I still remember being a new Christian and feeling very overwhelmed about how to start reading my Bible. I remember thinking that I had to start in Genesis (at the very beginning of my Bible) every time. I would then continue on using full willpower until I got to the book of Leviticus (literally a book of Jewish law) and then I would just fizzle out. It wasn’t until I was mentored by an older Christian woman that I realized that I could start reading anywhere in the Bible.
She showed me that a Bible was actually a collection of 66 books, not a stand alone book that you had to start at the beginning of every time. My mentor suggested for me to instead start in the gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. She also taught me that I didn’t have to use the King James Version (uses lots of old English). This is a very controversial thing to say, but picking up the NIV (New International Version) of the Bible was literally life-changing for me. Reading the Bible in the same English that I was actually speaking and reading in other books was super powerful.
So the translations that I suggest for starting your Bible reading journey are the ESV, CSB and NIV. All three of those translations are great! The most important thing though, is to get a Bible that you can understand (CSB is my absolute favorite) and to just start reading it.
The second tip I would give is to get a good Study Bible. I actually don’t recommend reading from a Study Bible all of the time, because there is commentary or notes at the bottom of the page telling you what each portion of scripture means. Instead, I really think that as you grow in your Bible knowledge it is really nice to challenge yourself first. Then try to see if you understand what the passage is saying or to ask what the Holy Spirit is saying to you first before you listen to what another person says scripture means. I feel like they can make me a little bit lazy when it comes to my Bible reading if I read a commentary too quickly.
However, there is so much that can be learned about the book that you are studying from a Study Bible and the commentary at the bottom of the page. An example of this is that if you’re going to read the book of John it is really helpful to know who wrote John, who John was written to and what was the purpose of John. This information helps scripture more quickly make sense. It is key that we first try to understand what scripture was saying in the original context, before we try to apply it to our lives. An example of this would be if I read Philippians for what God was trying to say to me first, I would miss that the book of Philippians was a letter written to a people who really needed encouragement to persevere in a place that was hostile to Christianity. Then after I see scripture through that lens, I can ask God what are you saying to me now? Just because scripture was written 2,000 years ago does not mean that God isn’t still speaking to me today.
A good study Bible also helps when you feel stuck at a portion of scripture that just doesn’t make sense. It is smart to try and flex your spiritual muscles by asking God what this scripture is saying, it is hard to understand. But it is also ok to go to a Study Bible to get some help when the whole thing feels fuzzy. Usually there is some context about the culture at the time that we may not understand today or a Jewish tradition we won’t quickly “get” because we are probably not culturally Jewish.
The third tip I would give is something I’ve already mentioned and that is to start in one of the gospels–the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (The first 4 books in the New Testament. And do not be ashamed to use the index at the front of your Bible to find out where a certain book is, it is there to help you!)
My favorite book to tell new Christians to start with, is John. That is because the book of John is all about WHO Jesus actually is. I learned so much about Jesus when I led a community of women through John. And I see something new about the life of Jesus every time I read the book again. If you would like some help getting started in the book of John, I actually made a video for every chapter of John to be a help with you on that journey! Click here to get FREE access to that whole Bible Study. It includes a guide to help you get started and 22 videos that give you my takeaways from each chapter like we were in Bible Study together.
I hope you feel empowered to jump in and start reading your Bible! Some last minute encouragement is that it is 100% more than ok if you do not understand what you are reading. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand, ask for wisdom, understanding and for the scripture to come to life for you. The Bible says that scripture is God breathed, alive and active and that it truly changes everything about us. It certainly will not happen overnight, but stay in the Word and you will see the fruit of getting God’s Word into your heart and mind.
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