Should You Read the Old or New Testament First? The Ultimate Guide Will Surprise You

Deciding whether to dive into the Old or New Testament first can feel like a daunting choice, especially if you’re new to Bible reading. Both sections offer rich narratives, timeless wisdom, and spiritual insights, but they serve different purposes and contexts. So, where should you start?

Should You Read the Old or New Testament First? The Ultimate Guide Will Surprise You

Your choice might depend on what you’re hoping to get out of your reading experience. Are you looking to understand the foundational stories and laws that shape the entire Bible? Or are you more interested in the life and teachings of Jesus and the early Christian church? By considering what resonates most with you, you’ll find a path that makes your journey through the Scriptures both meaningful and enjoyable.

Understanding the Old and New Testaments

The Old and New Testaments form the core of the Bible. Both sections contain key themes that guide Christian beliefs.

Key Themes of the Old Testament

The Old Testament focuses on God’s creation, laws, and relationship with Israel. It includes stories of the patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets.

Genesis provides the creation story and early history of humanity. Exodus details Israel’s escape from Egypt and the giving of the Law. The prophets share messages of warning and hope.

Key Themes of the New Testament

The New Testament centers on Jesus Christ and the early church. It contains the Gospels, letters, and revelation.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John narrate Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Acts describes the spread of Christianity after Jesus’ ascension. The Epistles guide Christian living and theology.

Historical Context and Continuity

The Bible tells one continuous story. Reading both Testaments helps you see the big picture of God’s plan for humanity.

How the Testaments Relate

The Old Testament sets the stage for the New Testament. It covers creation, laws, and prophecies that point to Jesus. The New Testament fulfills these prophecies with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Chronological Order vs. Thematic Relevance

Reading in chronological order helps you see historical events unfold. This shows how God’s plan developed over time. Thematic relevance lets you focus on specific topics, such as salvation or God’s promises, directly connecting Old and New Testament teachings. Choose the approach that best fits your learning style.

Major Differences Between the Old and New Testaments

There are key differences between the Old and New Testaments. Understanding these can help you decide where to start your reading journey.

Theological Differences

The Old Testament centers on God’s covenant with Israel. It includes laws, history, prophecy, and poetry, explaining the groundwork of faith.

The New Testament focuses on Jesus Christ. It highlights His life, death, and resurrection, emphasizing salvation and Christian living.

Literary Styles and Structures

The Old Testament features various literary forms. You’ll find narratives, laws, psalms, and prophecies here.

The New Testament uses a different structure. It contains Gospels, letters (epistles), and apocalyptic literature like Revelation.

Recommendations for First-Time Bible Readers

Choosing where to start in the Bible can be confusing. Here are some recommendations to help guide your decision.

Considerations for Personal Beliefs

Think about your current understanding of Christianity. If you’re new to the faith, starting with the New Testament may be simpler, as it focuses on Jesus and His teachings. For a deeper historical context, the Old Testament details God’s covenant with Israel and sets the stage for the events in the New Testament.

Advice from Religious Scholars

Many scholars suggest beginning with the New Testament. The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—offer a straightforward introduction to Jesus’ life and mission. If you seek to understand the foundation of Christian beliefs, exploring the New Testament first can provide clarity before diving into the Old Testament’s complexities.


Deciding where to start your Bible reading journey can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you choose the Old or New Testament first, the important thing is to begin. The New Testament, especially the Gospels, provides a straightforward path to understanding the core of Christian beliefs. On the other hand, the Old Testament offers rich history and context that deepens your comprehension of the New Testament.

Ultimately, there’s no wrong place to start. Follow your curiosity and let your interest guide you. Happy reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main focus of the Old Testament?

The Old Testament primarily focuses on God’s covenant with Israel, detailing laws, history, poetry, and prophecy that forms the foundation for Jewish faith.

What is the main focus of the New Testament?

The New Testament emphasizes the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, laying the groundwork for Christian beliefs and practices.

How do the literary styles of the Old and New Testaments differ?

The Old Testament features a variety of literary styles, including historical narratives, laws, poetry, and prophecy. The New Testament includes Gospels, letters (epistles), and apocalyptic literature.

Where should a first-time reader begin reading the Bible?

First-time readers are recommended to start with the New Testament, especially the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), for a clear introduction to Christianity.

Why is it suggested to start with the New Testament?

Starting with the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, offers a more direct introduction to the core teachings of Christianity and the life of Jesus Christ, making it easier to understand the overall message of the Bible.

How is the structure of the Old Testament organized?

The Old Testament is organized into the Law (Torah), Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets, providing a comprehensive picture of Israel’s religious and social history.

How is the structure of the New Testament organized?

The New Testament is organized into the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles (letters), and the Book of Revelation, detailing the life of Jesus and the early Christian Church.

Why are the Gospels important for understanding Christianity?

The Gospels are important because they provide a firsthand account of Jesus Christ’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection, which are central to the Christian faith.