Reading the Bible. How Do I Begin?

The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written in various styles and covering a range of topics. (See the previous article: “What Is the Bible All About?”) Many of these books are not arranged in chronological sequence. To read through the Bible for the first time can thus be a challenging experience. Many give up within the first hundred pages. However, because of the historical thread running through the Bible, there is another way to make a beginning.

Most books of the Bible overlap, many fitting into the period covered by others. Hence, to gain a general outline of Bible history (the history of God’s relationship with humanity), it is necessary to read only 13 of the Bible’s books. These will provide a context for all the others. Keep an exercise book beside you, allowing you to write down your questions and thoughts as you read. (You can record Bible passages according to book, chapter and verse, allowing you to find those same passages again later. For example, “Genesis 1: 27” indicates the book of “Genesis”, the first chapter, and the 27th verse.) If we can assist you with your questions, please feel free to contact us.

To get a general summary of the Bible, begin by reading the book of “Genesis”. This will take you from the Creation through to the time when the tribe of Israel settled in Egypt, followed by the death of Joseph (c.1800 B.C.) Next read the first twenty chapters of “Exodus” (which will introduce you to Moses, Israel’s departure from Egypt around 1440 B.C., and the giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel a few months later at Sinai). Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness (this period being covered by the book of “Numbers”). Moses died around 1400 B.C. His death is mentioned in the last chapter of “Deuteronomy” (chapter 34). Following Moses’ death, Joshua became the leader and Israel occupied the land of Canaan (now called Palestine) which God gave to the Israelites because of the persistent immorality of the previous inhabitants. This is all recorded in the book of “Joshua” which takes us from roughly 1400 to 1360 B.C. Next is the book of “Judges”, covering a turbulent period of Israel’s history when the people repeatedly drifted away from God (c.1360 to c.1025 B.C.) After this, Israel entered a time when it was ruled by monarchs (mainly kings). The book of “1st Samuel” covers the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul. The next book, “2nd Samuel”, takes us through the reign of the next king, David. The first eleven chapters of “1st Kings” describes the reign of Israel’s third king, Solomon. These three kings bring us to about 931 B.C. After Solomon’s death, the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The two kingdoms each had their own kings. The history of this period is provided in the rest of “1st Kings” and also “2nd Kings”. The era ends with first Israel, and then Judah, being conquered and taken into foreign exile. The exile ended around 536 B.C. and many Israelites began returning to their homeland. This final stage of the Old Testament record (lasting to c.430 B.C.) is summarised in the book of “Ezra”.

We then jump roughly 430 years to the birth and earthly ministry of Jesus, the Saviour. (This is who the events of the Old Testament were leading up to.) His earthly life of about 33 years is covered by the New Testament book of “Luke”. After Jesus’ death, resurrection and return to heaven, Christianity and the Church were established. That early period of Christianity (from about 30 to 62 A.D.) is covered by the book of “Acts” (which shows how we can become Christians).

Thirteen Bible books, or parts thereof, thus take us from Creation to the establishment of Christianity. By reading a few chapters each day, you could cover this material in a matter of months. If we can help you in any way, let us know.