“To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.”
2 Thessalonians 1:1, 3:17 (NIV)
If you are new to the Bible and you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. The good news is that once you learn how the Bible is structured, then the good stuff—the meat of it, starts to make a whole lot more sense.
In short, the Bible is a literary anthology—a collection of songs, poems, letters, historical data, prophecies, wise sayings, narratives, guidelines for living, and even visions—that are tied together by one common thread…Jesus. Each of these pieces is called a book and comes with a practical title, usually the author’s name, its destination, or a word that gives you a clue to the theme of the book.
In What the Bible Is All About, Henrietta C. Mears does a great job of giving background on each book, discussing its contents, and explaining how the book relates to Jesus.
The titles, or names, of the books of the Bible are always listed in a table of contents at the front. You’ll notice that in some cases, there are multiple books by the same author. These are simply marked as the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd books. If you know someone who can quickly find a referenced verse, it’s because he’s memorized this list. That was just the thing to do when growing up going to Sunday school.
Like any book, each is divided into numbered chapters. This is the first number you see after the title in a reference, such as John 3:16. Any numbers after the colon refer to particular sentences, or verses, in the chapter, such as John 3:16-18.
A simple way to start studying the Bible is to look up your friends’ favorite verses and discuss them together.
What do they say?
What do they mean?
What does God want you to learn from them?
Here’s one of my favorite passages: Psalm 139:1-18.
Teach me your word, O Lord, that I might not stray from your ways. Open my eyes to behold great and wonderful things from your word!