I was having a conversation earlier this afternoon with someone about reading the Bible. The conversation reminded me of the common difficulty people run into when reading the Bible. How to make sense of the overall story of the Bible. While the Bible is a collection of individual stories and books, it is also a complete single story as well. A story of God’s love for us no matter how many times we fall. But how do we make sense of it all?
First off we need to realize that the Bible isn’t laid out chronologically. Some of the books are meant to be read in light of other books or alongside other books. Some books supplement others and there are some books that are the backbone and make up the overall story of the Bible. Once I realized this and studied this the Bible came alive to me in a way that it never did before. Nothing I am telling you here is of any personal discovery, but rather only myself relaying to you what I have learned.
The first thing to understand is that there are 14 books in the Bible that can be read in chronological order. This is the backbone of the Bible. The backbone of it’s story. If you read these books in order you’re going to get the main overall theme of the Bible story as a whole. These 14 books are Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings, 1st Maccabees, Luke, Acts and Revelation.
This is not to say that the other books don’t matter. They matter a lot. But these books can be read in chronological order. Once you master these you can begin to see how the rest fall into place. Some books like the Old Testament prophetic books supplement and take place at the same time as the books of Samuel and the books of Kings. Then you have books like 1st and 2nd Chronicles that parallel the books of Samuel and the books of Kings.
In the New Testament Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the same stories of Jesus but from different points of views written specifically for different audiences. John’s Gospel supplements Matthew, Mark, and Luke sometimes paralleling and sometimes filling in the blanks. Once one masters and understand the second half of The Acts of the Apostles do the letter’s of Paul come alive as Acts provides historical and societal context to Paul’s letters. Historically the universal letters (the letters of Peter, James, John and Jude) fit in here as well with Revelation bringing the story of God’s love for us here on Earth to an end and segueing it into eternity.
So if you are one that can’t make sense of the Bible and where to begin don’t worry. Read those 14 books in order to begin with. Once you can make sense of those, then you can start reading the books that supplement the main story.