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Bible Study Tips

How to Read the Bible for Beginners

November 28, 2018
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I think it is awesome that you are wanting to learn how to read the Bible. Let me guess, you’ve tried reading the Bible before and it didn’t make any sense.

Maybe you felt like you were practically reading a different language. Or you’ve tried before and it seemed completely irrelevant to anything that’s going on in your life.

Often times we are so overwhelmed by this darn book. We know it’s important. We know there’s wisdom inside. We know we should read it, but the magnitude of everything that’s inside of it overwhelms us to the point that it brings us to a screeching halt.

It’s like we panic and can’t move forward. We don’t know where to begin, so we just don’t begin at all.  

So then what?

Typically, we put the book down and let it start collecting dust while in the back of our minds feeling guilty for not making more of an effort.

If this in any way resonates with you, then friends I am here to help.

First of all, just know I completely and 100% get you and understand. Reading the Bible is HARD, so give yourself some grace.  

But you know what they say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”.

So, let’s give it another shot, and this time hopefully my tips will help.

For the longest time reading and understanding the Bible seemed so complex that to me I felt I needed to go back to school or get a Ph.D. in Biblical studies to ever understand what the heck was going on.

NOT TRUE.

Many people feel they just aren’t smart enough to understand the Bible.

NOT TRUE.

My goal from this post is to help you as much as possible make sense of this powerful collection of books that collectively we call the Bible.

Sound good? Awesome, let’s do it.

How to Read the Bible for Beginners

Bible Overview

Did you know that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time? Depending on the translation, there are approximately 785,000 words in it with 31,101 numbered verses.

There are around 8,000 predictions, 6,468 commands, 1,260 promises, and 3,294 questions.

The word “Bible” actually comes from the Greek word “ta biblia” which means “the books”. So the Bible isn’t even one book, but instead is a collection of books written by different authors in several languages over the course of several thousand years.

The Bible consists of 66 books in total between the Old Testament and New Testament. On top of that, each book is different and unique and is classified under its own unique “Biblical genre”.

How Often Should You Read the Bible?

Simply put, I highly suggest daily.

Even if it’s just a chapter a day, or 10 minutes a day, digging into the Word on a daily basis is how you’re going to reap the benefits held within it.

Interestingly, a study from Back to the Bible found that the life of someone who engages in scripture 4 or more times a week looks radically different from the life of someone who does not.

Actually, the lives of Christians who do not engage with the Bible most days of the week are statistically the same as the lives of non-believers.

That’s kinda a crazy realization.

According to Barna, 62% of Americans say they wish they read the Bible more. This just begs the question, what is keeping people from cracking open their Bibles and reading?

Not enough time?

Read more: How to Make Time for God with a Busy Schedule

If you don’t understand the Bible then keep reading. By the end of this post things should be making WAY more sense. 🙂

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What is the Best Bible for Beginners? 

Part of the confusion when it comes to reading the Bible is that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. Instead, the original translations of the Bible were written in mostly Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.

So why is this confusing?

Well, the English versions of the Bible that we are reading are mere translations of the original text.

It’s best to think of the different translations of the Bible along a spectrum from literal translation that’s word-for-word, to concept translation that’s more thought-for-thought.

You’ll find that as the accuracy of the translation increases (word-for-word), the readability decreases. A great example of this is the King James Version (KJV) which includes 16th century wording like “thou”, “keepeth”, “brethren”, etc. which we don’t use anymore in 21st century English.

However, the King James version is fun because it was written in Old English, which is what was used at the time it was translated back in 1611. Because of its date of translation, this also causes it to be difficult for many people to read. However, there are pros to this version of the Bible because it has a poetic feel to it that is both eloquent and beautiful. If you are interested in the King James Version, click here for price and details.

Holy Bible King James Version (KJV)

The flip side of Bible translations is when the accuracy of a translation decreases (thought-for-thought), the readability increases. A great example of this is the The Message version of the Bible that is written in contemporary English, and even slang. This would probably be the easiest translation to understand, but then again, you lose some accuracy in the process. If you are interested in The Message Version, click here for price and details.

