29 October 2012

How to read ALL of the Bible # 1 - the basics

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I think reading the Bible – and reading all of it - is important. Some of it is pretty hard going but it is all good.  And if you keep pressing on, turning the pages over and over (but you do have to read the words as you go, just in case you were tempted to skip a few pages, chapters or books without reading them) year by year, eventually it all starts to make some sense. You start seeing the links between the books, understanding where a random book fits in with the larger picture, recognising names and recalling the events that shape the unfolding history. Every part of the Bible is important. But it can be hard work.

A couple of keys to reading all of the Bible without becoming discouraged are to know the basics of how the Bible hangs together – and much of it can be understood using this simple and handy diagram...

This diagram is from Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament by Graeme Goldsworthy, page 32. (Published by Paternoster Press in 1982)

...and secondly, knowing how that story fits in with the table of contents at the beginning of the Bible. 

But first up, the absolute basics.

The Bible isn't one book but a library of 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament - starting with the creation of the world and moving through the history of the people of Israel (and the gentile nations that surround them) right through to about four hundred years before Jesus was born. 

The New Testament has 27 books - covering the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the history of the early church, assurance that Jesus will return again and lots of guidance on how to live our lives in light of the life and work of Jesus Christ as we await his return.

The 66 books cover a range of genres - history, poetry, letters (called epistles), apocolyptic writings (eek!), lists, narrative, genealogies (press on through these...they DO become quite interesting once you become familiar with them) and so on - and each section needs to be read in light of its genre.  Within the 66 books there are lots and lots of stories that all combine to tell a single, beautiful story of redemption through God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, love and grace.

So, moving onto all those individual stories and how they hold together.


Sarah said...

That flow chart is on the wall in my study. Very helpful!

Meredith said...

Hooray. I am glad you found it helpful. It has been a constant friend of mine.