So you have recovered confidence in the Bible;

you are happy to get to work;

and you now realise how hungry you are to read the Bible; 

but...where on earth do we begin? The Bible seems so vast and complicated... 

The Bible is vast and complicated because it is not in fact a book at all, it is a library of books. Moreover this library is split into two distinct 'words' or testaments: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament (or more accurately, the Hebrew Bible) is a complete work set before the time of Jesus.

The New Testament (set during and after the time of Jesus) contains four biographies of Jesus' life; along with an account of the first community of followers of Jesus, and some of their letters.

The Hebrew Bible was originally written in ancient Hebrew (with some Aramaic).

A community of divinely inspired prophets wrote poems and narratives and instructions down onto rocks and fine animal skins and parchments, over a period of 1000 years.

The community also passed down poems and narratives and instructions through oral tradition (common practice in the ancient world) over millenia.

These pieces were finally collated into a single collection of 24 scrolls called the TaNaKh after the major crisis in Israel's history: the Babylonian exile.

This TaNaKh is simply an acronym (and wow! do I love an acronym) for its three sections:

Torah ('teaching' - 5 scrolls)

Neviim ('prophets' - 8 scrolls)

Ketuvim ('writings' - 11 scrolls).

About half of this Tanakh is in narrative form. The other main genre is poetry.

Collated and also translated into ancient Greek, this Tanakh was the Bible of the Jesus and his followers in the first century.

In contrast, the New Testament was originally written in the language of the marketplace of the Roman empire - 'koine' or common Greek: most of the letters and the biographies were recognised as divinely inspired by the end of the first century.

A few hundred years in, the Christian community recognised the rest of the current content of the New Testament (more letters) as divinely inspired; and reorganised the content of the Hebrew Bible (which became known as the Old Testament) essentially around chronology: first narrative, then poetry.

A few more hundred years in scholars organised each book into individual chapters to help readers navigate through the books in this library.

So although the process of composing and compiling the Bible was vast and complicated, what is incredible is that we receive so much of this library in narrative form.

So much of the Bible is story.

Do not underestimate what an incredible gift this is: we all love a story don't we. Stories draw us in and help us see clearly. 

Yes, it is vast and complicated. But it is also, through story, accessible to everyone, everywhere, in every period of time.

So in answer to the original question - where do we begin? - we begin by reading the story.

This is the story, as we find it in our Bible. Find an easy to read translation into English. The words are the names of individual books. The numbers are the chapters. 

And one final thought for the moment when you are settling down with your coffee to read the Bible. Imagine yourself crossing over the bridge into another country: another country which speaks different languages; exists in a different time; and has a radically different culture.

Lay aside any 21st century Western worldview. Read the Bible for its own sake, according to the worldview of the original authors, the worldview of the ancient near east. 


Exodus 1-20;

Numbers 9-14, 16-17, 20-27;

Deuteronomy 1-3, 29-34;

Joshua 1-11, 23;



1 and 2 Samuel;

1 and 2 Kings;





Revelation 17-22.

That's it. If you read a few chapters a day; and skip any lists, family trees, and excess poetry that has snuck in, you will have read the story of the whole Bible in less than 100 days. 

Why not take this season to do it? After all there is only so much on demand online TV a person can take before they go slightly mad.