Holy Bible The Message Version

There are Bibles that land right in the middle that are a nice sweet spot between accuracy and readability which includes the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

I personally read from the New Living Translation on a daily basis, and I find it to also be a great Bible for beginners as well. If you’re interested in using the exact NLT Bible that I use, click here or on the below image.

Life Application Study Bible NLT Translation

At the end of the day, what is most important is choosing a Bible that best helps you understand what you are reading. If that’s best done with a word-for-word translation, then go for that. If it’s best done with a thought-for-thought translation, then go for that one.

Read More: Bible Translation Guide: Which Bible Translation Should I Use?

 

Easy to Read Bibles 

If you really struggle with reading the Bible and are looking for a Bible that is easy to read, then I highly recommend purchasing The Message Bible.

This will be the easiest Bible to read so God’s Word can finally start making sense for you. The Message was translated from 1993 to 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson who was an American scholar, author, poet, and pastor. He has said that his goal has always been to “look for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people”.

I think Eugene struck gold because his version of the Bible has been used by millions and was a Gold Medallion Book Award winner.

If you are interested in purchasing The Message Version of the Bible, click here for more information and price.

 Holy Bible The Message Version

What’s the Best Chronological Bible 

I can already hear you, “what do you mean the best chronological Bible? Does this mean the Bible’s not organized chronologically?”.

Oh, so much to learn young padawan.

Nope, the books of the Bible are not organized chronologically (from beginning to end) but instead are organized by grouping similar kinds of books together within the same Biblical genre.

A few examples from the Old Testament of these Biblical genre groupings are:

  • History (Joshua – Esther)
  • Poetry (Job – Song of Solomon)
  • Major Prophets (Isaiah – Daniel)
  • Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi)

To help this make more sense to you, it is definitely worthwhile to purchase a chronological Bible. I have the Chronological Life Application Study Bible in the NLT Version and LOVE it! It definitely helps when trying to piece the Bible together so it all begins to make sense. If you are interested in purchasing this Bible, you can click here for more information and price.

 Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT

Best Study Bible for Beginners 

I hope I am not overwhelming you with all of the Bible options available to you, but lastly, I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing a study Bible.

The benefit of a study Bible is it comes with additional information besides just the translated text of the original Bible. A study Bible includes opening information for each book of the Bible. This information includes a few paragraphs of the major concepts and themes of each book, who wrote the book, why the book was written, the time and setting in history the events occurred, maps with modern names and boundaries to show where the events occurred, the original audience the book was written for, key people and bible verses for each book, and so much more!

I feel true spiritual growth and understanding happens when you have a study Bible. When you read a passage and it makes ZERO SENSE to you, you can immediately look to the notes in the margin that expand upon the concepts represented in the Bible. Then you can use that information to understand not only what’s going on, but how you can apply it in your life.

Gamechanger, right?

The exact Bible that I use is the Life Application Study Bible in the NLT translation, and it is truly amazing. I honestly feel I would be lost without it. If you want to spend more time in the Bible but find it difficult to read and are constantly confused, this Bible is definitely the one for you.  Click here for details and current price.

 Life Application Study Bible NLT Translation

Learning the Bible 

When it comes to reading the Bible, I strongly feel it’s best to have a general grasp of the Bible as a WHOLE before breaking it down into smaller pieces and examining specific passages or verses from the Bible.

By doing this, it helps you understand how the stories of the Bible interlink and come together to reveal one giant story of God’s love and redemption.

The Bible was written over the course of roughly 1000 B.C. to 120 AD and is split into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “testament” is actually an old English word meaning “covenant” which is simply an agreement between two parties. It’s unfortunate we call them “testaments” because it would make way more sense to describe the Bible as the Old and New Covenants that God has made with His people.

To fully grasp a picture of what is going on in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, please click over to my post Bible Overview: A Summary of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is in this post that I tell an in depth, story-like overview of the Bible.

If you’re in a hurry, you can go ahead and download a PDF copy of the Bible Overview.

 

Where to Start Reading the Bible for Beginners

I am going to lay out where I think you should start reading the Bible for beginners, however I just want to share a caveat;

If you feel compelled (or attracted) in any way to a particular book of the Bible, then don’t listen to my advice but instead read the book that you are attracted to.

