(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Learn to Read the Bible
By Amber Johnson
“I don’t understand what I’m reading.”
“I don’t feel smart enough to read the Bible.”
“Where do I start?”
“I don’t have time to read the Bible.”
Do any of these excuses sound familiar? Beginning to read the Bible can be intimidating. And like the many excuses listed above, it can be overwhelming trying to understand where to start or what to read.
When I started attending church regularly, I had many insecurities related to reading the Bible. Many people around me appeared to have “grown up” in the church and some had even gone to Christian schools. It felt like everyone was familiar with the Bible except for me. Of course, I wasn’t the only one new to the Bible.
Thankfully, I found encouragement from others as I began familiarizing myself with the Bible and learning how to read it. When we turn to God’s Word, we only hunger for more.
Here are some practical tips as you start reading the Bible:
1. Purchase a Study Bible
I wish I would have purchased a study Bible sooner. Once I had one, I couldn’t put it down. Study Bibles provide textual notes on almost every page. These notes provide deeper meanings to the text, as well as background information and context as needed. If I’m confused about what I’m reading, I often turn to the textual notes which clarifies any confusion in the text. Study Bibles also include plenty of charts, maps, timelines, and cross-references to other verses.
The New Living Translation Study Bible is a great version to start with or The English Standard Version. These versions use a meaning-to-meaning translation and remain close to the original text. The meaning-to-meaning translation is often easier to understand, especially if you’re just getting started. If you prefer a word-for-word translation study Bible, The King James Version or the New American Standard versions are also available. Keep in mind that you can download many of these versions onto your phone for cross-reference using the YouVersion Holy Bible App.
2. Start with One of These Books
If you’re looking to understand who Jesus is, the book of John is the place to start. The purpose of this book is to conclusively prove that Jesus is the Son of God and those who choose to believe in Him will have eternal life. The other three Gospel books, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also provide more understanding on the life of Jesus and his purpose.
If you’ve read the Gospels, or would like to start somewhere else in the New Testament, begin reading the book of Romans. Paul wrote this book to give a clear understanding of God’s story and salvation through Jesus alone.
Within the Old Testament, the book of Psalms captures many readers, as it’s a book that provides encouragement, especially in times of stress and anxiety. Its purpose is the expression of praise, worship, and confession of God. This is one of my favorite books to come back and read frequently.
Proverbs is another book in the Old Testament that remains a solid starting point, as it gives wisdom and practical direction for a godly life. Many Christians choose to read or take part in studies that include a daily reading of both a Psalm and a Proverb each day.
And lastly, if you’d like to read the Bible chronologically, start with Genesis. This is a historical book that often includes more difficult reading, but if you prefer to start reading the Bible in order, this is the place to go. I recently finished a year-long reading plan through the Bible for 2020. It was well worth-it, and I encourage others to read through the entirety of the Bible.
Most importantly, pray as you begin this journey in reading the Bible. If you’re still confused on where to start, God knows your heart and what you need. He may even direct you to a friend, study group, or mentor for direction and encouragement. Continue to seek Him for wisdom and understanding as you read the most beautiful love letter in the world.
“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. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)