The Bible is a rich book, full of insights and lessons on what it means to live one’s life the way God intends. Studying the Bible is a practice at the heart of any Christian life of faith, and yet reading the Bible can be a challenge for many. It can feel hard to know where and how to start, especially for new believers or those just starting out in their study of scripture. Reading the Bible should never feel like a chore, but due to the nature of the language, it can be difficult.
There are a number of different resources that can help you get started with your study of the Bible. Diving into scripture for the first time can be a daunting task, but never fear! We’re here to help you get started.
Why Should We Study the Bible?
This might feel like an odd question to start out with, but take a moment to ask yourself why do I want to study the Bible? Answering the “why” will ground your study of scripture and will help to motivate you as you move on to the “how”. Here are three key reasons why it’s important to study the Bible:
- To learn more about God. The Bible is known as the Word of God. Through the stories and teachings it contains, God reveals His character to us through scripture. If we seek to follow God, it essential that we know Him!
- To gain wisdom. The Bible is full of instructions for life. Books like Proverbs offer guidance for how to live wisely, and the Gospels recount Jesus’ teachings of mercy and love. As 2 Timothy 16 puts it, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
- To be active in our relationship with God. Being regularly in the Word of God will lead to spiritual growth and maturity. Studying the Bible is a tangible way to ensure that we are placing Jesus at the center of our lives.
Where Do I Start My Study of the Bible?
Now that we have addressed why we study the Bible, let’s turn our attention to we to get started. Let’s address some of the key ways to set yourself up for success in your Biblical study.
One of the first things you will need to do is decide which type of Bible is right for you. The most basic consideration when choosing a Bible is which translation is the best fit for you. In general, there are two main categories that Biblical translations fall into: Word-for-word translations and Thought-for-thought translations. Word-for-word translations attempt to remain as close to original texts (written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) as possible. They seek to preserve the accuracy of language. This can result in a Bible translation that is good for deep study but is a bit difficult to follow. The original languages of the Bible use different idioms and speech patterns than we use today.
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).
Thought-for-thought translations are more concerned with conveying the ideas and concepts of the original texts for modern readers. This kind of translation adapts the language into more familiar English to make the text easier to understand and connect with. These Bible translations are great for new believers, but do sacrifice some of the exactness of a more literal translation.
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).
Which Book Should I Read First?
The 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. One of the most commonly asked questions by people studying the Bible for the first time is “Which book should I start with?” The truth is there is no one right answer! But here are some tips and suggestions that lots of beginners find helpful.
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. There is certainly something to be said for opening up your Bible and reading from Genesis to Revelation (the last Biblical book). Working through the Bible from start to finish is a great way to familiarize yourself with all of the different books.
Another common suggestion is to start with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. All four Gospels recount the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry. What makes John, in particular, a good starting point for study is the artistic and narrative style. Starting with John provides beginners with an introduction to understand the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, which can add helpful context for reading other books of the Bible.
Another important thing to remember is that as you approach studying the Bible as a beginner is that you do not need to embark on this process alone! There are a number of incredible Bible study books available that help to guide you through your study of scripture. When you decide which book you want to read first, consider finding a Bible study for that book to read in tandem with your reading of scripture. This can help you by providing context for the various passages as well as providing reflection questions and learning tools. These are great jumping-off points as you learn how to study the Bible for yourself.
You could also look into joining a study group or Bible class at your local church. This will allow you to work through scripture with other believers--some of whom might also be beginners--and allow you to ask any questions that might come up as you read.
Finally, consider using the SOAP method during your Bible study. SOAP stands for scripture, observation, application, and prayer. This method provides you with a way of structuring your study time. Begin by reading directly from the passage of scripture you’re considering. Then jot down what you observed while reading. What struck you about the passage? Which verses caught your attention? Next, consider how this scripture and what you’ve observed can be applied to your life. Finally, close your study with a time of prayer. Say thanks for what God has revealed to you and helped you to understand, and ask Him to continue to grow and stretch your faith.
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 scripture in order to draw closer to God as well as to learn how to live better. We hope that this brief overview has helped you understand how to study the Bible for beginners. Remember that anytime we read the Bible, we have an opportunity to see and hear how God is speaking and moving in our lives. Getting started studying the Bible 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.