Maybe that book of the Bible is of interest for a reason and God is wanting to speak to you through it. I sometimes derail my own reading plans because I just feel attracted to a particular story and simply have an interest in reading it.

Popular books of the Bible that are just fascinating reads and may grab your attention first are:

  • The Story of Adam and Eve – The story of creation and Adam and Eve is found in the Book of Genesis. It is a fascinating book of the Bible that’s engaging and easy to read. Often times it feels like you’re just reading a storybook. (Genesis 1-3)
  • Noah and the Flood – Famous story in the Bible that has also been adapted into many films (Genesis 6-9) (Popular films: Evan Almighty, Noah, Noah’s Ark)
  • Moses and the Parting of the Red Sea – Many movies have been filmed on the Book of Exodus about the leadership of Moses and God’s deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt (Book of Exodus) (Popular films: The 10 Commandments, The Prince of Egypt)
  • David and Goliath – Very famous story in the Bible about how David conquered the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17) (Popular film: David and Goliath)
  • Daniel and the Lion’s Den – Story of how Daniel rose to be one of the most trusted advisors while living in exile in Babylon and later was thrown in the lion’s den for holding fast to his faith in God. (Book of Daniel)
  • Jonah and the Whale – Famous Bible story about how the prophet Jonah was swallowed by a whale while trying to run from God and God’s purpose for him. (Book of Jonah)
  • Jesus’ Life and Ministry – Recount the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. This story is found in all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) (Popular films: The Passion of the Christ, The Greatest Story Ever Told)
  • The End Times – John the Apostle’s visions from an angel regarding the end of the world and how God ultimately conquers evil. (Book of Revelation) (Popular film: Left Behind)

 

Best Order to Read the Bible for the First Time

Want a PDF of this Bible reading plan for beginners?

Alrighty, with all that said, let’s get into which order I recommend reading the Bible if you are a beginner.

First: The Story of Creation and Adam and Eve

When reading the Bible for the first time, I would recommend reading the story of creation and Adam and Eve first. Just read Genesis 1-3 so you understand how God created the world and man.

Second: The Book of John

Next, we’re going to jump forward and read from the New Testament. It’s important to read about the story of Jesus because ultimately the entire Bible points to Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promises through Him. The Book of John recount the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Although there are four gospels that recount Jesus’ life, I recommend starting with the Book of John because it contains some of the simplest, clearest and most profound verses for your walk.

Coming Soon: What’s the Difference Between the Four Gospels?

Popular Bible Verses from the Book of John are:

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1

“He was with God in the beginning”

John 1:2

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

 

Third: The Book of Acts

The Book of Acts is Luke’s sequel to his own book (The Book of Luke) picking up where he left off with Christ’s ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50-53).

The Book of Acts covers how the early church got started, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and how the gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Acts also covers important information regarding the conversion of Paul into a believer of Christ (Acts 9) and his missionary journeys to spread the gospel to the world.

It’s important to read Acts because then you can better understand the letters (or epistles) written by Paul and other authors that dominate the majority of the New Testament.

Is it easier to have this Bible reading plan as a PDF?

Fourth: The Book of Romans

The Book of Romans is actually a letter (epistle) written by Paul to the Romans, or the people in Rome. Seems like common sense, but sometimes the simplest things need explaining, lol.

Paul had not yet been to Rome, but had finished his work in the east and planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain. It is likely that the church in Rome had heard of Paul and would have been honored by his letter.

At this time in the Roman Empire, Nero had ascended the throne as Emperor of Rome, who you might remember from history class. However, it wouldn’t be until later in history that Nero begins his persecution of Christians in Rome.

So at the time of Paul writing this letter, there was relative peace in Rome and Paul’s goal was to fuel the church with sound gospel doctrine.

Romans is important because it stands as the clearest and most systematic presentation of Christian doctrine in all of the scriptures.

 

Fifth: Genesis and Exodus

Once you’ve got a grasp of these books of the Bible that truly represent the foundations of Christianity, then let’s move back to the Old Testament and read the Book of Genesis and Exodus.

