Ah, the Bible, if only it were read as often as it is acclaimed,by Christians. It offers all the types of literature known to Man, from historical texts, to poetry, short stories, songs, letters, and so much more. It has texts that are sui generis to it, the Gospels, which are, unsurprisingly, unlike anything else contained in human literature. Novices in reading the Bible would do well to start with the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. The Old Testament should be read as it is normally organized in most Bibles, from Genesis to Malachi. This order starts out with the Pentateuch, the first first five books, and the historical texts of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, giving a solid background of the history of the Jewish people, and setting the scene for the wisdom books and the prophetic books which follow. The only alteration in order I would suggest is to read the historical texts of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees after Nehemiah. There are also historical passages among the prophetic books, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, but they can be read in their proper order without much loss in context. An atlas is handy when reading the Bible, and fortunately the internet can rapidly supply an endless amount of maps. Catholic convert Scott Hahn, has an excellent list of Catholic commentaries, go here to read the list. for new mariners setting sail upon the vast sea that is the Bible.
Since my parents purchased a Bible for me, at my request, for Christmas 1970, I have read a chapter from the New Testament and a chapter from the Old each night. What a magnificent collection of books the Bible is! Prophecies, histories, court chronicles, songs, gospels, letters, codes of laws and so much more. The Bible is a boundless sea on which the human mind and soul can glimpse the eternal voyage. Choosing one’s favorite books of the Bible is rather like picking one’s favorite children, but here goes.
In regard to emotional and intellectual impact nothing in the Old Testament moves me more than the book of Job where Man stands before his creator and realizes that God truly is I AM, the ultimate reality:
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
The longer I sojourn in this Vale of Tears the more I understand the truth and wisdom of this passage.
In the New Testament nothing can surpass the beginning of the Gospel of John:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
A lifetime of study could only scratch the surface of this magnificent introduction to the Second Person of the Trinity.
These are my favorite books of the two Testaments. What are yours?