The Bible is full of insights and lessons on what it means to live one’s life the way God intends. Reading the Bible is a practice at the heart of any Christian life of faith, and yet it can be a hard habit to cultivate for many believers. It can feel difficult to know where to start, especially for new believers or those just starting out in their Bible study of scripture. Ideally, reading the Bible should never feel like a chore, but due to the rich nature of the language, it can be challenging.
There are a number of different resources that can help you get started reading the Bible. Diving into scripture for the first time can be a daunting task, but never fear! We’re here to help you figure out how to read the Bible.
Which Book Should I Read First?
One of the most commonly asked questions by people reading the Bible for the first time is “Which book should I start with?” The truth is there is no one right answer! Here are some tips and suggestions that lots of beginners find helpful.
The whole Bible is made up of two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is further divided into 39 books, and the New Testament is made up of 27 books. The Old Testament books covers the period of time spanning from the creation of the world to just before the birth of Jesus and documents the ancient history of Israel and provides moral teachings. The New Testament is believed to flow directly from events that occur in the Old Testament and includes the Gospels which document and share the teachings and life of Jesus. In addition to the Gospels, the New Testament includes various letters written by and to the early churches.
You can start from the beginning, literally, with Genesis. Genesis is the first book of the Bible and covers the creation of the world and how life came to be. This reading order essentially entails opening up your Bible and reading from Genesis to Revelation (the last Biblical book). Working through the entire Bible from start to finish is a great way to familiarize yourself with all of the different Testament books.
Another common suggestion is to begin Bible reading with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. All four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--recount the Bible stories of the life of Jesus and his ministry. What makes John, in particular, a good starting point for Bible study is the artistic and historical narrative style. Starting with John provides new believers with an introduction to understanding the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, which can add helpful context when reading other books of the Bible.
Finally, you might want to kick off your Bible reading with some of the Wisdom literature books. The Wisdom books (including Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Job, and Ecclesiastes) are a collection of books made up of poetry, narratives, and moral sayings and teachings. They include reflections on worship, love, suffering, and life. The book of Proverbs is made up of 31 chapters, making it the perfect book to read the Bible through one chapter every day for the course of a month.
Choosing a Translation
Another factor that will impact how you study the Bible is the translation you choose to read. In general, there are two main categories that Biblical translations fall into: Word-for-word translations and Thought-for-thought translations. Word-for-word Bible translations attempt to remain as close to original texts (written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) as possible. While Thought-for-thought translations are more concerned with conveying the ideas and concepts of the original texts for modern readers. For those just getting started reading the Bible, we recommend choosing Thought-for-thought translations because they tend to use language that is easier to understand.
If you are looking for a Word-for-word translation, try
- The New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- The English Standard Version (ESV)
- The King James Version (KJV).
If you are looking for a Thought-for-thought translation, try
- The New Living Translation (NLT)
- The Common English Bible (CEB)
- The New International Version (NIV).
Make Bible Reading Fun
As you figure out how to read the Bible, it is important to find ways to keep yourself motivated and excited. There are several ways you can further motivate yourself to read God's Word. One important consideration is finding a Bible that makes you excited to crack it open to read. When we come to the Bible, we are seeking to meditate on the God's word and to fix our minds on Jesus. Beautiful Bibles can help us to achieve this goal. Beauty is a gift from God and something to be celebrated. A pretty Bible can serve as inspiration to worship through creativity and help make study times fun and exciting. And journaling space or thoughtful imagery can help us to connect with scripture not only with our minds but also with our hearts. Visually beautiful Bibles are physical reminders of the beauty that characterizes a life dedicated to pursuing Jesus.
Another way to way to motivate yourself to read the Bible is to remember that you do not need to embark on this process alone! Look into joining a Bible study group or class at your local church. This will allow you to work through the Bible with other believers--some of whom might also be beginners--and allow you to ask any questions that might come up as you read. Reading the Bible in community also gives you the ability to encourage one another and to hold each other accountable to the Bible reading plan you decide on. Many small groups chose to participate in a "Bible in a Year" plan, which portions out your reading so that you read the entire Bible cover to cover over the course of a calendar year. You can also be praying for each other and sharing inspirational verses that really strike you. To read the Bible is to familiarize yourself with the Good News, and that's definitely news that you'll want to share!
Final Thoughts on How to Read the Bible
No matter if you are totally new to Jesus or if you have grown up within the church, studying the Bible is an essential component of a life of faith. We study God's Word in order to draw closer to Him as well as to learn how to live better. We hope that this brief overview has helped give you insight into how to read the Bible. These tips and suggestions are designed to get you started, but ultimately the most important factor in Bible reading is God. Remember that anytime we read the Bible, we have an opportunity to see and hear how the Holy Spirit is speaking and moving in our lives. As you begin to study the Bible, take a moment to pray. The Holy Spirit is there with you, to help you think and act more like Jesus as you spend time in the God's word! Ask God to help you understand what He is showing you through the verses and passages He has put before you.
Getting started with Bible reading is just the first step towards engaging with God's word every day. For more ways to deepen your faith and continue your education, take a look at Alabaster’s beautifully designed collection of Bibles and other supplemental material to help you along your journey.