Many years ago, not long after I embarked on reading the entire Bible, I had the idea of compacting the entire Scripture down to one sentence per-book. I put the idea aside at the time, but it continued percolating in the back of my mind, and I thought it was about time I finally sat down and made it happen.
I intend no blasphemy here. Some of the one-liners are necessarily glib, and compressing the over-700,000 word tome of the Old and New Testaments into less than 1,000 words will obviously leave some very important things out. This is most-definitely not intended to be a serious theological work; I am no theologian or Bible scholar anyway. This is, at best, the very barest summary of the Scripture, but I hope you find it interesting and that it leads you to deeper interest in the most important book ever compiled.
The Old Testament is presented in its traditional Christian order, which differs a bit from the modern Jewish ordering. It also includes the seven books of the ‘deuterocanon’ that were recognized as inspired and canonical by the Christian Church very early in her history, but have since been rejected by the Jewish and Protestant communities. The New Testament is also presented in its (largely undisputed) traditional Christian order. In the handful of instances where I quote the Scripture directly, I have used the Douay-Rheims Bible (Bishop Challoner Revision, 1749-52). Enjoy, and God bless you!
Genesis: God created the world, so we owe him our obedience.
Exodus: God grants you true freedom; if you don’t embrace it, you end up wandering in the desert.
Leviticus: Despite our in-born evil tendencies, we still have a capacity for good and obedience.
Numbers: There are universal moral guidelines by which we must live.
Deuteronomy: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength” (6:5).
Joshua: Obedience is the way to salvation; disobedience is the way to death.
Judges: Faithfulness is rewarded; unfaithfulness is punished.
Ruth: God is motivated by love, even if it is sometimes a tough love.
1 Samuel: Miracles happen—the barren give birth, the weak defeat the strong.
2 Samuel: Having a King (government) can be a blessing, if he acts in accord with God’s law.
1 Kings: Kingdoms (governments) inevitably fall when they don’t follow God’s law.
2 Kings: A nation’s internal moral decline leaves the door open for destruction from outside.
1 Chronicles: Let’s review: the way to success and salvation is through obedience to God.
2 Chronicles: If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it.
Ezra: Pure, obedient faith in God leads one to true freedom and prosperity.
Nehemiah: With penance and prayer, you can always regain what you have lost.
Tobit: Angels and saints intercede in our lives on God’s behalf, if we let them.
Judith: The brave act of a faithful hero or heroine can save a whole country.
Esther: It is sometimes necessary to hide your belief until the right time.
1 Maccabees: Be careful who you make allies with; the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.
2 Maccabees: Pray for the dead, for they may be saints in the making, and they may just need your help.
Job: When bad things happen, maintain your faith; you are merely a man, and you don’t know the whole story.
Psalms: “Be still and see that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth” (46:10).
Proverbs: “Because the Lord giveth wisdom: and out of his mouth cometh prudence and knowledge” (2:6).
Ecclesiastes: Everything on earth is fleeting; the things of heaven, however, are not.
Song of Songs: Marriage is a human way of mirroring God’s love, and demands both giving and receiving.
Wisdom: Wisdom is a human attribute that comes from God, and should be put to his service.
Sirach: The wise man fears God, obeys God, and serves God.
Isaiah: The Messiah is coming to restore God’s kingdom on earth.
Jeremiah: Be wary of false prophets and godless priests.
Lamentations: When bad things happen, it’s okay to be upset about it.
Baruch: Salvation comes through wisdom; wisdom comes through faith.
Ezekiel: If you trust in God, all that is lost will be restored.
Daniel: When you are punished for your faith, persevere and you will be rewarded.
Hosea: People never learn.
Joel: Tragedy has meaning, and calls us to repentance.
Amos: Being favored by God doesn’t give you free-rein to do whatever you want.
Obadiah: Your bad choices have consequences.
Jonah: Do what God commands.
Micah: Don’t misuse your power.
Nahum: “The Lord’s ways are in a tempest, and a whirlwind, and clouds are the dust of his feet” (1:3).
Habakkuk: Trust in God; don’t give in to doubt.
Zephaniah: The day is coming when we will all be judged.
Haggai: Don’t refuse your calling.
Zechariah: The obedient peoples can be assured of God’s blessing.
Malachi: Do not question God’s flawless judgement.
Matthew: Jesus Christ is God incarnate as man, and was born of the Virgin Mary to redeem the fallen world.
Mark: Our redemption is not something we have earned, but something granted to us as a gift from God.
Luke: Christ sacrificed himself on the cross to earn forgiveness for the world’s sins and offer us salvation.
John: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (3:16).
Acts: Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles, establishing an authoritative Christian Church led by them and their successors.
Romans: Everybody is accountable for their sins but, thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, we can overcome them.
1 Corinthians: The world is immoral; the Church and her people should not be.
2 Corinthians: St. Paul speaks with authority as a Bishop (Apostle) of the universal Church.
Galatians: Faith is the lynch-pin of our salvation; without it, we are damned.
Ephesians: Unity is central to the faith; we must be obedient to Christ and to his Church.
Philippians: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (2:8).
Colossians: We are all one, unified, and called to do good rather than evil.
1 Thessalonians: Admonish the sinners; help the weak; rejoice, pray, and give thanks.
2 Thessalonians: You must do your part; the gift is free, but you must accept it.
1 Timothy: Do not embrace false doctrine; truth does not change with the wind.
2 Timothy: Christ is ever-faithful to us, even when we are unfaithful to him.
Titus: Bishops are the leaders of the Church, and must be held to the highest standards.
Philemon: Even the slave and master can be reconciled in Christ.
Hebrews: Hold true to your faith in Jesus Christ, even when you are persecuted because you believe.
James: True faith requires action.
1 Peter: We are born anew in Baptism; now be patient and holy.
2 Peter: We wait patiently for Christ’s return.
1 John: Truth always wins out, eventually.
2 John: Be wary of heretics and liars.
3 John: “Dearly beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good” (1:11).
Jude: Those who do evil will be punished.
Revelation: Christ will return, conquer evil, end the curses of suffering and death, and establish a new heaven and earth.