Genesis

Genesis is a great place to begin because as the name represents (Hebrew for “in the beginning”) Genesis tells the story from the beginning of creation and sin, and God’s promise to Abraham regarding how the nation of Israel began.

Genesis is an easy read because it reads like a story or narrative. I’ve read it many, many times and find it really fun, informative, and engaging.

You’ll see the Bible in general doesn’t shy away from subjects like rape, incest, murder, slavery, drunkenness, multiple wives, and more. There are parts that are messed up and confusing, so here it’s important to note that the Bible provides information as it happened, but God definitely does not condone or support the behavior of everything that is written in the Bible.

Exodus

Exodus is another classic book of the Bible that is a must read. It also reads like a story and is easy and enjoyable. I have also read this book of the Bible many times.

 

In Exodus we have the story of Moses and how God miraculously rescued the enslaved Israelites out of captivity in Egypt.

Want this Bible Reading Plan as a PDF?

What to Read Next…

From here I would direct you towards where God and your interests are leading you.

 

You could stay in the Old Testament or jump back to the New Testament.

If You Decide to Continue Reading the Old Testament

If you decide to continue reading the Old Testament, I will warn you that the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are generally speaking very dry, boring, and difficult to read. They are important books of the Bible and you should read them at some point, but perhaps put them on the back burner for now.

I would recommend continuing to read the Old Testament stories about how Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

After reading Exodus you can pick up the rest of story of Moses in Number 10:11 and read all the way through Deuteronomy 5. There are some boring bits where Moses is taking a census of the Israelites, and talking about the rules and regulations regarding festivals, the tribes of Israel, boundaries of land, and other stuff like that. But overall, it’s a smooth and enjoyable read.

Then I would skip to Deuteronomy 31 where Joshua becomes the leader of Israel.

From there it’s smooth sailing through Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings telling the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, the Judges of Israel, Israel’s first king, and Israel’s peak of power and prosperity during the reigns of David and his son Solomon.  

This is a hefty reading plan that could take you months, or even a year, to read if you really dive in and study it.

If You Decide to Continue Reading the New Testament

If you decide to jump back to the New Testament, then I would recommend reading another gospel, or maybe all of them. Each gospel is written from different perspectives and for different reasons, so you’ll gain something new from each of them.

Which one you choose doesn’t really matter, however if you’re stumped then the Book of Matthew might be a good read for you.

 

From there you can make your way through some of the epistles, or letters. The rest of the New Testament doesn’t tell an overall story or narrative like the Old Testament does, so you could just choose any letter at random and dive in.

I would recommend avoiding Revelation for now unless it is of particular interest to you.

 

What is the Best Book in the Bible?

The best book of the Bible is truly a matter of personal opinion. Many people consider the gospels to be the most important books in the Bible because they speak so heavily on Jesus’ life and ministry.

Genesis and Exodus are also fantastic and classic books because they tell the story of life and creation from the beginning, and God’s miraculous deliverance of His people.

As already mentioned, other popular stories in the Bible are:

  • Noah and the Ark (Book of Genesis)
  • David and Goliath (1 Samuel)
  • Daniel and the Lion’s Den (Book of Daniel)
  • Jonah and the Whale (Book of Jonah)

These stories in the Bible are so famous that even non-Christians are familiar with these stories.

I’ll leave this one up to you, what do you consider to be the best book of the Bible?

Best Way to Read the Bible in a Year

If you make it your goal to read the entire Bible in a year, then WOW kudos to you because that is a seriously an amazing goal!

Although I love this and applaud your enthusiasm, I personally do not recommend people to read the entire Bible in a year.

Let me explain.

My reasons for why I steer people away from this goal is because often times we set massive goals for ourselves like “I will go to the gym every day”, “I will pray for 1 hour every day”, or “I will never eat sugar again”. While these goals are fantastic, more often what happens is we burn out, lose motivation, and then just quit altogether.

When it comes to reading the Bible, I don’t want this to happen to you. I want you to incorporate reading the Bible into your everyday routine so that you keep doing it long term.

If that means starting small, then start small.

Maybe make it a goal to read one chapter from the Bible every day, or to read for 20 minutes every day.

