When people talk about the bible, they sometimes talk about the “Old Testament” or “Hebrew Scriptures” in contrast to the “New Testament” or “Christian Scriptures.” What's the difference?
The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of the Hebrew people and their relationship with God, beginning with creation and ending several hundred years before the birth of Jesus. The major divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures are the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. Each of these sections are divided into “books” with specific names, like Genesis, Isaiah, or Proverbs. The Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, makes up approximately the first three fourths (about 77% or so) of the bible. The Christian Scriptures, or New Testament can be found after that.
What is in the “New Testament” or “Christian Scriptures?”
The first four books of the Christian Scriptures, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are called the gospels. They tell the story of Jesus' life from four different perspectives. The next section is called “Acts” or sometimes “Acts of the Apostles” and is a history of the beginnings of Christianity (in fact, it even records where and when followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.”) The rest of the chapters except for the last one are collections of letters that various early leaders wrote as the Christian church was first forming. These letters explain, interpret and supplement the gospel stories, and also offer practical advice to local churches. The final chapter, called “Revelation” or sometimes “The Apocalypse” is a highly symbolic account of the visions of a man named John.
Some people find it helpful to read the bible in a version that uses the kind of language we use today, like the “New Living Version,” or the “Contemporary English Version,” or the “Message.” You can find various online bible translation versions at www.biblegateway.com and other sites. These sites allow you to specify a particular book bible, chapter of the book,and even the specific verse of the chapter that you want to find. In addition, most printed bibles have a table of contents in front, and a concordance (a list of terms and verses where the terms can be found) to make finding things easier. If you are interested in knowing what was written in the original languages, or the definitions of terms, www.blueletterbible.org is another good site.