If you are a brand new believer, do you look at the Bible and feel intimidated? Do you wonder how in the world you are supposed to read and understand all those pages with the itty bitty numbers and strange language? And then there are all the different versions of the Bible? Aren’t they all the same?
Many brand new believers have these same questions. I know I sure did (even though I was embarrassed to admit it at the time).
Sometimes I think we assume every new believer has the same amount of knowledge that we had when we gave our life to Christ. But it’s not that cut and dried. Some people come to God with a great deal of knowledge; maybe they were raised in a Christian home. Some come to Him with a little bit of knowledge; maybe they attended church sporadically or had someone in their life that spoke to them about God. And still, for various reasons, others become part of God’s family with absolutely no knowledge of God or his Bible.
This post is for those in the third category…those who come to Jesus with zero knowledge of God and the Bible. I’ve met folks who gave their lives to Christ and was handed a Bible that they quickly set aside because they didn’t know what to do with it. Invevitably they faltered in their faith. I can’t stress this enough: if you are a brand new Christian starting at ground zero, you need a basic overview of the Bible because it is the most important book for all followers of Christ Jesus.
After reading this post, I am confident that you will have a firm grasp of the Bible so that you can begin to confidently move forward in learning about God and his written word (the Bible).
The Bible Is A Portable Library
First things first, you need to realize that the Bible is a single book that holds many smaller books inside. It might help to think of the Bible as a physical library; one book (building) that houses many books inside.
Unlike a physical library, each of the books found in the Bible contains the same theme…God’s incredible love for his creation (us)!
Who Wrote The Bible?
There are a total of 66 books inside the Bible, written by a variety of authors over a long period of time. Although we aren’t really certain who wrote many of the books, we know that Moses was the first to begin recording portions of what we know as the Bible.
No two books in the Bible are the same. In fact, each book has it’s own “flavor” because each writer infused his words with his unique style and personality. That is hard for many to understand so try to think of it like this…you ask 10 people who experienced the same event to write down their experience. You will get 10 different versions of the same event because no two personalities and life experiences in which they draw will be the same. Each account would have the author’s unique flair and personality in their recollection.
However, the Bible is the most amazing book because, in addition to having each writer’s personality in the books, all 66 books were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit! The words, accounts, and revelations each writer shared were not their own but words the Holy Spirit impressed upon them. That means what they shared was what the Holy Spirit desired for them to share, not what they felt like sharing. That is why the Bible is God’s book, his gift to man.
Why Do New Believers Need The Bible?
Maybe like me, you’ve heard that new believers don’t need to worry about the Bible until they grow in their faith. I guess the thought is that they would get what they needed from church on Sunday. I’ve heard it’s too hard to understand and just causes more confusion. That’s so untrue! With the information found in this post and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, understanding your Bible will be life-changing!
Regardless of where you are in your walk with Jesus, the Bible is critical because it is the authoritative document for all believers. It tells us about our Creator and Savior. The book of life (the Bible) shares the physical and spiritual history of people. It shows us what they did correctly (godly) and wrong (ungodly). As God’s written word, it is our godly living “user manual” for our new life where we place Christ at our center. In addition to giving us guidance for our lives, it tells us what the future holds.
But I think the Bible says it best:
“All scripture is God-breathed (given by divine inspiration) and is profitable for instruction, for conviction (of sin), for correction (of error and restoration to obedience), for training in righteousness (learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately — behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage); so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMP)
Old And New Testaments
The content of the Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. Each section (and each of the 66 books) can stand alone but also beautifully intertwine to present God’s message of his love for his people.
The Old Testament contains 39 books. Originally written by Hebrew writers, it is the story of God’s people from the beginning of creation (Genesis) until the New Testament. Before being written down, the history and stories of the Hebrew people were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
You might hear some say that the Old Testament isn’t relevant to today but they are 100% wrong. Every bit of the Bible is relevant. If it wasn’t, God would remove it and we would only have the New Testament as our instruction manual. If you hear someone say the Old Testament doesn’t need to be read because it isn’t relevant, remember the scripture given above (2 Timothy 3:16-17), all scripture means cover-to-cover, every single word, not just the New Testament.
You might see the Old Testament referred to as BC, as in “before Christ”. For example, 300 BC is 300 years before Christ was born.
Originally written in Greek, there are 27 books in the New Testament. Another reason the Old Testament isn’t obsolete is that the New Testament includes many references back to the Old Testament. Remember when I said the Bible intertwines? This is a perfect example. Since the Old Testament was so important to the writers of the New Testament, it should be important to us as well.
You might see the New Testament referred to as AD. It is thought that AD refers to “after death” but it actually stands for a Latin phrase meaning the year Jesus was born. So 300 AD is 300 years after the birth of Christ (not 300 years after his death).
