Last Sunday we invited everyone to take home a bible and encouraged everyone to begin to read it. I am going to make suggestions from time to time about how to approach the Bible, especially for those who have never spent time with it before. Hopefully, that will be helpful to you.
My first suggestion was to just get to know your bible. Spend time just paging through. Check out the table of contents. In the back are some charts and maps that can be very helpful. Note that every book is prefaced by a short introduction that gives some context to the book you are reading.
The Bible is actually two libraries of books which we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “testament” actually refers to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. There are a number of covenants that are included in the Old Testament, but the greatest of these is the Mount Sinai Covenant. The New Covenant is the new relationship between God and His people brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the Consecration at Mass, we hear Christ say, “Take this and drink from it. This is the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant, which will be shed for you and for many.” The Old Testament contains the 45 Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament contains the 27 Christian scriptures.
The Old Testament books can be divided into four major categories. These are the Pentateuch (the Torah), the historical books, the wisdom books, and the prophetic books. The Pentateuch includes the first five (penta) books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Some bibles will include the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth under the Pentateuch, but they really belong as part of the historical books. There are 16 historical books. And there are seven wisdom books, and 18 prophetic books.
The New Testament can be divided into four categories as well. First are the four Gospels, second is the Acts of the Apostles, third are the 21 epistles or letters, most of which come to us from Saint Paul. Finally, fourth, is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
Where to begin reading? There is a priest who has an app that takes the reader through the entire Bible in one year. That can be helpful, but it is not the way that I suggest. The books of the Bible were not written in the order in which we find them in the Bible. As Christians we want to look at the New Testament first, so that we can hear the stories and the teachings of Jesus. We are concluding Year 2 of our three-year cycle of readings, which focuses on the Gospel of Mark. After the first of the year, we will begin reading through the Gospel of Luke. That is where I suggest that you start.
—Fr. Mike Comer