Bible Reading Guide
From Foundation to Finish
Rev. J. Thomas Johnson
I have long been resistant to the practice of reading the Bible through from beginning to end, primarily because that methodology often fails to appreciate the role that individual biblical texts play within the Christian canon. However, being a theologian who is committed to context and contextual readings, as I am, I also find myself recoiling from approaches which take chapters from here and there, attempting to provide a disjointed thematic approach to reading Scripture.
But, pointing out the problems in various methodologies is quite simple. Making positive contributions towards better procedures is a bit more challenging. And so, recently I was challenged to organize each of the First and New Testaments into a chronology of readings. I began by dividing each Testament into two groupings of texts.
The first, which I’ve called ‘foundational texts’, represent texts which introduce themes that underlie the other writings or, in the case of the First Testament, the theological developments of later writings.
The second, which I’ve called ‘finishing texts’, are those texts which pick up the themes of the foundational texts and explore and/or expound them.
Admittedly these grouping are somewhat subjective, but that is not to say that I’ve made these suggestions haphazardly. Quite to the contrary, the research that underlies this proposal has been quite laborious. My criteria has ranged from statistical surveys of the most copied texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and most quoted in the New Testament to a survey of themes and a review of the scholarly conversation regarding their likely development.
Here is the preliminary result:
First Testament Foundational Texts
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Song of Songs, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther
First Testament Finishing Texts
Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Book of the Twelve (Hosea-Malachi)
New Testament Foundational Texts
Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, John
Epistles of Paul
Romans, Galatians, Ephesians
New Testament Finishing Texts
1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude