What is the Bible?
The Bible is not just one big book, but a collection of 66 smaller books written over a period of at least 1600 years by about 40 different authors. Everything they wrote was inspired by God.
In the front of your Bible is a Table of Contents which lists the names of all the books in the Bible. The Bible is divided into two sections: the first section which contains three-fourths of the Bible is called the Old Testament; the second section is called the New Testament. The Old Testament reveals to us how God dealt with the nation of Israel. It looks forward to the coming Savior of the world, Jesus. It begins with the book of Genesis and ends with Malachi. It is also divided into four general areas:
The first five books (Genesis to Deuteronomy) tell us the beginning of man and the establishment of the nation of Israel with the promise of the Savior of the world coming from this chosen people. It not only contains the early history of Israel, but also the Law of God as revealed through Moses. For example, Exodus chapter 20 records the Ten Commandments.
The next twelve books (Joshua to Esther) are the historical books of the nation of Israel after it became a kingdom in Canaan. Two short books in this section that reveal God's hand on the life of believers, which new Christians may enjoy, are the books of Ruth, and Esther.
The next five books (Job to Song of Solomon) are the books of poetry and wisdom in the Bible. Especially helpful to new believers is the book of Psalms, which was the hymnal or songbook of the nation of Israel; and Proverbs, which contains the sayings and advice of the wisest king Israel had.
The last seventeen books (Isaiah to Malachi) are the books of the prophets of Israel who God sent to warn, admonish, and encourage his people toward the end of the history of Israel as a nation. A short book in this section which is good for new believers is the book of Jonah.
The New Testament reveals to us Jesus and God's plan of salvation. It begins with the book of Matthew and ends with the book of Revelation. It is divided into four general areas:
The first four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us the story of Jesus when he was on this earth.
The book of Acts tells us the history of the early church after Jesus' death and resurrection.
The letters (from Romans to Jude) are correspondence from early Christian leaders to other churches or individuals.
The book of Revelation tells us the future story of the end time when Jesus will come back to this world and reign on earth.
I strongly recommend new believers, or those who have never read the Bible, to start reading the Bible in the first four books of the New Testament, called the gospels. The book of John is especially easy to understand. Some short letters in the New Testament (also called epistles) which are helpful to new believers are the books of Philippians, James, and 1 John.
There is a handy abbreviation that Christians use to specify verses in the Bible. They list the name of the book first, followed by the chapter number, and then the verse number. For example, John 3:16 means the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16. This way you can quickly and easily locate scriptures.