Reading and Understanding the Bible Overview

The pastors have prepared the following information to help guide your Bible reading and understanding during this sermon series and beyond!

September 10, 2023

Books of the Bible and Their General Categories

Download the Printable Sheet

The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible (What Jesus called "Scripture")

The Law (Pentateuch or Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy - written by Moses, which describe from the Creation to the end of the time the Jewish people spent in the wilderness.

History: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First Samuel, Second Samuel, First Kings, Second Kings, First Chronicles, Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther - which tell the history of the nation of Israel and describe from the conquest of the Promised Land to Israel's Restoration after the Babylonian captivity.

Poetry and Wisdom: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.

The Prophetic Books:

  • Major Prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
  • Minor Prophets - Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The New Testament

The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

History: Acts

Paul's Letters: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon

General Letters: Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

Prophecy: Revelation

How to Read the Bible: An Overview from Our Pastors

Download the Printable Sheet

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblia, which means books. So the Bible is really a collection of many books: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and tells the history of the people of Israel; what God had done for them as a people, how they were to worship and obey God, and love neighbor in return. The New Testament was written in Greek by followers of Jesus Christ who wanted people to know of the new life available to them in Christ.

As the original manuscripts of the Bible were written in Hebrew and Greek, most people read one of many translations of those languages. At Arcola Church, we most often read the CEB (Common English Bible), NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), or the ESV (English Standard Version). You can find digital copies of these on websites and apps, such as Bible Gateway or YouVersion, which allow you to read several translations at one time. You can also find physical copies in hardbound and paperback.

There are also many Study Bibles available to help in your reading, as well as many themed Bibles (eg. Mens, Womens, Couples, Teen). These Bibles can be very helpful in your growth; remember the notes typically are not part of the Bible and reflect a specific theology and perspective.

How to Read the Bible

  • Set aside time each day to read. Before reading, ask for God’s guidance and blessing. Many people find keeping a written journal helpful to record thoughts and prayers.
  • Select a passage to read, possibly one from a reading plan, an Arcola Bible Study Group, or commit to a particular book and read a chapter at a time.
  • Read introductory notes of the passage/book focusing on who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Read the passage quickly first. What do you hear, see, and wonder about? Be honest in your responses, as the Bible has the power to change lives.
  • Read the passage again. What do you learn about God from this passage? What do you learn about human beings? How does this apply to you? Is there anything that needs to change in your life and relationships because of the text? Ask God for help in making this change.
  • Is there a verse you would like to commit to memory? Write it on an index card or in your phone as a study aid.
  • Share what you have learned with someone else and thank God for His Word.

Study Bibles & Commentaries

Online Resources

Previous Page