As part of the research for the book From Jesus to the Internet, I decided to read the New Testament again, but this time in the order in which the documents were written, not in the theological order we have today that was created by men in the third and fourth centuries. I also wanted to read the documents without the divisions that were inserted in later centuries: chapters (which were created and inserted by an Archbishop of Canterbury in 1227), verses (which were created and inserted by a French printer in 1551) and paragraphs (the original documents didn’t have paragraph breaks). I couldn’t find any document that did this, so I decided to compile my own. I found a full text of the New Testament online in word document format, re-organised the books into chronological order (using Marcus Borg’s excellent book, Evolution of the word: the New Testament in the order the books were written) and removed the chapters and verses. As the original documents didn’t have paragraphs, I removed most of the paragraph breaks, though I did insert some mainly where there was a change of topic (to help me make better sense of it). Having done that, I then re-read the New Testament from beginning to end, for the first time in about 30 years. It gave a quite different sense of the text.
It’s a reading experience I think people who are interested should try. Since I haven’t seen a similar copy of the text around I’ve decided to put it online so that those who want to can try it, with the proviso that I don’t read Greek or Aramaic and my compilation is not an authenticated, peer-reviewed document. I’ve loaded it in .doc format, so you may do your own experimenting in engaging more actively with the text. You may want to remove my paragraphs or change my paragraph breaks, for example, to get a better idea of the themes of each book. Or you may want to try what I did: try reading the text much as it was written in scriptio continua – continuous writing (albeit in English). Take one of the books (I used the Letter to Philemon), change all the letters into uppercase, remove all the spaces between the words, and remove the paragraphs. It’s an interesting and different reading experience.