The bible is the best-selling and best known book of all time. Yet few people have read the whole book. It has lasted thousands of years. The events it describes changed the world. It offers advice on how we should live which has shaped our view of morality. Our calendar is arranged around the birth date of its main character, Jesus Christ. Much of it seems contradictory, bizarre, or impossible to understand.
A book like this cannot go un-noticed. Even if it were not true, it would be an awesome feat of literature, philosophy, and moral reasoning. Yet it is my belief that this book is true, and that is increasingly the view of the world. More people convert to Christianity every day, even in places where doing so is a dangerous option. Remains of a boat (Noah would have called it an ark) have been found part way up Mount Ararat. Science makes discoveries frequently that show what the bible says to be true, or at least do not contradict it. People show that Christian moral teaching, when applied, is a powerful force for peace. Think about people like Mother Teresa.
If you already have faith in God, I hope to show you a little more about him. If not, I hope to introduce him to you in a way that will inspire you to want to know him better.
The Bible is divided into two parts; The Old Testament, and the New Testament.
The Old Testament begins with Genesis, which just means beginning. It tells us about the creation of the universe and the first people; Adam and Eve. A lot happens in this first book - Adam and Eve’s descendants include people like Noah, Abraham, and Joseph and all have their own story. It’s a good read.
Exodus then begins the story of Moses. It’s called Exodus because it is the story of God’s people escaping slavery. He was born at a time when mal Hebrew children were being killed at birth, but was saved by being put into a basket! He ended up doing some awesome things; he saved his people, he parted the red sea, he performed miracles. It was with Moses that God brought the plagues upon Egypt.
The next couple of books just give more detail about all of this and about the Commandments that were given to Moses by God.
After that comes Joshua – Josh took over from Moses, and had an unexpected victory, with God’s help. Judges tells stories, not surprisingly, of judges. Ruth, is a story of a girl from a very poor background who got her man - yes, it’s a love story. After that we learn about Samuel, the prophet, Saul the king, and then King David -Although David wasn’t a King when he slew a giant with just a few stones. At that point he was just a little shepherd boy and almost unheard of. It was his bravery that got him noticed. David did not have an easy life, and he made mistakes, yet God called him a ‘man after his own heart’.
Kings, and Chronicles pretty much list good kings who did well, and bad kings that came unstuck.
Ezra and Nehemiah are about building the temple and the wall around it.
Esther is a story that makes Cinderella look boring. Another love story.
Job was a rich, powerful and good man, who had a very bad time. He had many disasters happen to him, and his friends were not much help (nor was his wife) yet he got everything back, and the book has a happy ending.
Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, were written by King David and his son Solomon (who was very wise). They are poetic, and tell us a lot about God. The Song of Solomon is all about love – in quite a physical sense. (Yes that is what I mean – read it and see....)
After that there are lots of prophets, telling people how they should live, according to God, and about the saviour who would come one day. You may also have heard the one about Jonah who got swallowed by a fish. The Old Testament ends with Malachi, the last of the prophets, written about 400 years before Jesus.
The new Testament
The Gospels really could be seen as part of the Old Testament, as it was when Jesus rose from the dead, and the Holy Spirit came to man that the new order of things started. But published bibles will have the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as the first four books of the New Testament. These are eye-witness accounts by men who lived and travelled with Jesus, and tell the story of his birth, life, death, and resurrection. They are different; try getting four different people to tell you about the same event, and you will get four ways of telling the story, and they may include different details. Yet together these give a really good picture of who Jesus was, and what he did.
The book of Acts then tells the story of what happened to the first Christians after Jesus had gone; how they got the holy spirit, and the miracles, dangers, trials, and amazing growth of the church that followed. Much of the rest of the New Testament is written by Paul, ad tells us how to live as a Christian, and what God, through Jesus has done for us. John and Peter also write. Right at the end is the ‘Revelation’ which tells what will happen in the future, when Christ returns.
You don’t have to read the whole thing unless you want to do that – but it is worth remembering that it’s a cohesive whole – there would be no Jesus without Adam, Abraham, David, Ruth, etc. However if you are starting out, it’s probably best to read the New Testament as that is the bit that applies directly to us now ( because we are still living in the time between Jesus being on earth the first time, and when he returns. ) But it’s up to you.
Whatever part of it you read be sure to give this book the attention it deserves. It is a great story, but it is so much more than that – this is truth, life, and able to help you change your life.
Just a final note on the many versions of the bible that are out there. They are all just that -versions of the original. The bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek so few of us would find that easy to read even if we had access to it. What we see on our bookshelves are translations, from that, or form other translations. As such, sometimes they vary a little from what the original said, and as you learn more you will spot those variations. But it should also be said that these translations were made by experts; and are largely right. I use the King James Version, as do many people who study the bible in depth – this is mainly because most books enabling study are based on this version, and also a little to do with copyright laws. But if you want to read the NIV, ASV, NKJV, Message, or whatever, that’s fine too.