The Structure Of The Bible For Bible Reading
Are you a first-time reader or just trying to develop a Bible reading discipline. Here is a fundamental structure that might help.
For first time readers engaging the Bible can be an overwhelming task. This is because the Bible is not your typical book. Many trying to read the Bible or just developing a Bible reading habit are quick to discover that the Bible is full of obscure language, unusual settings, and unique peoples, which makes it confusing and complicating to read. Add to this the fact that there are many different literary styles mixed into this book (i.e., poetry, prophetic, narrative, letters, etc.), and it's no surprise why it might be hard for someone to try to take up the discipline of reading the Bible. So when a well-meaning friend insists on Bible reading as a leading spiritual discipline when you don't know what to do or where to start, you could be tempted to throw in the towel before you ever begin. But don't, because this book unlocks the secrets of life-changing truth that will never lead you wrong. Note the Psalmist.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105
I believe reading the Bible is worth a small investment of time in some simple preliminary work. It is, after all, a compelling collection of historical events and stories laid out for us, transporting us through thousands of years of God’s story so that we might know the truth that sets mankind free. Jesus once said,
"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
Today my goal is to give you a high-level understanding of the framework of the Bible, and some simple steps to get you going in your Bible reading, so that you can navigate the most reproduced and distributed book in the world.
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The Structure Of The Bible.
If you turn to your table of contents in your Bible, you will notice the Bible contains 66 individual books. 39 of these books are what is called the Old Testament books, and 27 are the New Testament books. While the Bible tells a single meta-narrative about God's salvation of mankind and his son Jesus Christ, this story is told over thousands of years through the lens of 40 different authors.
But knowing a basic structure makes the task easier. Note the following flow of the two testaments.
Old Testament books are arranged by:
- Law - Often called the Torah the first five books tell the story of our genesis.
- History - Books that tell the story of God's people.
- Poetry - Poetry, and songs written for the early church about God.
- Major Prophets - The big guys.
- Minor Prophets - The smaller guys.
New Testament books are arranged by:
- The Gospels – Four perspectives on the life of Jesus.
- Acts – A book of history about the early church.
- Paul’s Letters – Letters Paul wrote to churches he influenced.
- Hebrews – A book to Jews who became Christian converts that helps them understand the connection.
- Other Letters - Letters written to other Churches.
- Prophecy - The book of Revelations written by John.
I think this gives you a simple outline of the Bible.
But Where Should I Begin?
Now it's tempting to start at the beginning, but I would not. I encourage a new reader to start reading three books of the Bible. First, with a New Testament narrative called the Gospel of John. It is the fourth of the gospels, which is the most readable on life and ministry of Jesus. I would encourage someone to begin here because the metanarrative of the Bible is about Jesus, and this gives a person an excellent starting point to view prophecies of the Old Testament and the apocalyptical narrative of the New Testament. Second, I would then read the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament which is the book of the history of the first church. And third, I would recommend Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. Starting with these books will help you connect with the story from the beginning, middle to end. And it might get you into the truth, the truth that has the power to set you free.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.