
Call to social justice


History and judgement of Edom


Was Jonah really swallowed by a whale?
Call to missions / God's grace to Gentiles


Restoration passage, God's future kingdom


The city of Nineveh
The fall of Assyria (612 BC)


Habakkuk's dialogue with God - wrestling with God's justice


What is the Day of the Lord?
Interpretation of the last chapter


The Post-exilic prophets
The rebuilding of the temple


Interpretation of Zechariah's visions


Disillusionment during the post-exilic period
Was John the Baptist the fulfilment of the predicted coming of Elijah?