I’ve been reading the Bible in its entirety for a while (since 2005, on and off) in the Authorised King James Version. I’ve finally finished it, pleasingly enough, on the 400th anniversary of publication. It’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone, particularly Christians.
It’s a phenomenal book, a crazed mash-up of history, mythology, poetry, philosophy and law. It spans a vast range of human experience and ranges from the ecstatically beautiful to the downright vile.
From an atheistic point of view it is virtually impossible to derive a coherent morality from the entire stew, except maybe that circumcision is for some reason a Very Good Thing. For every "love thy neighbour" there’s a "slaughter the heretics", and the split between old and new testaments is not as clear-cut as mainstream theology would have you believe.
The various books can be broadly categorised as:
1) Rollocking good stories (Genesis, Exodus, the gospels)
2) Loony prophecies (Isiah, Revelation)
3) Gorgeous poetry (Song of Solomon, Proverbs) – KJV essential here
4) Obnoxious lawmaking (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, much of the Pauline epistles)
5) Really boring bits (the Apocrypha, most of the NT between John and
My favourite books are Exodus, Song of Solomon, Matthew and James – all highly recommended.
Also recommended is the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, a somewhat OCD record of the bible with descriptions of every morally outrageous instruction, blatant internal contradiction and laughably idiotic claim.