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More important than quickly blazing through the Bible is to read at a pace that is comfortable to you. The goal is to truly understand what you are reading, so you can gain knowledge, wisdom, and insight from the Bible and how it can be applied to your life.

If you still want to make it a goal of reading the Bible in a year, then seriously go for it! It’ll be helpful if you pick up a one-year Bible that will help you stay on track.

The one I recommend is the One Year Chronological Bible in the NLT translation. This Bible sets a path for you to accomplish this goal and only requires reading for 15 minutes a day. If you are interested in this Bible then click here for price and details.

 Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT

Bible Study for Beginners

Now that we have all of this information, let’s finally get into the actual “Bible study” part. Even though certain books of the Bible will feel like you are simply reading a novel, it’s important to remember that the Bible is ultimately the greatest resource available to us on how to get to know God, follow God, and apply godly principles into our lives.

Hebrews 4:12 says that, “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Jesus Himself said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Now reading the Bible and studying the Bible are two different things. Many people like to read, and when we read the Bible we get all kinds of information. But what we truly want is revelation from the Bible, which requires really studying the Word of God.     

Proverbs 4:20 says, “My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings”.

So not only do we need to read and truly understand the Word of God, but we need to get into agreement with the Word of God and actually do what He is tells us to do.

Proverbs 4:21 continues, “Let them not depart from your sight: keep them in the center of your heart”.

This part is actually incredibly similar to what God commands Joshua to do in Joshua 1:8, “Meditate on it both day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it”.

So here God is saying we should meditate on the Word. Think about what you are learning. Don’t let information go in one ear and out the other, but really value the time you are spending with God and think about what you are learning.

Proverbs 4:22 continues, “For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh”.

I can personally attest that when you begin to truly study the Word of God, and do what God tells you do, it absolutely does bring a renewed sense of life and healing into your world.

This is what I meant when I said studying the Bible is like spiritual nourishment. It is literally food for our soul.

 

Easy Bible Study for Beginners

My goal is to provide something for you that you can easily do every single day, and will help you to grow and understand the Bible. Feel free to put your own spin on Bible study, but the below tips will be a great foundation for digging into the Word of God.

Start with Prayer

It’s a great idea to set the tone of your Bible study by sending up a quick prayer to heaven asking for God help and guidance in revealing His Word to you. Ask God to help you understand, and to help you be able to apply His Word in your life.

Read Entire Books of the Bible at a Time

I highly recommend you read entire books of the Bible at a time, especially if you are brand new to reading the Bible.

Once you have a Bible study plan (whether that is the plan I provided or another one) I also think it is best to read an entire chapter of the Bible at one time so that you can gain an understanding of the entire passage and what it is saying. This will prevent you from picking apart one specific Bible verse and potentially reading it out of context.

Want the try out the Bible reading plan I recommended?

Study with Journal

As you are reading, it’s helpful to take notes, whether that is in the margin of your Bible or in a journal. A few things that you will want to write down and really meditate on will be mostly either informational context for information that follows a storyline or historic event, or personal reflection upon how you can apply a passage into your life.

Write down important information that jumps out at you, or questions you have as you’re going along. It’s important to seek understanding when something doesn’t make sense, which brings me to my next point.

 

Search for Answers When You are Confused

If you are confused by what is happening in a passage, then that is when it is particularly helpful to have a study Bible so you can read the notes regarding what the chapter is about and gain some more context that might not be provided in the verse. Studying with a study Bible has helped me leaps and bounds in understanding and applying the Bible into my life.

 

This information can be found in the notes section if you are using a study Bible, or you can even Google specific questions for further clarity.

Life Application Study Bible NLT Translation 

As you read the Bible, really take the time to think and meditate on what you are reading and allow the Bible to transform you.

 

I hope this post has helped give further clarity on how to read the Bible for beginners. Let me know in the comments below what was most helpful to you!

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Read More

Bible Overview: A Summary of the Whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation

Bible Translation Guide: Which Bible Translation Should I Use?

The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations

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TIFFANY NICOLE

Tiffany created Lavender Vines as a place to share her love for Jesus and adventures from around the world. She has a slight obsession with salted caramel lattes, Japanese kimonos, and an ongoing love affair with NYC and Paris.

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