Understanding the Bible #1–Where to Start

July 5, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

A friend asked me recently a very important question.  They were wanting to introduce their children to the Star Wars movies–a noble goal indeed. They asked, “Where should we start?  Should we start with Episode IV since it was released first or start with Episode I and take them in chronological order?”  A deep and significant question.  I hope I didn’t minimize the significance of the question by how quickly I answered.

The answer, quickly given, was that they should watch them in order of release date.  This is the story of Darth Vader, although you would be inclined to think that it was about Luke.  Vader is the most evil movie villain, evah (read more here).  Then he turns out to be the hero’s dad and then, well you know.  Empire Strikes Back has perhaps the best plot twist of all time, with all due respect to Keyser Sose, dead therapists and Rosebud (Boom! Dated reference!).  You lose that plot twist by watching the 1,2,3, first and it’s harder to care about what’s going on in 1,2,3 if you don’t know who Annakin/Vader is.

A similar and, shall we say, more important question is where do I start reading the Bible.  In part there are two lines of thought that, ironically are the same as the Star Wars question.  Some say start at the beginning and read chronologically.  Others say start with Jesus, the centerpiece of the big picture story of the Bible.  If you are not a Christian and want to understand the story of the Bible, I would start with Jesus.  The best place to do that is the Gospel of John.  That is the fourth book of the New Testament.  Gospel means “good news” and in the Bible has become a title for four different semi-biographies of Jesus.  (I say semi because that is not their primary purpose.  Talking about Jesus’s ministry, death and resurrection are their main goals.  3 years out of the life of a man who lived approximately 33 years).  The Gospel of John was written specifically to focus on the stories and sayings of Jesus that deal with people coming to faith.  So it is a great book for non-believers and new believers.

If you are a believer and know the story of Jesus, I’d suggest a more chronological approach–start at the beginning.  What I am going to outline here is starting with the books that tell the story of the Bible, the history books.  In future posts, we will break down the big picture story into sections and place all of the books into one of those sections.  For now, we will put together an approach to reading the Bible that will give you the big idea.

Genesis (Creation, Noah, Tower of Babel, Abraham-Isaac-Jacob/Esau-12 sons, most notably Joseph)

Exodus (Jews are slaves, God raises up Moses to free them and take them to a promised land)

Leviticus/Numbers (Warning! Can be tedious.  Lots of rules, lots of repetition. Story gets bogged down. Can be difficult to read.  Hang in there.  Jews headed to promised land, receive God’s law, rebel, are punished and have to wander around)

Deuteronomy (Don’t read the whole thing.  They are back to the promised land.  Moses giving them the law again.  Read Chapters 1-2 and then skip to Chapter 29 to the end)

Joshua (Taking the land, establishing themselves)

Judges (Living in the land…poorly)

I & II Samuel (God ruling the Jews through prophets, but they want a king, God gives them a king.  It doesn’t go well.  1st 3–Saul, David, Solomon)

I & II Kings (Note, these books are essentially repeated in I & II Chronicles but from a different perspective. Over simplification, but just read one pair for now. The kingdom is split into two, Israel (north) Judah (south).  It’s still not going well. It ends with both nations being conquered and exiled.)

Ezra and Nehemiah (The people are coming back from exile to rebuild Israel.)

Gospel of Luke (Jesus comes to Israel to restore the people and to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.)

Acts (The story of Jesus’s disciples who take his message to the world.)

We have left out some great books and great stories and great poetry, basically a lot of cool stuff that you absolutely should go back and read.  But once you understand the big story, the question of where and how do these other books fit will make more sense.

How much should I read?  That’s a great question.  However, it’s one we rarely ask in any other context.  “Hey, I checked out a novel from the library.  How much do you think I should read at a time?”  “Well, I don’t know.  Until you want to stop and then pick it up when you’re ready to read again?”  How about just read the Bible?  When your eyes/mind start to glaze stop.  When you pick it back up the next day (Reading the Bible every day is a great thing), review what you have read, remind yourself of where you are in the story and read some more.

I understand that the Bible can be challenging to read.  Understanding the story can be difficult and make take some time. You may only be able to read in small chunks.  I get that. This is a guy who doesn’t like blog posts to be more than 900 words, so I need


4 Responses to “Understanding the Bible #1–Where to Start”
  1. Josh says:

    I think that is the best blog ending ever. I laughed out loud (that’s lol for the kids reading) for several minutes, so much that I literally cried.

    Thanks for the tips on showing my kids Star Wars in the future. I had never thought about it that way before.

  2. cloften says:

    According to the word count, it was exactly 899 words. Oh, and thanks. Always appreciate a good laugher.

  3. El Davo says:

    You are a modern day Luther with all your Truth accessibility talk. Great jorb.

  4. Darth Burger says:

    Great post! And for those who want a quick summary of the major stories of the Bible and how they all point to Jesus, a good book is “The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It’s a great read, even for adults.


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