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Trying to figure out how to read the bible can be overwhelming. It’s a big book and parts of it can be…boring. That’s right, I said it. All of it is important, to be sure, but parts of it can be hard to get into. Chances are, if the bible is new to you, you probably opened it up, started reading in Genesis, made to Exodus, felt okay but potentially a little confused, moved on to Leviticus and then you were out. I think just about every one of us has a similar story about of first encounter with the bible.
A lot of people want to read the bible from front to back first, like a regular book, and that’s cool. But keep this in mind, the bible is actually a library. So while it’s totally fine to read it from front to back, that’s not necessarily how it is meant to be read. The main thing you should remember is that the bible is the most important book on earth. If you don’t believe me, read this. Or better yet, read the bible, it will prove itself. Now, let’s get started.
Which Bible Translation Should I Read?
I won’t pretend to know what the best translation of the bible is. I’m sure every version was translated with good intentions for our understanding to be easier and grow deeper. The first version of the bible that I ever read was the King James Version. I was a kid and I was confused. I still sometimes get confused when I refer to the KJV. But the funny thing is, sometimes I go to it for clarity now.
The bible I use now is the Christian Standard Bible. Because I have learned that sometimes translations can do more to muddy the water than to clear it up (taking it too far from it’s original meaning at times – language is a tough thing), I have gotten in the habit of comparing different translations each time I read. This has helped me to go deeper into my bible studies and learn far more than I ever did before. So just as a learning exercise to get you started before diving into a bible plan or anything like that, try pulling a verse and looking at it in several different translations so you can see the differences. I like to use this Compare Translations tool sometimes.
Before you start thinking that this sounds like way too much trouble, let me explain. You can’t and don’t need to read the bible in five different translations every day. You also don’t need to learn Hebrew and bypass the translations all together. But there will be some verses that stand out to you that you want to understand more. Checking out different translations is a way I dig a little deeper sometimes. Another way I do that is with a concordance.
What is a Bible Concordance and Why Should I Use it?
I was told that I didn’t need a concordance when I first heard about one. It was as a young adult when I was first trying to learn how to read and study the bible. To be honest, I was fine with that. I didn’t even ask what it was, I just knew I didn’t want anything else to study. But years later, my husband asked me to find a good one for him online. So I ordered this one and when it came I was like, nope.
First of all, it’s a giant book. Second, it’s just an enormous index of every word in the bible. Like, every word. Why would you need that? Most bibles have a small index in the back anyway, but I’ve actually ended up finding the concordance to be really useful. If you remember just one word from a verse you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find it in the concordance. Also, it’s a great way to find every place in the bible that a specific word is mentioned so you can see how that word or topic is discussed in other books.
The good news is, unless you’re just a book nerd like me and my hubby, you don’t have to buy that giant book. You can get it in app form for free. I actually use both. I feel like a concordance would have been really helpful to me in the beginning of my bible journey when I felt super duper lost. Hopefully it will help you dig a little deeper too.
Where Should I Start Reading?
Again, the bible is a library. It’s made up of 66 books. On top of that, there are also different styles of writing, or literary styles, in the bible. That means not all books can be read the same way. It sounds so complicated but thankfully there are some amazing human beings out there, like those behind thebibleproject.com, who want to help us out. Check out this series of extremely interesting and visually stimulating (really super cool) videos on How to Read the Bible.
They will walk you through the narrative of the bible so you can get a good overview understanding of the plot. If you use these videos, be sure you’re also actually reading your bible. If you’re not into videos, I suggest using a good bible reading plan for new Christians. Check out the YouVersion Bible app for a ton of free bible reading plans. Starting with a beginner plan will give you an understanding of the overall message.
I know it might sound weird. How often do you get the plot of the story first and then go back and read the rest? But trust me when I say that this will greatly reduce that feeling of overwhelm when you dive into the rest of the bible. So now the only question is where to find reading plans.
A Warning About Devotionals, Reading Plans, Blogs, Books and Other Resources
There are so many awesome resources out there to help us study our bibles and maximize our time with God. But as you’re learning how to study the bible, remember that there is no substitution for digging directly into the bible and hearing from God. There have been plenty of times when I got caught up in checking off days on my devotional app and didn’t actually spend any time with God. It’s easy for it to become a task on your to-do list and something you just skim over. You’ll get off track, we all do. Just try to be intentional with your alone time with God every day.
Also keep in mind that it can be easy to get comfortable with anything labeled Jesus, God, or Christian and a little lax in discerning what you’re reading or hearing. ANY words that are written or said outside of the bible, including mine, should be tested against God’s written word. Always keep in mind the context in which words are used in the bible. It’s so easy for us to twist them into something they don’t really mean or apply to in our lives. I have done it myself and I have believed it when other people have done it. The only way to recognize it is to test everything you see and hear against what scripture actually says.
Like I said, the bible is the most important book in the world. You’ll likely be reading it for the rest of your life so don’t rush. Take your time and this opportunity to really get to know the God who breathed life into the bible. Soon your bible will become and extension of yourself. Something you won’t want to be without.