Putting the New Testament First
The New Testament is 184,600 words of enjoyable, easy to understand reading, all of which is directly essential to Christianity without exception. The Old Testament, although inspired and required, is 622,700 words of extremely dense material and requires even more context to understand than the New Testament does. So why in every Bible is the Old Testament put first, and the New Testament started after? Imagine if your history class was so inflexibly dedicated to chronological order, you would have been taught about the most relevant history as an afterthought.
Why is it some unspoken law that every single translation or version of the Bible puts 622,700 words of extremely dense and often hard to understand ancient Israeli genealogy and law, before the 184,000 words of Christian content that is contained in the New Testament?
How many Christians have started reading the Bible, only to give up without completing it?
I would wager that there are more Christians who have started reading the Bible without completing it, than Christians who have read it in full. Yet, if you were to read halfway into a modern Bible and stop, you would have a far more inaccurate idea of what Christianity is than if you had never picked up the book in the first place.
It stands to reason that anyone will be more likely to read the Old Testament, once they understood why they are reading it and what context they are looking for.
If the New Testament was before the Old Testament, any amount of reading of the Bible at all, regardless of if you read through all the way, would be to your enormous benefit and educate you further on Christianity. You’re also much more likely to read through the Old Testament if you have already read the New Testament, both because you will notice a lot more relevant connections and foreshadowing, and also because you will then be motivated to actually contextualize the NT after having read it, rather than trawling through 50 pages of:
“And in Gibeon dwelt hath the father of Gibeon, Jehiel, and the name of his wife [is] Maachah; and his son, the first-born, [is] Abdon, and Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Ner, and Nadab, and Gedor, and Ahio, and Zechariah, and Mikloth. And Mikloth begat Shimeam, and they also, over-against their brethren, have dwelt in Jerusalem with their brethren. And Ner begat Kish, and Kish begat Saul, and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchi-Shua, and Abinadab, and Esh-Baal. And a son of Jonathan [is] Merib-Baal, and Merib-Baal begat Micah. And sons of Micah: Pithon, and Melech, and Tahrea, and Ahaz — he begat Jaarah, and Jaarah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri, and Zimri begat Moza, and Moza begat Binea, and Rephaiah [is] his son. Eleasah his son, Azel his son. And to Azel [are] six sons, and these their names: Azrikam…….”
And just giving up.
The lack of Biblical literacy is the #1 death threat to Christianity. There are Christians out there mistakenly following laws that nobody else on earth except for fringe Orthodox Jewish people are following. I’m a publisher, and perhaps being bound by the limitations of my kind, have always noticed small ways that the Bible, the book but not the text, could be improved.
The Old Testament starts off with extremely esoteric material and then quickly transitions into extremely dense material, and it all requires extra historical knowledge to contextualize, far more context than the New Testament requires. Those who would say the Old Testament context is required before reading the New Testament are forgetting the Old Testament requires even more context. The New Testament is easy to understand, in fact, Jesus himself provides most of the Old Testament context a first time reader requires in Matthew 22:40, when he is asked about the law. Torah being the Hebrew word for law, he is being asked about the Torah in this passage, not Roman law or any other contemporary law in the modern sense.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Now, someone more laissez-faire than me might say – why not have a New Testament by itself? You can buy a copy of the New Testament on Amazon. That defeats the purpose. The idea is to make the Bible itself more effective at imparting Christian thought and more fair, simply excluding the ‘hard to read’ parts would be simple laziness. The Old Testament should always be there for those who want to read the Bible in full, and it’s pure laziness to exclude the Old Testament. Instead of separating the books, or putting them together with the longer, harder and less relevant text at the beginning with the shorter, lighter and fully relevant text at the end, would it not be the most simple solution on earth to just put the New Testament in the front of the book? This is a win-win.
Clinging to chronological order is chronically inflexible, imagine if your history class insisted, without exception, of only teaching you about the furthest back societies we know of before preceding forward in chronological order? It doesn’t matter if you need to know British history to understand the origins of American history, in America you will get taught American history first, as British history is most relevant to an American insofar as British history is relevant to America, and context for a complete understanding of American history within the framework of world history is more likely if one knows the history being contextualized in the first place.
If you had to only read one, which one would you read? Hundreds of millions of people have, and hundreds of millions of people will, only read partially through the Bible, as it is 800k words. That results, in reality, to hundreds of millions of people reading partially through the Old Testament, never reading a word about Christ. That countless will not read through the entire Bible is a fact, and ignoring it is to everyone’s disadvantage.
It also stands to reason that if so many Christians cannot complete the Bible, what about those who are not Christian who try to read the Bible? Are we not doing the Bible a disservice by reducing it’s efficiency and making it less effective to any non-Christian trying to learn about Christianity? Before when illiteracy was widespread this was less important, now in an age where everyone is going to try before they buy, is it really surprising there are pretty much no new converts to Christianity? Other religious texts have no such barrier to entry. You do not need to read for a month to start learning about the main teachings of other religions.
The text of the New Testament is touching, heartwarming and motivating – but if you pick a Bible off the shelf, or pull up a Bible eBook, you’re not going to find out about Christianity until you’re about 622,700 words in.
I don’t think this somewhat confusing arrangement has been without impact. Christianity’s low conversion rate is a bit of an anomaly, and while perhaps much of that can be contributed to Christians acting anything but, the fact remains the most obvious path to Christianity is through the Bible, and the Bible has an enormous barrier to entry. I would imagine the amount of people who convert after picking up a Bible is quite low, and the vast majority of conversions would be done person to person. Far more important are the amount of Christians who become disillusioned with their faith, having never read the Bible and only relying on second hand interpretations of what their faith is, they think it is sexist, or homophobic, or racist – and being good people, they give up the faith. Unfortunately, those most willing to press their interpretations on others generally have the worst interpretations, because a bad person needs an excuse for their belief whereas a good person will relax in the knowledge that their religion is in tune with good morals and common sense.
Unfortunately the belief of those who have read the New Testament and found it faultless, that they are correct in objective reality and thus do not need to convince others, allows the unscrupulous to re-arrange others subjective realities uncontested. How many Christians do you know that quote Old Testament rules and regulations that none but a small segment of Jewish people, Orthodox Jewish people, follow yet Christ says the exact opposite? How many far right hyper-dynamic equivalent translations are made and quoted from, verse by verse out of context, with outright lies that could only be believed by one who has not read the rest of the New Testament, that contradicts the “translation?”
Putting the New Testament first makes sense, on every level.