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Thread: Which books of the bible?

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    Which books of the bible?

    Hi there,

    I've decided that it's time I read a decent chunk of the Bible. The main reason is to broaden my understanding of its influence on later literature and art. I have a reasonable grasp of the most famous stories etc, which I learnt twenty years ago at school. Looking at the forbidding looking tome beside me (King James version) I can see myself managing about a third of it for the moment. Question is, which third? Can anyone make recommendations as to the most important books? Or which ones not to bother with?

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    Quote Originally Posted by WoodMarc View Post
    Hi there,

    I've decided that it's time I read a decent chunk of the Bible. The main reason is to broaden my understanding of its influence on later literature and art. I have a reasonable grasp of the most famous stories etc, which I learnt twenty years ago at school. Looking at the forbidding looking tome beside me (King James version) I can see myself managing about a third of it for the moment. Question is, which third? Can anyone make recommendations as to the most important books? Or which ones not to bother with?
    They are all very important.

    The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that. ~ Harper Lee

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    Well sure, but given that I'm not going to read them all right now, which ones would you recommend? For example I seem to remember one bit that's a long list of 'so and so begat so and so begat so and so'. I can live without that one for the moment I think....

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    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    If the intent is to understand influence on literature, the third may not just be contiguous. I'd recommend Genesis, Exodus, Both Samuels, Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and Revelation. That should be enough to cover most of the ground. I'll let others second guess the selections I've proposed.
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    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    I'd add: 1st & 2nd Kings, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah

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    Right, thanks for that, those are all on the list now!

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    You should probably read The Book of Job too, there's no reason not to since it's so incredibly short and one of the best known narratives from the Bible. The Song of Solomon is another incredibly short book that shouldn't be skipped.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Genesis, first half of Exodus, Kings and Judges were quite good. Avoid Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus and all the prophets. Joshua and Chronicles are pretty good. Ruth is ok. The last two-thirds of the OT are very boring excpt Daniel.
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    Boring list-like passages pop up everywhere, it would be a major task of scholarship to list them all, so that you can avoid them. I tried to get round them by reading abridged versions, but they were either too short, or still had too many boring lists.

    It starts quite well, so why not just start reading from the beginning until you feel list-fatigue. Then you might skip to Job and Ecclesiastes, the main "wisdom" books. Also, the New Testament isn't such hard going, why not start with that? After that, why not base your reading on your current reading. For instance, if you are reading Moby Dick then Jonah would be an obvious choice. (But, to be honest, I didn't bother... I found the notes to be sufficient...)

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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Genesis - It's good to start at the beginning. Skip the 'begats'. The rest is interesting.

    Exodus - Read. The story of Moses is an important part of the Bible. Skip all the detailed instruction manual parts (how to build a tabernacle etc.)

    Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - Has lots of interesting stuff, but skip.

    Joshua - continues with the history of the tribes of Israel. See if you like it, otherwise skip.

    Judges - read. Some of the most horrendous stories are here.

    Ruth - A lovely, peaceful little story which reminds us that not everything was murder, rape and war during the time of the Judges.

    Samuel 1 & 2 - Wonderful stuff. Read.

    Kings 1 & 2 and Chronicles 1 & 2 - Leave 'em out for the nonce.

    The Prophets - I agree with the others. Leave them all out even though they form an important chunk of the Old Testament. You will have to leave out something if you want to read only 1/3rd. It is worth reading Jonah, though. It's only two pages long, though in no way representative of the other prophet books.

    Esther - an interesting story and an easy read.

    Job, psalms, proverbs, Ecclesiasities, Song of Songs - These are the obviously literary books, but I suggest you just sample some verses from them and come back later to enjoy.

    The Gospels - read of course. What is a reading of the Bible without reading the story of Jesus?

    Acts of the Apostles - skip, although it contains the story of Paul, the author of about 1/3rd of the New Testament.

    The Pauline Epistles - Paul has many interesting (and sometimes outrageous) things to say, and a fine literary style. Try a few.

    Revelation - a glorious book! Read.
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    1. Gospel of Luke (the social justice gospel)
    2. Gospel of Matthew
    3. Gospel of Mark (the short gospel )
    4. Gospel of John (the mystical one)

    5. Then, go ahead and read Acts of the Apostles and Letters (these letters I find very important if you are a Christian, but if not then I guess you can skip).

    6. Then go back to the Old Testament and read Genesis and Exodus.

    7. Then read Song of Songs for something romantic and a few of the Psalms, just for kicks.

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    Many thanks for these thoughtful replies. Have now got a plan: seems that some books are recommended by almost everyone —Genesis, Exodus and the gospels— so I'll start with those, then Job, ecclesiastes, some psalms, some proverbs, and revelations. After that I'll see how I feel about reading on further. I've almost finished Genesis now and am enjoying it more than I expected so far.

  13. #13
    I'll add a recommendation of Robert Alter, translator and scholar of biblical texts who approaches The Bible from a literary perspective. Good shiz:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Psalm...s=robert+alter

    http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Israel...s=robert+alter

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Five-Books...s=robert+alter

    http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-Transl...s=robert+alter
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    Registered User RetsixArp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    ...Avoid Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus ...
    I find the books of Moses fascinating: so repetitive & detailed. After the OT, the NT reads like an afterthought; to me anyway. I read along to the Alexander Scourby audio KJV: which he recorded for the Lighthouse for the Blind back in the 50s.
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    Not so much an afterthought as an overhaul of the Law, I would say - or even a complete overthrow.
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