You’ve been curious, and now you have a Bible. But where should you start reading? ⇔
©Michael Krigline, Sep 2023 ~ krigline.com ⇔
Note: Every year, dozens of international students ask for a Bible (in their language or in English). I wrote this advice to help them “get started” in this remarkable book—the best-selling book in world history!
Now that I have a Bible, where should I start reading?
Simple answer: “Luke” (in the “New Testament”; see the “Table of Contents”)
Short answer: (with three choices)
- “Luke” (3rd “book” in the “New Testament”) was a highly-educated physician, who carefully researched Jesus’ life and presents factual information about his life.
- If you prefer, “Genesis” tells how God created the world, that people rebelled, and then how God chose Abraham’s family through which to set things right by (eventually) sending Jesus to bring reconciliation.
- Or choose “Psalms” (#23): short devotional poetry, expressing every human emotion.
- Many recommend that beginners read one “chapter” (the big numbers) per day.
Long answer: (with some background information)
“The Bible” is really 66 “books” in two volumes, printed together as one big book. Volume 1 is the “Old Testament”; 39 books written before Jesus was born. Volume 2 is the “New Testament”; 27 books that center on Jesus. Each volume starts with “history” accounts. The middle of the Old Testament is poetry, followed by letters from prophets. In the New Testament, there are five history books, followed by letters from early Christian leaders. Therefore, the Bible isn’t like a novel where you need to start at the beginning; where you start reading depends on what interests you. If you have never read the Bible before, and don’t know much about its characters or their teachings, I recommend starting with Luke, Genesis or the Psalms (explained below).
So, where do I start? (3 suggestions)
“Luke” (then “Acts”). Christians say that the Bible is about Jesus, cover to cover, so you should start by reading about Jesus’ life. “Luke” (3rd “book” in the “New Testament”; see the “Table of Contents”) is the only writer in the Bible who was not Jewish; he was a highly-educated physician, who carefully researched Jesus’ life and presents factual information in two “books”: “Luke” is part-1 and “Acts” is part-2 (the latter picks up the story after Jesus was killed and rose from the dead).
“Genesis.” If you prefer, start with the “beginning” story in “Genesis.” It tells how God created the world, how people rebelled against God, and how God chose one family (Abraham’s family) through which to bless all people by teaching them His law, and (eventually) sending Jesus (one of Abraham’s descendants) to pay the price of our sin/shame (on the cross) and to offer us eternal reconciliation.
“Psalms”. If you really like poetry, you might start with the “Psalms”; in these short devotional poems you’ll find every human emotion: from praise, to anger at God; from crying in pain to a promise of eternal peace. Psalm #23 has brought comfort to Christians and Jews for millennia.
Whatever book you choose first, start by silently asking God to speak to you through the pages. Many recommend that each day you read just one “chapter” (the big numbers; the little numbers are “verses”), or 10-15 minutes. Beginners tend to be overwhelmed if they try to read a “whole book” at one time (save that pleasure for your second reading!).
Longer online answer: (more choices and advice, especially for new Christians)
How to Read the Bible (By Denise Kohlmeyer)
1. Start with a Gospel, an epistle, or Genesis
The Gospels: For any first-timer, one of the Gospels (which means “good news”): Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are the best place to start because they introduce you to the incarnate God, Jesus Christ. These Gospels narrates his earthly ministry, his death, his burial, and his resurrection. But which one should you read?
For a quick read, go with Mark. This 16-chapter Gospel is fast-paced and fact-based concerning the most significant events in Jesus’s life. While not as detailed as the other three Gospels, Mark will give you a quick overview of the life and work of Jesus.
If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the life and work of Jesus, read the Gospel of John. This Gospel was written by John, who undeniably presents Jesus as the true Messiah, the Savior of mankind, and the Author of our salvation.
The Epistles: You may also consider starting with an epistle like Ephesians or Colossians. Paul, an Apostle, wrote most of these letters. He writes them to specific audiences throughout the Mediterranean world. Paul wrote his epistles to encourage, warn, and exhort new believers in the Christian faith. They give practical instructions on how a Christ-follower should live and conduct themselves.
Genesis: If you’d like to start at the beginning, then read Genesis. As its name implies, it tells about the beginning of time and history. In the first three chapters alone, you will be introduced to God as Sovereign Creator of the world and humankind. Those chapters also explain how sin entered the world, how it marred mankind and separated us from God, and how God graciously put in place the way of redemption. Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the amazing story.
2. Start with a plan
Pick a time: Pick a time of day when you would like to spend time reading the Bible. It could be early morning, before your spouse or kids get up when the house is yours and all is quiet. It could be during your lunch break at work. Or even at night before you go to bed. Try to read every day to get into the discipline of regularly feasting on God’s Word.
Pick a place: Find a comfortable spot (but not too comfortable!) in which to read: a favorite armchair, the couch, your desk, the kitchen table. If you often read in the same place at the same time, you will find this will become your favorite (and most sacred) space.
Pick some tools: Set up your chosen place so you have everything you may want at-hand: a pen, highlighters, your journal, and your coffee (of course). But remember: you do not need anything but an open Bible.
3. Start slow
Start by reading small portions of the Bible at first: a long passage or one chapter a day. Read for about 10-15 minutes. Don’t overwhelm yourself by reading an entire book in one sitting (at least not just yet). Savor each word, each phrase. Take time to think about what you read. Meditate on it. Even write about it. Journaling is a wonderful way to express your thoughts, feelings, prayers, and praises.
And don’t forget to find the application in what you read: whether it is a promise to claim, a warning to heed, a command to follow. Spirit-led application is what transforms your sinfulness to one of sanctification, and ultimately conforms you into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28).
4. Start with prayer
Invite the Holy Spirit into your sacred time when you read the Bible. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord, the Holy Spirit is now your “helper” (John 14:26); one of his ministries is to teach you “all things” (John 14:26) and to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). You would be wise to seek out his help when it comes to understanding and interpreting the Bible.
5. More Than A Good Book
The Bible is more than just a good book, it is the Book of Life, which leads to life in Jesus Christ. It enables us to know God in all his majesty and glory, to know ourselves in all our sinfulness and brokenness, and the way of redemption and restoration.
How will you, today, read the Bible and begin to mine its riches, finding God and Jesus, redemption and restoration, for your weary, sin-sick soul?
Source: https://openthebible.org/article/want-read-the-bible/ (visited Sep 2023). Denise Kohlmeyer is a writer and Bible teacher, who lives in the Chicago area with her family.
For more information about Christianity, check out https://peacewithgod.net/
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