A Chronological Survey of the Whole Biblical Narrative: Reading Plan for New Disciples

 The following is a reading plan that I developed for some newer disciples / followers of Jesus to help them get a good picture of what is going on in Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.  Our English Bibles do not follow a clear chronological order (particularly in the Old Testament), so many people who read the Bible straight through aren’t able to, say, summarize the Biblical narrative as a whole.  This is a bit of a problem as I believe that developing a healthy understanding of the Bible’s story (and my/your place in it) is an essential component of discipleship. 
     I post this here because I want you to be able to make use of it if you find it helpful in your personal discipleship or in your relationships with others.  You’ll notice that the plan focuses mostly on narrative while giving only a brief sampling of other genres.  In most cases, I’ve also provided a very brief description of the content as a way to introduce someone to the material.  You will likely want to make adjustments here and there in order to fit this plan to your disciple-making context. 

A Chronological Survey of the Whole Biblical Narrative       
Name of Book
Chapters to Read
This is a law book that emphasizes that the Israelites were to be a holy people.  You may want to skim through some of this.  To get a taste of what’s going on in the book read: 8-10, 18, 20, 22-24, 26.  Some of the details here will help you understand what is going on later in the Bible.
This book contains census information and laws with some stories here and there.  To get a good picture of this book, read:  6, 9-17, 20-25, 27, 30-36.
The book is essentially several sermons preached by Moses to the Israelites at the end of his life.  It is called “the second reading of the Law” because Moses goes over all the material in Leviticus again since a new generation who has never heard it has arisen.  I suggest reading: 1-13, 16-17, 20, 26-34.
1-11, 14, 22-24 (The other chapters basically describe how the land was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.)
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 & 2 Chronicles
You can skim through both these books. They cover the same information as in 1&2 Kings.  If there are particular people—for example, David—that you are interested in, you can read those parts more thoroughly and thus get a few more details that you didn’t get before.
At the end of 2 Kings (and 2 Chronicles) the people of Israel enter the period of their history known as the Exile.  The book following 2 Chronicles (Ezra), however, picks up their story after the Exile.  To get an idea of what life was like during the Exile you’ll want to read chapters 1-12 of Daniel first.
1-10 (This book picks up the story after the Israelites return from exile.)
1-13 (This book continues the story after the Israelites return from exile.)
1-10 (Gives some information about the Jews who did not return to the promised land after the Exile.)
Much more remains in the Old Testament that you have not read. Really famous books such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Jonah remain as well as many other that are very important.  I would suggest, however, moving on to the New Testament at this point.  Between the end of Nehemiah and the beginning of the New Testament (Matthew) is a gap of about 350-400 years that the Bible says little about.  Historically, we know that the Persians (who ruled the world during the period described in Ezra and Nehemiah) were soon defeated by the Alexander the Great and the Greeks.  Sometime later, the Romans became the dominating world power.  At the beginning of the New Testament period, Rome was in control of all the known world including the regions of Judea and Galilee where Jesus spent most of his earthly life.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John
These books, known as the four “Gospels” all describe the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.  They are four different people giving different perspectives (think of reading four different biographies about the same person).  Reading them all will help you to develop a really good picture of Jesus’ life.
1-28 tell the story of the first followers of Jesus Christ after his ascension and how God began to accomplish his global mission of redemption through them.
Upon completing Acts, I would encourage a person to review the whole Biblical narrative with a mentor or spiritual leader/director*.  Can they summarize the essential elements of the Bible’s story?  If so, then a good next step would be for them to go back into the Old Testament and begin reading the books they skipped or skimmed. Make sure they have access to Biblical tools that will allow them to place whatever book they are reading into the larger Biblical narrative.  That is, they need to be able to find out that Haggai was written to the Jews after the Exile before they can begin to really appreciate the contents of the book (many English Bibles have basic introductions that will work fine, but you shouldn’t assume that non-English translations have these—in any case, here is a concise set of introductions that you can point people to).

[* I have found a film called The Hope to be quite a good resource for helping disciples summarize the Bible’s story.  I don’t like everything in the movie (they make a few theological leaps that I wouldn’t make), but I love the concept and think the execution isn’t bad.  What is more, the film is available in a variety of languages from their website.]

Okay, that’s it.  I hope you find this reading plan helpful.  If you have any comments or questions, I’d be happy to hear them.  You can download a free PDF version of this reading plan by clicking here.

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