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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.

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)
Chronology
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
Missions

General topics for all letters

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

Romans

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

Philippians

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

Colossians

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
Forgiveness

Hebrews

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

James

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

Jude

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

Revelation

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)

Genesis

Geography
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 ...)

Exodus

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

Leviticus

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

Numbers

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

Deuteronomy

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

Joshua

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

Judges

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

Ruth

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

Ezra

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

Nehemiah

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

Esther

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?

Job

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

Psalms

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

Proverbs

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

Ecclesiastes

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

Isaiah

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)

Jeremiah

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

Lamentations

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

Ezekiel

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)

Daniel

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)

Hosea

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

Joel

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

Amos

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

Obadiah

History and judgement of Edom

Jonah

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

Micah

Restoration passage, God's future kingdom

Nahum

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

Habakkuk

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

Zephaniah

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

Haggai

The Post-exilic prophets
The rebuilding of the temple

Zechariah

Interpretation of Zechariah's visions

Malachi

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

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John
Jude

Revelation

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Tithing
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah


Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS