As Christians, we believe in and base our faith on the Bible—the Word of God. But how many of us have actually read the whole Bible?

We may know several verses we’ve memorized over the years and many of the basic Bible stories from Sunday school (Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses, David, and Goliath). However, a lot of people, including many Christians, have never actually read through the entire Bible.

The reasons tend to vary from not knowing where to start and lack of understanding to not having the interest or time to read the bible.  The questions I hear the most on this topic are:

  • How do I start reading the Bible as a beginner?
  • Where is the best place to start reading the Bible?
  • Do I have to read the whole Bible?
  • What is a fun way to read the Bible?
  • Is there a bible reading plan or chart available?

If any of this describes you or you find yourself asking these questions, then it’s time to make it a priority to learn how to begin reading the Bible. The good news is that reading the entire Bible is nowhere near as complicated as we make it out to be. Anyone can do it, and with a little guidance, it can be a simple and fun process.

woman reading the bible

Why Should Christians Read the Whole Bible?

The Bible is the very Word of God.  It is the book on which our Christian faith is built, how we get to know and grow closer to God, and the guide for our Christian journey:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’  

Matthew 4:4 NIV

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

I don’t know about you, but if I put my faith in something to the point where I decide to live my entire life by its standards, then at some point, I’m going to want to read the book on which it is all based—at least once.

How will we learn about the God we serve, our spiritual heritage, or what it even means to be a Christian if we don’t read the book on which our Christianity is based?

Too often, I believe we get scared or start feeling overwhelmed, thinking OMG, I have to read and study this whole book and learn all the ins and outs of Christianity.  To some degree, yes – but, getting started is way easier than you think!

Reading the Bible vs. Studying the Bible

Generally speaking, there are five Bible learning methods:  reading, meditation/devotions, memorization, studying, and fellowship.  For the purposes of this post, I will address reading the bible vs. studying the bible.

Reading is the simplest and most basic method. It is for informational and knowledge purposes. In other words, you read the Bible to simply learn its content.

Studying, by definition, is the devotion of time and attention to a subject’s detailed investigation and analysis.  Studying the bible involves taking a deeper look into the Word of God.

The Bible does teach that ALL Christians should BOTH read and study God’s Word:

  • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15
  • Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11

However, the best place to start, for any Christian, is by simply reading the bible.

What is the Bible All About?

The Bible is a collection of books divided into the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books).  The English word testament means covenant (an agreement, contract, or promise).

The Old Testament describes life under God’s old covenant with his chosen people, the Israelites, while the New Testament describes life under our new covenant. 

The Old and New Testaments tell the amazing story of mankind’s creation, our struggle with sin, and God’s ultimate plan for human redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible contains adventure, comedy, excitement, and page-turning drama! After all, it is the best-selling book of all time! 

You truly can learn to fall in love with God’s Word, once you know and understand what you’re reading, why it matters, and how it fits into the greater picture of mankind.

The Main Literary Genres of the Bible

Although physically, the sixty-six books of the bible were written by a variety of different authors (including kings, prophets, priests, leaders, apostles, and other followers of God), each word of the original manuscripts was ultimately inspired by God Himself.  

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  

2 Timothy 3:16

In some cases, as with Moses and the law (Exodus 34:27), God dictated while he transcribed.  In other cases, God gave each author a message to share, which that individual wrote with their own words, personality, writing style, perspective, and experience shining through.

Altogether, the Bible has five main literary genres:

  1.  Narrative/History – tells us what happened.  These writings are pretty straightforward compilations of historical accounts that tell us what God’s people in the past did, and how they lived in relation to God.
  2.  Law – lists God’s rules and expectations.  These writings give a detailed account of the Law that God gave His chosen people, the Israelites (a mix of civil, ceremonial, and moral laws), that they would have needed to run their nation, worship God in His temple, and maintain a right relationship with God.
  3.  Poetry and Wisdom – help us worship God, understand the human condition, and provide wisdom for right living. These writings include a beautiful collection of songs and poems and a wealth of wise advice about right living, the meaning of life, and what truly matters.  
  4.  Prophecy – warns of events to come.  These writings tell us about events that will happen (some of which have already happened since they were written, and some that have yet to occur).  These passages are full of symbolism, imagery, and double meaning.
  5.  Epistles/Letters—instructional letters to individuals and churches. These writings were meant to instruct first-century Christians on how to live and are still applicable and used to guide and instruct Christians in the faith today.

