John's Guide to Reading the Bible

Suggestion: Vary your reading: if you read a Prophet’s thunder, next go to “Heartfelt,” for example.

Creation: “Let us create…”
Proverbs 8.22-36:  “I was beside him, like a master worker…”  ‘I’ is Sophia/Wisdom

Our Mission – In chronological order showing key verses:
Amos — 5.21ff — preaches right living during happy-go-lucky times
Hosea — 6.3ff, 11.1ff — Redeeming love of recalcitrant people
Isaiah 1–39 — Preaches amid national crises, challenges kings
Micah — 6.6ff — Contemporary with Isaiah, but rural & for pure worship
Zephaniah — Maybe a royal, condemns corrupt practice & religious perversion
Jeremiah — False worship, his feelings as destruction looms, trust God
Nahum — Proud Assyrian Empire is destroyed
Habakkuk — Dialog Hab and God: why evil? Need for faithfulness
Most people exiled to Babylonia to eliminate their religion, but many endure
Ezekiel (in exile) — Warnings, hope, against nations
Psalm 137: feelings in Exile
Obadiah — After fall of Jerusalem
Isaiah 40–66 (return from exile) — 61.1ff — Return to Jerusalem to your historic call
Haggai — Inspires people to rebuild the Temple
Zechariah — Inspires people to rebuild the Temple
Malachi — Cultic prophet condemns priests, teaches purity
Joel — Knew Temple, cultic prophet uses liturgy, priestly

Heartfelt (Sophia Wisdom)
Lamentations — Feelings of Jerusalem people under siege
Psalms — Songs of every genre or theme: joy, sad, hope, suffering… some cultic
Proverbs — Sayings some of which are false, introduces Wisdom & her actions
Ecclesiastes — Pithy sayings, some wiser than others, some dark.
Song of Solomon — An erotic love affair; the Rabbis: The holy of holies of the O.T.
Wisdom of Solomon* (Apocrypha) — About Wisdom and her sayings that Jesus knew
Job (also under Parables) — Job is a very righteous man yet of a hated group! Why do good suffer? Responses are Deuteronomic religion

Ruth — Outsider whose Jewish husband dies, joins mother in-law to return to Jewish state,
marries, at the end is the punch line!
Jonah — Told to preach to Ninevah, rebels, great fish, so goes, disappointed, punch line to end
Job (also under Heartfelt) — Why do good suffer? Responses are Deuteronomic religion

The above is the heart of the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. The remainder of the Hebrew Scriptures:
The Law
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that was probably the “book of the law” (2 Kings 22.11) that prompted Josiah’s reformation in 621 BCE. One passage has meaning today: Exodus 21.22-25 that implies abortion is not murder — the fetus is stillborn but the mother is unharmed. 
Ancient history
The following are early myth and history in canonical order: Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, (after the exile rebuild) Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
After Judges in the canon comes Ruth that is a parable.

—Prepared by John F. Yeaman, MDiv, MSSW

*Usually simply Wisdom was written within a century before Jesus’ life & ministry; he probably knew it, suggesting his familiarity with it in several teachings.