Where should someone who has never looked at the Bible start?
First, a copy of the Bible is needed! English Bible translations I would suggest include: New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV) and the Good News Bible. The NKJV and NIV stick more closely to a literal translation in today’s English, while the Good News Bible takes some more interpretive liberty to put things into modern concepts and examples – a “paraphrase”. The 400 year old King James Version (KJV) is considered “classic” but is not so easy to understand.
When someone reads the Bible for the first time, I suggest starting with some highlights rather then reading straight through the whole thing. There’s typically over 1,000 pages in a Bible. It took me a few years before I read it right through for the first time. It is dense conceptually, too. There’s always something new that I pick up going back over some part of it (which I do every day).
There are 66 books of the Bible, each divided into chapters and verses. Some highlight books and chapters that I think are worth prioritising:
- The four gospels that tell the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and teachings: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, my favourite being John. Mark is the most concise.
- Genesis – tells the story of Creation, origin of evil, and some ‘classic’ Bible stories (Noah, Abraham, birth of Israelite nation, Joseph in Egypt, etc)
- Acts – tells the story of the early Christian church (fast-paced, lots of interesting stories with some principles of Christianity)
- Proverbs – lots of short & sharp pieces of ‘wisdom’ (or advice)
- Romans – explains the Christian gospel with a lot of key principles of Christianity
- Daniel and Revelation – these are quite a bit more advanced (needing understanding of whole Bible context & themes, as well as history) but they are the key prophetic books of the Bible that describe current world events
- Matthew 5-7: Jesus’ sermon on the mount with key teachings such as the Golden Rule and applications, the Beatitudes, the Lord’s prayer, etc
- Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, 2 Timothy 3 (first half): describe the condition of the world before the prophesied second coming of Jesus
- John 3: the gospel in a nutshell (John 3:16)
- Exodus 20: The Ten Commandments
- Psalm 23: The Shepherd’s Psalm
- Luke 15: Three famous parables including the Prodigal Son
- 1 Corinthians 13: Description of love
- Portions of Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, Revelation 12: the origin of evil and the Great Controversy between good and evil