The Bible is a big book with stories, advice, promises, good news, how-tos, letters, poems—all teaching us how to live now and forever. Where should we start?
By titling this article “Where to Start Reading the Bible,” we don’t want to give the wrong impression. So first, a disclaimer: There’s no wrong place to start reading the Bible. But there is a wrong time: Later. Or never.
The Bible is so valuable—so important—so life-changing—we are thrilled you have decided to read it. We are glad you want to know where to start reading the Bible.
This article will look at four main approaches to where to start reading the Bible:
- From the beginning.
- From the beginning of the New Testament.
- With a Bible reading program.
- With a topical study.
1. From the beginning
The most logical place to start any book is at the beginning. God introduces the main characters, themes and the plot in the first few pages! Many of the most famous Bible stories are in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. These include:
- Adam and Eve and the serpent and the two trees.
- Cain and Abel.
- Noah and the ark.
- Abraham and Isaac.
- Jacob and the stairway to heaven.
- Joseph and his special coat.
- Don’t get lost in the “begots”—the genealogies. Your first time through it is okay to skim through these. It’s good to get more of an overview and to focus more on the stories and the instructions.
- Try to imagine what you would have done if you had faced the situations the Bible characters faced. Though the ancient customs and living conditions were much different, human nature has not changed. Would we have made the right choices and acted the right way?
Resources: The following online articles and blogs give helpful background information.
- “Old Testament.”
- “Genesis.” (You can also read overview articles about other Bible books as you get to them.)
- Daily Bible Verse Blog posts starting June 17, 2013, with Genesis 1:1.
2. From the beginning of the New Testament
What could be more important than studying the life and teachings of our Savior and King Jesus Christ? The four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—begin the New Testament, and together they give us four insightful views of the God who came to the earth as a human being.
- Though all words of the Bible are inspired, we should pay special attention to the words of Jesus Christ. (These are printed in red in many Bibles.)
- Notice all of the quotes from the Old Testament. They demonstrate that the Bible is a continuous, unified whole, even though it was written over a span of 15 centuries by around 40 authors.
- Practice what you are reading. When Christ tells us how to treat enemies, how to pray and what to put first in our lives, we should heed (Matthew 5:43-48; 6:9-13, 33).
Resources: The following online articles give helpful background information.
3. With a Bible reading program
There are many different Bible reading programs, and some of the most popular ones are read-the-Bible-in-a-year programs. These programs are generally designed to provide variety by taking readers to various books in the Old and New Testament every day or week. If you crave variety and enjoy reading several books at the same time in a structured way, this may be for you.
On the other hand, if you have a one-track mind and would find keeping track of your progress in several books challenging, many of these programs may not fit you well. Find a program that covers one book at a time.
- Don’t just read for speed. Finishing the Bible in a year is an admirable goal, but making time to think about what you are reading is important too.
- But don’t feel you have to understand everything the first time through. If you are new to reading the Bible and unfamiliar with its history and customs, recognize that everything may not be totally clear. You can write down your main questions and plan to study them in more detail. This website provides many resources that can help.
- Bible Reading Program. (Many other Bible reading programs can be found with a Web search.)
To find answers to Bible questions:
- Search this site.
- Check the “All Topics” page for related subjects.
- Use the “Ask a Question” form to request a personal answer from our trained and caring ministers.
4. Studying specific topics
You can tailor your Bible study to subjects that are important and interesting to you. This involves using some method for searching subjects in the Bible. Some methods include:
- Search by keywords. This can be done easily with many Bible software programs and online Bible sites like BlueLetterBible.org. You can also use a printed concordance like Strong’s.
- Topical Bibles.
- Topical articles. For example, LifeHopeandTruth.com articles strive to cover many of the key scriptures on the topic of the article.
- Don’t just read the specific verses highlighted in a keyword or concordance search. Also read the surrounding verses for the context, which is very important in gaining understanding.
- Look up related words for a broader perspective on the subject. For example, if you want to see what the Bible says about communication, try related words like: speech, words, tongue, lying, gossip, encouragement, etc.
Wherever you decide to begin reading the Bible, we encourage you to start now to gain the wonderful benefits of reading the mind of God.
For more information, see the other articles in this section on “The Practical and Priceless Benefits of Bible Study,” which includes everything from “Why Study the Bible?” to “What Is the Most Accurate Bible Translation?”