Before attempting to study the Bible, I would highly encourage that you first read the Bible in its entirety, from start to finish. If you are a believer, ask yourself, “Have I ever read all of God’s word?” If we say we are followers of Christ, we should read all of what he has said. Moreover, God has sovereignly preserved his word for us in a language that we can understand. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Because every word in Scripture is “breathed-out by God,” every follower of Jesus ought to prioritize reading the Bible in its entirety.
Reading the Bible cover-to-cover will also give you an overview of the story God is telling before digging into the nitty-gritty of specific texts. Without a full understanding of the Bible’s metanarrative, it will be more difficult to understand the big picture. In other words, trying to study the Bible without having read it is like trying to dissect a scene in a movie you’ve never watched. Things won’t make sense because you will be missing a lot of context. Take it nice and slow and read the Bible like you would any other book—start to finish.
There are a lot of different ways to read the Bible because the 66 books contained in it can be easily separated by the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospels as well as different genres (such as narratives, poetry, prophecies, epistles, etc.), but my recommendation is that before you start breaking off into different segments of the Bible, read the Bible like a real book within its complete context! The story will come alive for you and you will be fascinated at how much you’re learning just by reading.
Here are two ways to do this:
- Simply pick up your Bible and start from Genesis! Here is a two-year Bible reading plan from Family Research Council that will take you through the entire Bible, day-by-day.
- Follow a chronological Bible reading plan or read through a chronological study Bible. Although the majority of the books of the Bible are in order, some events and books are not arranged in chronological sequence. Reading chronologically will open up your understanding even more because you will have greater context by the sequence of events.
Bible Translations Remember that when you read the Bible you are reading a translation (the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament; a few portions were written in Aramaic) and Greek (New Testament). Here is a short list of some easy-to-read versions of the Bible: English Standard Version (ESV), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), New International Version (NIV), and New Living Translation (NLT). These Bible translations strike a good balance between literal word-for-word translation and contemporary phraseology.
Write it Down: As you’re reading, keep in mind that you are not reading to make theological applications (although that will come to you naturally over time as you learn good Bible study methods) but you are reading to get to know God. Whatever you don’t understand you can always go back and study later, so write down your questions. Often you will find that the more you keep reading, the more will make sense. But when that doesn’t happen, you can come back to all of your questions when you’re ready to study the Bible. Here is where I would highly recommend having a study Bible. For those who can’t wait to have their questions answered until they’ve read all 66 books, a good study Bible will provide a fuller understanding of a specific passage that might confuse you.
Study Bibles: All of the aforementioned translations are available in study Bible versions. Study Bibles typically include extra materials for greater understanding of the text by providing historical context, geographical information, character profiles, word dictionaries, commentary, etc. Some even provide book introductions for each of the 66 books, so the reader gets an overview of what they are about to read. I cannot overemphasize the advantages of having a good study Bible. There are libraries full of resources to help you study the Bible, but for the average person who is not writing a doctoral thesis, a simple study Bible that combines several of these tools into one volume is a sufficient tool for better understanding God’s word..
Tip: You can choose a book or a passage of the Bible to read along with a helpful commentary during your daily devotional reading or study time!
Prayer: Don’t forget to pray before you start seeking God. Ask him to “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalms 119:18).the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalms 119:18).