It can be daunting picking up a Bible for the first time. As well as being the world’s best selling book, it is a large tome and is unlike most other books that you are ever going to read. It is actually 67 ‘books’ within one and to make things even more confusing they are not always the same type of literature with everything from poetry to prophecy, history to law and a lot in between.
So, where do I start?
Most might suggest to start at the beginning in Genesis, where it all began. However, the Bible isn’t written perfectly in chronological order, so it could get slightly confusing.
I would suggest the Gospel of Mark which is at the beginning of the New Testament (NT), you can use an index to find it – there is no shame in doing that. This is the shortest book and scholars believe the first of the Gospels to be written. Moreover, it also tells us about the life of Jesus, so it tends to be a great place to start.
How do I read it?
You could begin reading the Bible like a novel, but typically most Christians read the bible in small sections. Throughout the Bible, each section tends to have small titles allowing you to easily see when the story changes direction, either a time skip or a location change.
To help yourself, you could look at using devotions which you can read after the section you’ve read which explains a bit about what you’ve just read. When choosing a devotion series, you can choose themes, such as relationships or what God says about money, or you could choose books of the Bible to work through. There are plenty of different types of devotionals and you can find them online, on your Bible application on your phone or tablet, there are books that can help you navigate through the Bible or you could ask your local Pastor or another Christian to help you find one.
If you do choose to begin in Mark, a good one that you could look at is ‘Thru The Bible – Gospel Of Mark’. If you are completely new to Christianity and just want to understand the foundations and figure out how to read the Bible, you can try a study called ‘How To Study The Bible (Foundations)’. If you are feeling a bit more confident in the Bible and want to understand the key events that the Bible touches on you could also try this devotional by Lives Changed By Christ Church, ‘Key Historical Events Of The Bible’.
The reality is, what works for one person, might not work for another – so as you try out more devotionals by different authors and different series, you will find out which one works best for you.
Does it matter which Bible version I read?
No. There are many translations of the Bible, and all are very good.
The traditional Bible that many churches use is the King James version. Written in 1611, it was known as the first ‘peoples’ Bible. That being said, in this day and age the language used is much more of the time it was written and thus it can be difficult to understand some of the language. Nonetheless, for some, having to slow down and absorb the words in a more considered way can be helpful when reading through the Bible.
Personally, I currently use the English Standard Version at the moment. This one is written in mostly plain English and is relatively easy to understand.
There are alternate versions of the Bible as well, such as The Message, which is a contemporary paraphrased version of the Bible which some people find easier to digest as well.
The important thing is, you find a version that works for you. Your preference might change over time as you wish to dive deeper into different parts of scripture.
What if I struggle reading?
If you struggle to read, or often find it difficult to find the time to sit down and read, you can now listen to the whole Bible. There are hundreds of different audio translations available to you which means you could listen on a walk, at the gym or even in the car.
You can download a number of applications on your mobile device, and the Audio Bible has 26 different versions you can choose from for free.
Do I read alone?
Firstly, do not feel deflated if you don’t read the Bible every day. Whilst this would be the ideal, sometimes life gets busy and sometimes it’s difficult to grapple with certain parts and you need to sit with those passages. That’s okay.
Secondly, I’d always suggest finding a group where you can learn. Whilst there are a number of resources such as books, podcasts and even coming to Sunday services can help, however, if you really want to come to grips with what you are reading, life groups can be the best place. You can ask questions, have discussions and learn more about the sections that you’re reading together. We always work better in community. If you aren’t sure if your Church has a group like this, check with one of your leaders.
Should I pray first?
Whilst spending time reading the Bible, you’d think the first thing you should do is just open the book. However, sometimes you need to stop for a moment and speak with God. This could be about getting your troubles of the day out there and putting them to one side to be able to focus on what you’re reading. Always take a moment to pause, and then also after to reflect on what you might have just read.
What if I have questions?
In a book like the Bible you’re bound to have questions. Maybe it’s about what a specific word means or perhaps about how it might apply to your life. That’s okay. If you can, you should always try and join a group of people reading together.
However, if you do have questions and perhaps have no one in your life that you can ask, feel free to get in touch with us and we can help navigate through those questions you might have.
Now is the time to start reading. In God’s word we can learn about his goodness and grace. There is a reason why it is one of the world’s best selling books of all time and that’s because it contains the greatest story ever told.