There is rarely only one way to do anything. When it comes to exploring scripture, resist Bible fascists who maintain that their way is correct. Do your thing. Your best approach can be influenced by a lot of factors, such as context, time, and personality. Most people read the Bible cover to cover. This method is generally discouraged because many people give up getting to the third book, Leviticus, and never recover.

There are books that are more familiar, such as Genesis, Exodus, and the four gospels. They involve more storytelling and seem more accessible. That is why some experts recommend reading those first or taking them interspersed with tougher texts like prophecy and the letters of Paul.

Reading the Bible “out of order” would not confuse the sacred story. This is not possible since the present ordering is not the way it was written. These 73 books first appeared in isolated collections and were eventually stitched together in various ways.

For example, the Jewish Bible contains majority, (with the exception of a few) of our Old Testament, but is not organized the same way. And while Genesis begins with the creation myth and Revelation concerns endings, some texts in-between exist in no particular time. This can be seen in Proverbs, Song of Songs, Job, Esther, or Joel. Early prophetic passages were composed before Genesis, and even the Gospel of Mark was written before Matthew, which appears first in the New Testament. So don’t worry excessively about maintaining an established order.

Our lectionary, that is the readings we hear at Mass seeks to pair Old Testament (signifying the “promises”) with New Testament (the “fulfillment”) or ancient stories with related events in the generation of Jesus. Notice that the Second Reading follows other texts from start to finish and is only coincidentally related. Some scripture study groups prefer this approach. The downside of the lectionary-based study is that a great portion of the Bible isn’t read on Sundays, and passages out of context miss a lot of good stuff that would give rise to other meanings and insights. The only necessary ingredients to reading the Bible is to read it prayerfully, carefully, and with an open heart.

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