If you are reading the Bible for the first time, it may be helpful to know how the Bible is laid out. I don’t recommend starting at the beginning and reading through like an ordinary book, although some day you should. The Bible consists of 66 separate books, generally divided into the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Each book is divided into chapters, and each chapter contains numbered sections called verses. The Old Testament mainly covers the history of the nation of Israel, and God’s dealings with them. There are many prophesies that point to the coming of Jesus. The New Testament covers Jesus’ life and ministry, and teachings of the early Christian Church. The New Testament is like a fulfillment of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament books are divided into several categories. The first five books are called “The Books of the Law.” Genesis, of course, tells the story of Creation, and contains an early history of the human race. Then it continues by giving the early history of the nation of Israel. Exodus continues this history. Exodus also contains the Ten Commandments in Chapter 20. The other three books give laws and general guidelines for Israel.
The next twelve books are considered The History Books. These are the books of Joshua to Esther. These cover the history of Israel from the time they became a nation, to within 400 years before Jesus came. These books contain many interesting stories of how God protected His people. He punished them when they strayed from His teachings, and was merciful when they repented. He prospered them greatly when they were obedient to His Will.
The next five books are The Books of Poetry: Job to The Song of Solomon. The book of Psalms is the longest book of the Bible, and contains many comforting verses that tell of God’s care and goodness.
The rest of the Old Testament books are The Books of Prophecy. They contain warnings to the nation of Israel to turn from her sins, or judgment would follow, usually in the form of other nations subduing them. These books also contain many prophesies about the coming of Jesus.
The New Testament
The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell the story of Jesus’ life and contain His teachings. Each book tells a lot of the same things, just from the unique perspective of the author. The book of Acts tells about the “acts” of the early church. The rest of the New Testament, except for the last book, contains books called The Epistles, or letters. These are letters written to the early Church to teach them the ways of Christ. They contain Christian doctrine, and give practical guidelines for living a righteous life.
The last book of the New Testament is the book of Revelations. This book contains visions that a disciple of Jesus had concerning the glory and power of Jesus. It contains messages from Jesus to His early Church. It also gives prophecy of coming judgment and the end of the world.
What I Recommend
If you are new to the Bible, I recommend picking one of the first four books of the New Testament, and read it through. I would start with the book of Luke. This will introduce you to The Story of Jesus. Many Bibles print Jesus’ exact words in red. You will read Jesus’ teachings on how to live and love others. He tells many stories in the form of parables, which is a story about everyday life, but has a deeper symbolic meaning.
Then read through the book of Acts to learn about the conversions of some of the first Christians, and the workings of God’s Spirit in the early Church.
Proceed to any of the Epistles, or letters written to the early Churches. These give specifics for everyday living. At first, you may have trouble understanding. You need to pray and ask God’s Spirit to guide you and open your mind to His teaching.