Where to start reading the Bible

Last week I began sharing some thoughts about what to teach a newcomer about how to read the Bible. I made some suggestions about some broad themes; let me mention a few specific ideas.

  • I don’t like to hand someone a Bible and leave them. There’s really no support for that in the Bible itself. The closest we come is Phillip and the Ethiopian; after a few hours conversation, Phillip leaves the man. However, the Ethiopian was not a complete newcomer to Scripture; he was apparently a convert to Judaism. He probably had the support of a synagogue back home.
    People need some guidance as they begin to read. The ideal is for someone to commit to walk with them in their journey through the Bible for a few months, at minimum.
  • I teach people that the Bible is an anthology, not a book. The average person supposes that the Bible was written in a fairly short period of time by a handful of people working together. It helps to show people that the Bible is made up of dozens of books written over a span of more than 1000 years.
  • I suggest that people NOT begin in Genesis. I tell people to begin in the gospels. If I were drawing up an initial reading plan, it would look a bit like this:

    Gospel of Mark
    Gospel of John
    Acts 1-21
    Exodus 1-20
    Skim Exodus 21ff.

Some comments on that reading start. I want them to see Jesus first. I choose a synoptic; Mark is my preference, but anyone of the three is good. I then have them read John to get a broader view of who Jesus is.

Then we move to Acts, partly to see the beginning of the church, partly to get the context for the epistles. Galatians both illustrates the occasional nature of the letters and gives some basic teaching about the gospel. Ephesians gives a vision of what maturity in Christ is to look like.

We then read Genesis to learn about the promises made to Abraham. The first part of Exodus presents several of the mighty acts of God which form the foundation for much of the identity of God’s people. It’s worth skimming the rest of Exodus to then understand what Hebrews is talking about. At this point, the person should be ready for bigger books like Hebrews and Romans.

Those are some of the basics. Suggestions?

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