Now that we are beginning to understand this extremely valuable book, let’s break it down a bit more. The books of the Bible are said to be separated into seven genres (categories):
- History: The history of God’s people can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments.
- Law: God provided the Jewish people with 619 laws. These laws weren’t a random list of do’s and don’ts but provided for specific reasons for the good of the people.
- Wisdom: The books of wisdom are provided to help us take the rules (laws) and apply them for practical, everyday, godly living.
- Poetry: Found in the Old Testament, the poetry is of Hebrew origin with its cadence and rhythm. It isn’t like the poetry we American’s are familiar with today.
- Prophecy: The books of prophecy present a call to action and reveal the hidden knowledge of God and his plans. Prophecy uses a lot of symbolic language.
- Stories or Narratives: These are biographical stories (narratives) about the lives of various people.
- Epistles or letters: There are 21 epistles (letters) in the New Testament. These letters addressed questions and concerns for God’s people.
The Books Of The Bible And Their Category
Old Testament (39 books):
History: The books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Samuel, and Judges.
The Law: The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Wisdom: The books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
Poetry: The books of Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations.
The Prophets: The 4 “major” prophets are found in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. In addition, there are 12 “minor “prophets found in the books of Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Malachi. *I’m sorry but I don’t know why they are called major and minor prophets. As far as I can tell, each are major or God wouldn’t have put them in his precious book.
Story or Narrative: Stories are found in the books of Ruth, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jonah.
New Testament (27 books):
History: We find the history of God’s people from the book of Acts (history of the early church) and the Gospels (history of the life of Jesus).
The Gospels: The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The Letters or Epistles: The 21 letters are found in the books of Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, and Jude.
Prophecy: The book of Revelation.
Bonus Tip On Biblical Categories
The bonus tip I want to share is really a word of caution about Bible categories. As you begin to read the Bible, you might be surprised to notice that the books aren’t cut and dried in their categories but contain a mix of the above-mentioned genres. Personally, I find it interesting information to have but not necessary, especially in the beginning. My advice would be to not worry overmuch about the genre. Why?
- As a brand new believer, you are striving to get to know who God is and what he desires of you. Most new believers aren’t ready to dive into an in-depth study yet. When you are ready, it will be helpful in your study to know if you should take the text literally or figuratively. Until then, just read the Bible to get to know God and his ways.
- You can easily get caught up in the semantics of which genre list is accurate. Many scholars don’t agree on which books fall into which genre or even how many categories there are. If you do an online search it will produce many conflicting lists. Save yourself the frustration and simply focus on what the Bible says instead.
Books, Chapters & Verses
As I already mentioned, the Bible is a book of books that are separate but also intertwine so you don’t have to start at the beginning; you can begin with any book. Until you become more familiar with the Bible, go to the front of your Bible and use the table of contents to find the book you are looking for.
Chapter & Verse
The Old and New Testaments are identical in their structure. Each book has chapters and in those chapters are verses. This is also commonly referred to as a passage of scripture. As you begin to hide God’s word in your heart (memorize scripture), being able to identify the chapter and verse is a reference tool that will help you identify and find that particular passage again.
The chapter numbers are bigger on the page with the verse numbers being smaller. When your Bible is open, there are reference numbers at the top of the two open pages as well as throughout the text. Bible reference numbers refer to chapters and verses to make it easier to find a passage.
When a Bible reference is given, you will hear the passage of Scripture in one of the following ways:
- Genesis 1:26 which means chapter 1 of Genesis and verse 26.
- Genesis 1:26-28 which means chapter 1, verses 26 through 28.
- Col. 1.28-2.3 which means chapter 1 of Colossians, verses 28 through chapter 2 of Colossians verse 3. (not very commonly used)
- Galatians 4 (vv.9-20) which means chapter 4 of Galatians, verses 9 through 20. (less common)
You will find it written like this:
(43) “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; (44) for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bamble bush. (45) The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evilperson out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)
I know that is a lot of information to take in but it is important to begin your walk with Christ in the Bible. Knowing your way around will make your Bible time far less intimidating. Your new foundation of understanding allows you to begin confidently moving forward in learning about God and his written word.
I’ve created a free download for you to use. As you begin to read and get familiar with the Bible, a bookmark showing the books of the Bible will greatly bless you! I would suggest you print off whichever bookmark you desire (or print off both!), cut it out to the size you desire, and grab your Bible. Then, next to the name of the book write the page number that book begins on. This will help you find the book you are looking for in the future as well as marking your place for later.
To get the Old Testament free printable bookmark, click here.
To get the New Testament free printable bookmark, click here.
Next in our Bible Basics For Brand New Believers series, we will look deeper into the mysteries of the many different versions of the Bible and the formats available.
Are you a brand new believer? What questions do you have about your new life in Christ? I can promise you that I probably had the same questions as I began my walk with Jesus. Hit reply below or send me a message with your question and I will do my best to help guide you!