Sunday Morning Greek Blog

September 13, 2011

HUB Week 3: Reading the Bible

Filed under: Biblical Studies — Scott Stocking @ 6:56 am

Learning Outcomes:

After attending this class session, the participant should be able to:

  1. Formulate a daily Bible reading plan that is comfortable for your schedule and for the level of interaction you want with the Bible.
  2. Describe the major sections of the Bible and the significance of each section.
  3. Initiate a Bible reading plan.

So now that you have a Bible, where do you start reading?

Old Testament

The Jewish people have three major sections in their Testament (what Christ followers call the Old Testament), as described in Table 1:

Table 1: Jewish Divisions of the Old Testament

Division (TaNaKH) 

Meaning of Hebrew Word

Range 

Torah 

Instruction 

Genesis–Deuteronomy 

Nevi’im

Prophets (includes “former” and “latter” prophets) 

Former: Joshua–2 Kings, excluding Ruth

Latter (Major): Isaiah–Ezekiel

Latter (Minor): Hosea–Malachi

Ketuvim

Writings

Books of Truth: Job, Psalms, Proverbs

Five Scrolls: Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs/Solomon, Lamentations

The Other Writings: 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel

Our English Bibles have a different order and breakdown of the books, as reflected in Table 2.

Table 2: English divisions of the Old Testament

Division 

Brief Description 

Range 

History 

From creation to exile in Babylon and return to the Land 

Genesis–Esther

1 & 2 Chronicles cover the same history as 1 & 2 Kings. Chronicles is written from a priestly, religious perspective, while Kings is more historical and civic.

Wisdom Literature 

Primarily poetic or proverbial material 

Job–Song of Songs/Solomon 

Prophets 

Instruction, exhortation, and warning to Israel and Judah during the monarchy and beyond. 

Major Prophets: Isaiah–Daniel

Minor Prophets: Hosea–Malachi 

The New Testament has similar divisions, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: English Divisions of the New Testament

Division

Brief Description 

Range 

History 

From the conception of Jesus to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome 

Gospels: Matthew–John (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar, so they are called “Synoptic Gospels”)

Acts: From the birth of the church to Paul’s Roman imprisonment

Writings 

Letters of Paul and other early church leaders to the churches 

Pauline: Romans–Philemon

General: Hebrews–Jude

Prophecy 

The future of the church 

Revelation 

Where do I start?

If you’re new to the Bible, you may want to start off slowly. Reading from cover to cover might prove to be a bit challenging when you get to extensive genealogies, census lists, and repetitive descriptions of sacrificial requirements. There are several ways you can go. Biblegateway.com has a 61-day reading plan that hits the highlights from every book in the Bible. They also have other reading plans that vary from a chronological reading of key stories to the entire Old and New Testaments in one year. Some plans even deliver you the passages by e-mail. If you Google “Bible reading plan,” you’re sure to get plenty of options to fit your schedule and your desired level of involvement.

Because the New Testament depends heavily on the Old Testament, I think it is a good idea to at least get your feet wet in the Old Testament. Genesis is full of interesting stories about the patriarchs, many of which are referenced in the New Testament (especially Abraham). Exodus, with its plagues, parting seas, and pagan-idol/golden calf worship has some excitement in it as well. The Psalms are very practical and relevant. Everyone can find something to relate to there. The prophets are always good for tension, redemption, and deliverance.

If you like a challenge and want to try to work through the genealogies, for example, here’s a tip to make those more interesting. Matthew and Luke both have genealogies of Jesus’s descendants (Matthew through Joseph, and Luke through Mary). See if you can match up the Old Testament genealogies with the ones those Gospel writers use. Look for familiar biblical names in those genealogies and then go off on a tangent trying to find out all you can about that person. Or when you get to the censuses of Israel or lists of the 12 tribes, try comparing those to see which tribes increased and which tribes decreased (and which disappeared altogether!).

Another idea would be to just dive into one book, learning all you can about it. If you’re a student of history, you can find a wealth of information about the cultural and historical setting of many of Paul’s letters that bring new insight to the biblical text. Pick a letter and dive in.

Are you a word buff? Get a concordance and look up all the occurrences of a key word in the Bible. One of my favorite studies is to look up all of the “one another” passages (there are about 100 of them) and learn what we’re supposed to be doing to “one another.”

There are always ways to make Bible reading interesting, engaging, and enjoyable. The neat thing is, you can adapt it to your own personality and style. Don’t be afraid to dive in and start digging around. God’s word will not return void (Isaiah 55:10–11). If you read it, the Spirit will open up new vistas of understanding that will fill your life with joy and courage.

Peace!

Scott Stocking

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