How to Read the Bible

What if I’m new to reading the Bible?

If you are just getting started with Bible reading, do not try to go cover to cover.  That would be great to do at some point, but generally start in the New Testament.  The Old Testament was pointing to the new with limited knowledge.  It will be much easier to read what everyone was pointing to, and then go back to figure out how they pointed to it. 

Where to Start

Reading a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) is best to get the face and personality of the Christian faith.  It tells the stories and teaching of Jesus himself. 

Reading Romans is best for doing a thorough investigation of the Christian faith.  It explains the spiritual impact of Jesus life and death in very intellectual terms.

Poetic Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) is the best place to find Biblical inspiration for everyday life.

 How to Read

Ask three basic questions as you read the Bible 

  1. What is The BIG IDEA?  In other words, what was this saying to the original readers?
  2. What does this mean for us?
  3. What am I going to do about it?
Where to go Next

After reading a few of the books that are ideal starting points, move along to read the whole New Testament (Matthew-Revelation).  Don’t hesitate to go back a read a book again – it’s better to learn a lot than read a lot. 

Try setting a daily reading goal to maximize your progress.  Most people aim at a chapter a day, or 20 minutes for daily prayer and reading.  As in many areas of life, frequency produces greater results than duration. 

What if I’ve been reading the Bible for a while?

All of the above applies if you have been reading your Bible for years, however, at some point you should try to read through the whole Bible.  Also, for the sake of mixing up the routine, you could try a mix of in-depth studies and overview readings.

Overview Readings

Reading a whole lot really fast helps you gather the big picture of what God is saying through the Bible.  No matter what speed you put the cruise control on, a number of “Bible in a Year Plans” could help you map out your game plan.  Review a couple of options before making your selection.  Adding some sort of variation to the cover-to-cover approach will be more engaging over the long haul.

Chronological– A guide to reading Biblical events in the order they occurred.
Straight Through – How to go cover to cover in a year.
Genre Mix – Read a different genre of Scripture for each day of the week.
Old & New Plan – Read a portion of the Old and New Testament each day.
Topics – A reading guide that clusters chapters that go together.
Highlights – A guide to the key chapters of each Bible Book.

In-Depth Studies

Reading small portions very slow will help you dig out everything God has for you in a given passage.   Read portions of scripture repetitively, consult commentaries with questions, and then summarize your conclusions.  For more guidance, see How to Study the Bible.