Where do you start reading the Bible?
People have different reasons for reading the Bible.
- they want information
- to read “great books”
- curiousity. They know other people find it valuable and want to find out for themselves
- they want a devotional thought to see them through the day
- they’re serious about their Christian life.
Many people want to read the Bible, but it is a complex, ancient and foreign book. “Where do I start” is a question many have asked about Bible reading.
Does one read cover to cover?
How do you know what part of the Bible to read each day?
A brief intro to the Bible
The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written over a period of some 1500 years, the product of foreign cultures of long ago. There’s narrative and philosophy, poetry and prose, imaginative stories and careful record-keeping, wise advice and guidance about how to live our everyday lives. All these different parts were written with the same purpose, to introduce us to Jesus Christ, whom we first meet in the God of the Old Testament, whom the Jews called Yahweh.
With most books, you would consider who is the author, and possibly publisher. You might want to skim the chapters to get a feel for what the book is about.
That won’t work for the Bible. Nobody sat down thinking “I’m going to write a book about God” and started on page one. At the time the Bible was written there were no publishers. There was no copyright, either, and people were free to copy what had been written earlier. In fact, some parts of it existed before the time of writing and were passed down orally from one generation to the next.
The first part of the Bible consists of documents from ancient Israel. A large part of this consists of ancient laws. Most people who try to read the Bible straight through get to this part and give up, without ever discovering what the Bible is really about, Jesus Christ. This is why I don’t recommend you try to read the Bible from cover to cover to start with.
Most people who try to read the Bible straight through get to this part and give up, without ever discovering what the Bible is really about, Jesus Christ. This is why I don’t recommend you try to read the Bible from cover to cover to start with.
Three ways to get started
Here are my three suggestions for good ways to get started:
1. Begin with an overview of the Bible
Taste and See
- provides an overview of the main Bible story
- consists of an introduction to 12 short sections of the Bible, five from the Old Testament and seven from the New Testament
- identifies key themes found in the Bible
- asks thought-provoking questions to open doors of spiritual discovery
- encourages readers to take the first steps in a spiritual journey.
2. Begin with John’s Gospel
John’s Gospel is a great place to start with because it is about the life of Jesus. Since the Bible is about knowing Jesus – starting with his life is a great first step! John wants to help his readers see how Jesus is God and wrote his entire book “so that you may believe,” as he put it.
3. Find a Bible reading guide
A Bible reading guide is an excellent place to start. One that I highly recommend is theStory. Scripture Union’s reading guides work really hard to make sure readers have a good understanding of the Bible. Bible reading guides are really helpful because they give you a short passage to read each day and provide reflections to help you understand and apply the Bible to your life.
Bible reading guides in general are very helpful because they help you build a habit, take away the guesswork of what to read and teach you how to understand the Bible.
Fun fact: If you start using theStory reading guide when this article is first posted (January 2022) then theStory will be working through the Gospel of John!
Read With Other People
Reading along with other people is also helpful. TheStory includes questions every Sunday that you can think about on your own or discuss with other people. Gather together a small group of people who will travel with you. Meet, perhaps once a week, to discuss these questions. You’re bound to have your own questions too.
Keep track of your questions. If meeting in person with others isn’t practical, exchange ideas over email or social media. If you get stumped, is there a pastor you can ask? Or someone else knowledgeable in your church? I’m prepared to bet that of all things a pastor has to do, being asked questions about the Bible is one of his or her favourites!
And you can always write to us at Scripture Union. We’re here to connect Canadians with Jesus and his story.
Whether you start with an overview, in the Gospel of John or by using a Bible reading guide, it’s always a good time to start reading the Bible.