Okay, folks, here it is … our “official” list of the twenty-five most important people in the Bible. A couple disclaimers: First, we snuck in a few extras so it really is more than 25. 8) Second, most important does not mean most righteous or best or nicest. Rather we ranked people based on their influence and based on how recognizable they are to people who are familiar with the Bible. We also included two good angels and one bad one. (See below for a chronological list.)
Starting in last place, we have …
25. Saul, the king … the very first king of Israel, a head taller than any of his contemporaries, the predecessor, mentor and nemesis of King David, the father of Jonathan. His son, Jonathan, was a noble hero, but Saul was not. Saul started off okay, but his relationship with God was so thin that God didn’t have any room to work with him. He went downhill fast, becoming a deranged mad man who slaughtered God’s priests wholesale, attempted to kill his own son twice, and hounded his best follower, David, for years until Saul finally met his death after consulting a witch because he was so out of touch with God. Read about him in 1 Samuel 8-31, one of the richest portions of the Bible in terms of story, character and lessons for real life.
24. Job, the “o” is pronounced like the “o” in Joe. Job is the original good guy in the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Job was about as close to perfect as you could get and still be human. He loved God. He loved people. He used his great wealth and wisdom to help people. Then disaster struck. His wealth, his ten children and his health were all taken away. Left with nothing but suffering, his friends come to comfort him. But, instead of encouraging him, they start accusing him, and add insult to injury. Finally, he has a “face-to-face” meeting with God. God answers with a set of unexpected questions of His own. Job’s story is told in the Biblical book bearing his name. You’ll want to read it and re-read it to mine the wisdom it contains. Here’s the first chapter of Job.
23. Abel and his brother and murderer Cain. The first child born to the human race, Cain, grows up to become a murderer, killing his own brother in a fit of jealousy because Abel found favor with God and Cain did not. Read about it here. Abel is listed as a hero of the faith here.
22. Samuel, the great prophet, son of Hannah, the childless woman who prayed for a son and promised to give that child to God. She did after he was weaned; she dropped him off at the temple where Eli the priest and his evil sons were the religious leaders of the day. Samuel was still a boy when God started talking to him. Eli and his sons were killed, but Samuel grew up to be the leader of Israel, and the one who selected both Saul and David to become Israel’s future kings. Samuel’s story is told in 1 Samuel which starts here.
21. Esther, the queen. A number of women come to mind as important Bible personalities including Eve, Mary, Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Miriam, Mary Magdelene, Deborah, Ruth and so on. But Esther stands alone in the category of saving an entire nation by her courage. Chosen to join the harem of Persian King Xerxes, she rises to the position of queen in time to uncover a plot to destroy the Jewish people. She might have the power and influence to stop the plot, but only if she risks her own life to do so. The book that bears her name is unique in that God is not mentioned once in the book, but His fingerprints are all over the events. A powerful story that starts here.
20. Samson, the long-haired strong man who picked up the jaw bone of a donkey and killed a thousand Philistine soldiers on the battlefield. If Samson were alive today, he would probably spend some of his life in jail–let’s just say he was no choir boy. But he had a job to do, and he did it well until his woman friend, Delilah sold him out to the Philistines for 140 pounds of silver. But Samson didn’t leave the revenge business even though the Philistines blinded him and put him in prison. He had one last appearance on stage before the curtain fell. Samson’s story is told in Judges 13-16, a book that contains the accounts of several regional and national leaders who served prior to the first kings who ruled in Israel. Gideon was another prominent leader whose story is told in Judges.
19. Joshua Ever hear of Joshua and the battle of Jericho? Joshua is the leader who succeeded Moses and had the job of leading the people of Israel into the land God promised them. Most of his story is told in the book that bears his name which starts here.
18. Jonah, famous for being swallowed by the whale or “great fish,” Jonah’s real contribution is presiding over the greatest mass conversion of all time and learning a few things about human prejudice and God’s love at the same time. His story is here.
17 Daniel, a prophet and a high government official. Captured as a young man and led in chains away from his homeland, Israel to the city of Babylon, Daniel was pressed into the service of a pagan king. Instead of crumbling, Daniel’s strength of character qualifies him to bring God’s light into a very dark place. Not to say he didn’t have his challenging moments. Ever hear of Daniel and the Lion’s Den? His story begins here. As a writing prophet, he joins other greats like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel who presented a clear picture of God’s power, His personality and His plans. Daniel provides detailed predictions about events, some of which have already occurred.
16. Gabriel This great angel appears to the prophet Daniel and then later to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Read about him here. Michael is another angel mentioned by name in the Bible.
15. Elijah, the great prophet who stared down an entire nation and didn’t blink. After King David, Israel split into two nations. The northern kingdom went from bad to worse until they were ruled by a truly depraved couple, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah walks onto the scene and announces that rain won’t fall without his own personal okay. Then he disappears. For the next three years a bone-dry nation searches for Elijah, but he’s nowhere to be found, until one day he shows up again and offers a showdown on Mount Carmel: your god vs. my God. Elijah’s story begins here. Keep reading and you’ll learn about Elisha, Elijah’s successor who did almost everything Elijah did, only twice as much.
14. John the Baptist, was not a “Baptist” in the modern sense of the word, but rather a spokesman who prepared a nation to meet Jesus by baptizing people to signify their readiness for a whole new life. Jesus said, “Among those born of women, there’s no one greater than John the Baptist.” Read about him here or in The Easy Bible® on Days 9, 14 and 32.
13. Noah The animals came two by two to Noah (the third longest-lived human recorded in the Bible) who stored them in the ark, a large ship built with timber. A great children’s story that sometimes obscures the horror of this, the greatest natural disaster in recorded Biblical history. Read about it here.
12. Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. One of the twelve disciples, the treachery of Judas earns him the title of ultimate bad guy. (Read more here.) Other contenders include Pilate, who crucified Jesus, and King Herod who tried to kill Him when he was a small child or baby.
11. Luke As the writer of the longest “Gospel” or biography of Jesus, and as author of Acts, the story of the early church, we owe much of our understanding of Christianity to this first century physician. Matthew, Mark, and John were other Gospel writers. Luke’s Gospel begins here and is quoted frequently in Volumes One and Two of The Easy Bible®
10. Peter Originally known as Simon, his name was changed to Peter by Jesus, and he became a leader of the early church–some say the first pope. The 12 disciples (or close followers of Jesus) were Simon (Jesus called him Peter) and his brother Andrew. James and his brother John, Philip, Bartholomew (also called Nathaniel), Matthew (also called Levi), Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the activist-patriot, Judas (son of James), and Judas Iscariot (the traitor). Peter shows up on Day 16 and elsewhere in The Easy Bible®. Read Peter’s first recorded sermon here.
9. John the Apostle. Among Jesus’ twelve disciples, Peter, James and John formed an inner circle. Out of them, John appeared to be Jesus’ closest friend here on earth. He wrote one of the Gospels, three important letters (which are recorded in the Bible) and the powerful book of Revelation. John is mentioned and his writings are frequently quoted in The Easy Bible®. You can start John’s Gospel here.
8. Paul was originally Saul (not the king, but the persecutor of Christians who lived a thousand years later). He became Paul the Apostle after having a powerful encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. First Barnabas, and then Silas were his ministry partners. Most of the books of the New Testament were written by Paul who became a powerhouse leader in the early church and is responsible for much of our understanding of Christianity. Paul first bridged the gap between Jews and Gentiles by demonstrating that the way of Jesus was open to anyone, regardless of ancestry. His story starts here.
7. David Best known for facing the giant Goliath and besting him with a sling and a stone, David was the most famous king of Israel, one of the greatest men who ever lived. Author of most of the Psalms, his story is told in 1 & 2 Samuel. Sadly, he is also often remembered for his greatest failure, his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, who later became the mother of wise and wealthy King Solomon. David’s story starts here.
6. Mary, virgin mother of Jesus, and then wife of Joseph. She appears several times in The Easy Bible® starting with Day 10. Mary is known for her humble acceptance of her role despite the public humiliation and danger that would follow. Her exchange with Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, has been remembered and quoted by millions around the world. Mary appears multiple times in the Gospels beginning with the first chapter of Matthew.
5. Abraham the father of faith and ancestor of nations. His son Isaac was born to him at age 100 when his wife, Sarah, was 90. Isaac became the father of Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and his descendants became the nation of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons was Joseph (not the husband of Mary mother of Jesus) who was sold into slavery by his brothers, but, in a great turn of events, ended up becoming second-in-command in Egypt, in which position he saved his family, providing food for them during a terrible famine. Start with the story of Abraham here.
4. Satan aka the devil, the source of evil. The Bible hints that Satan (the name means accuser) was originally a good angel named Lucifer who turned evil by wanting to make himself into God. His primary strategy is deception which he uses to tempt and torment. Jesus confronts Satan here. Satan first shows up in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and has been active ever since. See Day 7 of The Easy Bible®.
3. Adam & Eve, the first humans and the ancestors of the human race. Read about them in Days 5-7 of The Easy Bible®. Or, start with Genesis 1.
2. Moses The entire Old Testament hinges on the law given by God to Moses. He was the great leader of the people of Israel who transformed them from a subjugated people to a nation, ready to rule and defend itself. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, and is responsible for our understanding of God’s requirements and early human history. Day 4 of The Easy Bible® features the Ten Commandments, God’s core requirements. The story of Moses begins here.
1. Jesus The whole Bible is centered around Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, Savior, the God Man, the solution to the problems caused by our own waywardness. Much of The Easy Bible® (e.g., Day 8, etc.) centers around Jesus, especially Volumes One & Two. Jesus’ story is told in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which begin here.
When they lived …
- Adam & Eve, the first humans, about 4,000 BC or earlier
- Satan* appears as a serpent (or “dragon” in The Easy Bible®) in the Garden of Eden and successfully tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Makes appearances throughout scripture.
- Abel (the son of Adam & Eve)
- Noah, about 2,500 BC or earlier
- Abraham, about 2,000 BC
- Job, dates uncertain, but possibly around the time of Abraham
- Moses, between about 1,400 and 1,200 BC
- Joshua, just after Moses
- Samson, perhaps 1100 BC
- Samuel, about 1100 BC, probably soon after Samson
- Saul, the king, about 1050 BC
- David, about 1,000 BC
- Elijah, about 850 BC
- Jonah, about 750 BC
- Daniel, about 600 BC
- Gabriel,* first mentioned by name in connection with his appearance to Daniel
- Esther, about 470 BC
- Mary, about 6-4 BC
- John the Baptist, born about 4 BC, executed around 28 AD
- Jesus,** born about 4 BC, crucified about 30 AD
- Peter, one of Jesus’ followers who first appears in the narrative about 25-30 AD. He was executed in Rome about 67-68 AD.
- John the Apostle, another disciple. John was the only disciple who wasn’t murdered for his faith (not that people didn’t try—they did). He lived until 89-120 AD.
- Judas Iscariot, the follower who betrayed Jesus. Judas killed himself soon thereafter, around 30 AD.
- Paul, first appears in the narrative after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul was beheaded in Rome around 66 AD.
- Luke, first appears as a traveling companion of Paul. Tradition says he lived to age 84, putting his death toward the end of the First Century AD
Okay, that’s our list. How about you. Who else would you include in the top 25 and why?