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Is there an ’order’ to best read the Bible?


By Stephen A. Curry

A popular misconception is that the word Bible means book. Actually a closer translation is library. This is easier to see in other languages such as Spanish where libro is book and biblioteca is library or at the back of the book where we use the term bibliography for the list of books the author used when researching the topic.

Some of the books in the Bible are part of a series. 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings might have originally been written as a single book. The account in Luke is continued in the book of Acts. Most of the other books are intended to be read start to finish as independent units.

One aspect that some people do not take into account is that the books are not sorted in the order they were written. The people who put together the lists of the books to be included in the Bible sorted the books by topic first so roughly all the Torah is together, all the history, all the prophets, all the Gospels, and all the letters. None of the books in the Bible are dated so scholars have to make a guess based on expressions used, languages, and references to other works (some of which are not in the Bible) to figure out which book came first.

No one knows for certain but many scholars think the New Testament may have been written in the following order: Jude, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philemon, Colossians, Mark, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Hebrews, Luke, Acts, Matthew, Ephesians, John, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation.

Keep in mind that books can be written years after the events they describe; so don’t be thrown by the Gospels appearing in the middle of the list. In the Roman Empire, literacy was low so many writers were orators and only wrote near the end of their lives. Again, since none of the books say when they were written, this is only a guess and no one really knows if this is right.

However, is there something to be revealed in reading these books in this order? What does that tell us about Christ and how the people who walked with Him and sat at His feet understood Him and His Gospel? And what would it mean for us to walk with them in discovering God?

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