If you’re just joining us for the first time, we also have a video on how to read the Old Testament, which may make sense to dive into first. Either way, today we are going to talk about how to read the New Testament.
As you know, I’m a huge proponent of reading the Bible in it’s completion and each book in its completion as well because that’s the way I think it was meant to be read, instead of a few verses from here, a few from there, a psalm, you know.
The Bible itself is a collection of 66 books that talk about God’s history and where we are going in the future. In the Old Testament, which is the first big section of the Bible, we see this back and forth of humans messing up God’s plan and then He shows up to help, then they mess up and it’s this massive cycle that they can’t seem to break. But God promises to one day send a Messiah, the Chosen One, who will change everything.
And so when we get to the New Testament, the second section, we get introduced to a man named Jesus who is this Messiah, who is actually God becoming Man. And he’s born in BC, a few years before our calendar becomes AD, and he’s born in a town called Bethlehem. Once Herod the Great died, Jesus and his parents moved back to Galilee to a town called Nazareth and we don’t really know much about his upbringing or even up until his public ministry aside from one story when he’s like 12 and sharing his wisdom in the temple. Jesus began his actual ministry around AD 26 and it lasted about 3.5 years before he was crucified for our sins, which means we are completely forgiven and cleansed if we put our faith in Jesus and walk out his instruction for our lives.
Then the rest of the New Testament shows how the church was started, what they were dealing with at the time, and it ends with a snapshot of the future, where God fully redeems humanity and the story of the Bible as a whole, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, comes to a close and we see the big picture.
You following? So this second section, the New Testament as we call it is split into 27 books and they were all written within about 40 years of each other by Jesus’ followers. Which is far different from the Old Testament which was written in like 1500 years.
The New Testament begins with four books called the Gospels and they all tell the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but from different angles. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are almost identical and then John wrote his Gospel much later and filled in different stories and facts that the others may have missed. Then we have a book called Acts of the Apostles, which is all about Jesus commissioning his followers to go out into the world and spread the Gospel, the Good News. Then we have a bunch of books called the Letters of the Apostles, which were letters written directly to the churches being built at that time, and they give the churches and us new insight, direction, correction, and hope. These letters were written by a guy named Paul, a few from Jesus’ brothers James and Jude, and 5 from his followers, Peter and John. And lastly John wrote a prophetic book called Revelation, which was the last book to be written in the 90’s, not like 1990s, but like actual 90’s.
Without understanding this breakdown, you might be a little confused if you just read a random book in the New Testament, but if you can remember why each book was written and the layout, it’s going to make a lot more sense. I’d still suggest reading from Matthew through Revelation at least once before you do a deep dive at all. That way you can get the basics of New Testament doctrine and understand the big picture perspective.