How to Venture Into the Bible

Hi Fi Vol. 127 (2009) Number 1

If you are approaching the Bible in a Christian faith perspective, start with the New Testament. Notice its references to the Old Testament. These are clues of how first-century Christians interpreted the Jewish scriptures in light of their experience of Jesus Christ.

Begin with the Gospel of Mark. Its portrayal of Jesus' ministry is simple, direct and concise. Secondly, turn to the Gospel of Luke. Its progression resembles Mark's, and is enriched with accounts of Jesus' childhood. Next, the Book of Acts, possibly written by the same author, will allow for continuity between the story of Jesus and that of the first Christian communities, when the Good News was spreading through the Roman Empire, thanks to the apostle Paul.

Having met Paul, move on to his epistles, and get to know the man and his message, starting with his letter to the Galatians. It is somewhat autobiographical and is most probably one of Paul's first letters. Then, have a look at 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Romans, and the shorter epistles.

At this point, go back to the gospels. Compare Paul's focus on proclaiming the Good News to non-Jews, with Matthew's gospel, written for a community of Jewish-Christians. This contrast shows the richness of thought and the diversity of first-century Christianity.

Complete your reading of the gospels with John. It is complex and can be understood at two or three levels - I wouldn't suggest it as a first read. Of the four gospels in the New Testament, John's was written last, towards the end of the first century. Its theological reflection, particularly on the divinity of Jesus, demonstrates the evolution of considerations on Jesus as the Christ.

Continuing in the Johannine tradition, though under a different authorship, read 1, 2, and 3 John. Top that off with the epistles of James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, and so on, followed by the Book of Revelation, which were most probably written in the context of the persecution ofChristians (late 1st to early 2nd centuries).

After that reading itinerary, venture into the Old Testament, according to the order of the books in your Bible, in order to explore and appreciate the Jewish tradition.

According to Dr. André Gagné1

1 Dr. André Gagné is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University. 

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