In the first part of this blog– which you can read here— you heard a pitch for why it is beneficial to read a little bit from all parts of the Bible. You also learned specifically about the first three groups of Bible books, which were The Gospels, The Pentateuch, and the Major Epistles. Let’s jump into the rest of the groupings and see what other connections there are!
The Minor Epistles/Letters
These are letters written by Paul and other leaders of the early church. Sometimes the letters are written to churches, and at other times they are written to individuals. This group includes 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, Jude, Revelation. Much like the major letters, these help to clarify teachings, address specific issues of sin, and encourage the people to continue on the path they are on. A lot of guidance and correction can be found here, as well as passages that will challenge you to be strong in Christ. These shorter, more direct books are a great way to balance some of the longer, denser books of history, law, and foundational theology.
The Books of Wisdom and Poetry
This section’s books are Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These offer advice on living a good life, dealing with suffering, learning from mistakes, and loving people. The books of Psalms and Proverbs are both wisdom and poetry books as well, but they fit better each in their own section. If you have ever gone through a really hard experience and have had a lot of questions for God, you may find some answers and comfort in Job’s story of loss and staying committed to God. Ecclesiastes will teach you about what often comes of chasing after life’s pleasures and about what is really most important. Lastly, Song of Solomon (also sometimes called Song of Songs) reflects on the love of God and the love between man and woman. All of these are written in poetic form. You’ll find encouragement through hardships, guidance when you become disillusioned, and lessons on how to love well.
This collection of songs and/or poems are written about half by David and half by other writers, worships leaders, priests, and some unknown members of God’s people. These are often songs of triumph over enemies, pleas for God to listen, and reflections of God’s character. Most experiences of life are covered to some extent. The Psalms are a great place to learn about who God is and what he has done. If you want to pray but have a hard time forming the right words, the Psalms offer tons of inspiration for prayer. You can even read them word for word as you pray. Reading the Psalms daily is a common practice for many Bible-readers because the book’s whole focus is specifically on God.
This is another section that is wholly made up of one book, which is the book of Proverbs. A proverb is essentially a saying that teaches something or makes a point of some kind. Some chapters at the front and back of this book are sort of stories with a moral. The majority of the book is short sayings or thoughts, usually one or two sentences long. Because these proverbs were traditional sayings or common teachings, many of them are oddly specific and practical. For example, “If you find honey, eat just enough– too much of it, and you will vomit.” To me, this is a funny one to find, but you can’t argue that the writer has a good point! Besides dated or funny sayings, you’ll also find lots of advice about how to live a good life, when to speak and when to be silent, and how to treat people fairly. Proverbs is a book you can skim through and often find just a verse or two that will speak directly to what you may be dealing with. Since it is not a narrative, you can read as little as a few verses at a time and still get something from it.
The Books of Old Testament History
These books follow the Pentateuch, the books of law, in the Bible. They are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I&II Samuel, I&II Kings, I&II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and they tell of the period where God worked to establish Israel as a nation. You’ll read stories you may be familiar with like David and Goliath, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and the reign of Saul as king. Much of these books are stories of war and acts of judgment against people who turned away from God. You’ll read of people who found themselves in hard circumstances, like Esther and Ruth, who had to trust God and take brave steps. You’ll see how often Israel disobeyed God and how often he gave them another chance to come back to him. Many of these books are skipped by casual Bible readers, but this section contains so much worth reading! You may find parts of it hard to get through, but you will find by the end of this section that you’ve also learned a lot about God and people.
The Books of Prophecy
God spoke through many prophets throughout the Bible, and these prophecies are primarily in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Throughout much of Israel’s history, they struggled to consistently listen to God and follow his guidance. Many other nations also angered God by their continual disobedience and evil ways. God spoke with his own voice to people at different times, and he also used many people to get his messages across to Israel and other people groups. These books are pretty dark a lot of the time. They speak of the harm and death that will fall on people who don’t obey God. You may find these books challenging or offensive in some ways, and it’s okay to have that initial reaction. However, you’ll hopefully also see there is much comfort and redemption for those who hear God’s warnings and then choose to live as he asks.
The Book of Acts
If you’ve been in church settings or ever heard from the scriptures, you may have heard some passages from Acts. This is the book that tells of the early church, picking up basically right after Jesus was resurrected and visited his people before going back to Heaven. It tells of a group of people coming together to start this new life Christ spoke of. Leaders like Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, preach to huge crowds and bring people constantly into the new church of Jesus followers. You’ll also read of the persecution–arrest, beatings, deaths–that these early followers faced. Acts is a book full of descriptive theology and arguments explaining Jesus as the Messiah and the way to a full life. The style of writing is very similar to the Gospels in that it goes between storytelling and speeches preaching Jesus’s teachings. Acts, after the gospels, is the primary foundation of Christianity’s beginnings, so it’s a great place to start if you’re new to reading the Bible.
That finishes out the breakdown of a straightforward but thorough way to group all of the books of the Bible based on genre, style, and general content. You can see that each section offers a little different focus and reading experience, but they all flow together and form a larger, complete narrative of who God is and what He’s done. The Bible can be read in an endless variety of ways, but from my experience, this set of groupings gives the most expansive and connected view of the Bible.
Now that you have seen how the Bible can be separated into groups of similar books, hopefully you’ve learned something and have been encouraged to check out sections you may not be familiar with. “All Scripture is from God, spoken by God, and is useful for teaching, learning, correcting and training in righteousness so that you can know and live for God,” (my paraphrase and emphasis of 2 Timothy 3:16-17). All of the Bible is God’s so it is worth your time to explore all of it! Good luck and happy reading.