The printed Bible runs to hundreds of pages. No Christian has ever read every page with equal emphasis. The Puritans were theologically minded people who found themselves pondering how the epistles of Paul illuminated other sections of the Bible. Many evangelical Protestants in North America have followed roughly in the same direction. Yet these instinctive preferences are by no means the only possibilities. The Old Testament book of Leviticus is, for some African Christians today, a key to other parts of Scripture. Its legal regulations concerning holy objects, sacred days and sacred places speak directly to the cultures they have inherited. Some Asian Christians begin with the Proverbs, a biblical book that extends the search for wisdom begun in Confucian and other ancient systems of thought. Some new Christian groups turn to Paul, but via the Old Testament patriarchs whose family histories and covenantal relationships accord well with the value systems of tribal organization. For many in newly Christian regions the book of Acts is normative; it is Scripture to be followed directly and completely.
No serious theologian doubts that all believers should read and follow the teachings of Scripture. But where should they start? What sections are normative in such a way as to enlighten the rest? How should they read the Bible in its parts and the whole? Answers to these challenging questions will go far in determining the new shape of world Christianity (37)