Reading the Bible is a daunting task, and yet it is one that task is one each of us is more than able to meet. In my last post I talked a lot about getting a Bible and looking at it’s Table of Contents. I also recommended that people begin reading the Bible in Genesis. I’ll share why in more depth in a bit, but first I want to give you a couple of other options as you begin to read this amazing and wonderful collection of literature we call the Bible.
For those who have a more philosophical nature: You may want to start someplace other than Genesis, especially if you’re a bit skeptical about this whole “God thing” in the Bible. You may want to start reading the Bible with these books, in no particular order: Job, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. These are some of the “books” considered Wisdom Literature. Job is a story (it may be history, it may be allegory, maybe it’s a bit of both) about theodicy. It’s about a good God, a man whose faith in that good God is shaken but not abandoned despite the suffering inflicted upon him by a character named “Satan”. Proverbs is a collection of general wisdom from ancient times. Ecclesiastes is a reflection upon the meaning of life. Song of Songs is all about sex and love between two people, and is the only book in the Bible written from a female perspective!
For those who have a more poetic nature: You may want to start reading the Psalms. This is the song book of Israel. There are 150 “songs” in this collection. They aren’t all songs like you’d expect. Some of them are songs for travelling, some are for particular events (like a coronation), and some seem to be for the temple worship. These spiritual poems share the emotions of Israel. The authors pull no punches as they write and share what’s on their minds with the God who hears.
For those who want to know the story: in my previous post I recommended that you begin with Genesis, Exodus, and then jump to the Gospels (the name we give to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Here’s why: Genesis gives us the context of God the Creator who desires to be in relationship with rebellious creation, specifically humanity. We learn of the initial rebellion of humans in the Garden of Eden, the continued decline into chaos culminating in the flood. We learn of God’s promise to Abraham and the line which leads to Jacob, who gets renamed by God to Israel. We learn of Israel’s movement from Canaan to Egypt and their enslavement there. Then we read in Exodus of God’s response to their cries for a deliverer. We read of God’s deliverance of Israel, a people who were slaves (no people) who become God’s people at Mount Sinai. God creates and establishes Israel as a kingdom of priests and makes a covenant with them. Then they move into the land promised to Abraham and take possession of it. (that part really ends in Joshua, but you don’t have to read Leviticus and Numbers if you don’t want to yet.) This gives us the bedrock to move forward to Jesus. Sure that means we skip over David and Israel’s monarchy, but as we move into Jesus we can begin to understand what God is doing. God wants to heal what was broken in our rebellion (Genesis 3). God wants to redeem the rebelliousness and brokenness which has caused so much harm in our world (Genesis 3-11, and on really). WE have cried out for God to do something about evil and suffering (Exodus 1). God has heard our cries and has done something decisive, once and for all to put an end to evil and suffering (Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension). The rest of the New Testament largely interprets what God has done in Jesus. So if you can get those movements down through Genesis, Exodus, and the Gospels then you’ll begin to get a handle on the rest of the Bible. Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
We’ll keep talking about reading the Bible. Hopefully this helps you find a good jumping off point!