The Bible we receive was put together by religious leaders. Certain books were excluded from the “canon” of Scripture, because they were deemed to lack a certain authority or, as in the case of the Gnostic books, because they contained ways of understanding God that the dominant group found offensive and threatening.
In the Christian era, we receive four different accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as several others that weren't approved for the official canon. Each tells the story differently. Some common details, but mostly disparate details, suggest that each author was writing for a certain audience and to answer certain questions. Thus, in Luke the angel speaks to Mary, in Matthew the angel speaks to Joseph, and Mark and John know nothing of angels and birth in Bethlehem. Each view of the birth adds another element of “truth”—not verifiable fact, but meaning, a glimpse of God.
How to read the Bible
The Bible has two sections – the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you are new to the Bible, it is a good idea to start in the New Testament, in the book of John. This will tell you about Jesus Christ, God's Son. Each time before you read, open your heart and ask God's Holy Spirit to help you to understand what you are reading. The Bible is a spiritual book – you need the Holy Spirit to help you to understand it and do what it says.
Why Should I Read the Bible?
The Bible will help you to learn about God – what He is like and how He created us to live. The Bible is a book of Love – it will teach you how to love others and care for the earth. The Bible will transform your character – it will make you a better person as you choose to live by what it says (I Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible gives good guidance for how to live in a way that will bring happiness, peace and love to your life. The Bible will teach you how to have a relationship with God – how to be filled with His love so that you can share it with others.