Now that we have an overview of the Bible, let’s explore the specifics of how to begin reading it in its entirety. 

How to Begin Reading the Bible

Although you may have come across several blog posts or articles about the ‘best way to read the bible’ or ‘the best bible reading plan’, keep in mind, that there is no best way to read the bible.  What works for you may not work for others.  People (myself included) can only make suggestions or recommendations.

The problem is that many people get stuck reviewing all the thousands of recommendations but never actually start reading. But to get started immediately, you can follow five simple steps.

1. Choose Your Bible

The first step is to choose your Bible. However, before doing so, it’s important to know that there are several translations, sizes, and different styles of Bibles to choose from. 

Bible Translations

According to the American Bible Society, there are approximately 900 different translations of the Bible in English alone!  These different versions have been developed by biblical scholars over the years to enhance the text further and make it easier to understand. 

There are 3 main types of bible versions:

  • Word for Word (literal translations) – These versions most accurately follow the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts and attempt to keep the exact words and phrases of the original. The King James Version (KJV) of the bible, is the most popular and widely used version of the bible in the world today.  It is a word-for-word translation, as well as, the New King James (NKJV), and New American Standard Version (NAS).
  • Meaning to Meaning Translation—These are dynamic equivalent translations that attempt to maintain consistency in terms of literal history and facts but update the writing style and grammar to match modern English, making the Bible easier to understand. Examples of this type of version include the New International Version (NIV), the Good News Bible (GNT), and the New Living Translation (NLT).
  • Paraphrased Translations—As the name dictates, these versions do not attempt to be constrained by the original words or language but rather seek to make them as simple to read as possible in modern English. Examples include The Living Bible (TLB) and The Message (MSG).

For reading through the bible, I personally recommend a meaning-to-meaning translation, as they are easy to read and understand and prioritize preserving the author’s intended meaning.

Bible Sizes

Once you select which bible translation works for you, it’s time to choose what size bible you want to use for your reading.

The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I prefer large or small print?
  • Do I want a standard-size bible, a large bible, or a pocket-size bible?
  • Do I prefer an electronic bible that I can read on my phone/tablet (the YouVersion Bible App is perfect for this)
  • Do I prefer to listen to the Bible? (I recommend the Daily Audio Bible for this)

Bible Types/Styles

After you decide what translation and size is best for you, you will want to choose the type or style that will be most beneficial to you for reading through the Bible:

  • Basic Bible – has no footnotes or “extras”; a basic bible is pure text only.
  • Devotional Bible – has extra notes, commentaries, and some even include note-taking sections
  • Study/Reference Bible: This Bible includes study notes, bonus materials, and references (charts, maps, pictures, historical facts, timelines, etc.) that will help you dive deeper into the text.
  • Parallel Bible – This style shows multiple Bible versions side by side for easy comparison. It is great if you want to read through the Bible in more than one version at a time.  
  • Chronological Bible – is arranged chronologically, in the order in which the events actually occurred. This style is great if you want to better understand the flow of events in the Bible as you read through it.  

Be sure to select your Bible translation, size, and style depending on how you intend to complete your Bible reading. In other words, if you plan to read through for familiarity’s sake (no deep dive or note-taking), I recommend a basic or chronological Bible.

A devotional or parallel Bible may be better if you want the added commentary, notes, and extras to enhance your understanding as you read. However, a study Bible would be the best choice if you want to combine reading with studying.

2. Choose Your Bible Reading Order

You may be asking yourself, in what order should I read the bible?  Let me be the first to tell you, that you absolutely DO NOT have to go in order.

There are 3 options:

  • cover to cover – read from Genesis to Revelation
  • chronological order – using a chronological bible to read the events in the order they actually occurred 
  • random order – no specific order; you can pick a starting point and jump around from book to book (i.e. based on the 5 different genres of writings mentioned earlier)

If you are a new Christian and new to reading the Bible in general, I recommend the random order.  A great place to start is with the gospel of John, then Psalms and Proverbs, followed by the Book of Acts, and then Genesis through Deuteronomy. Then, you can select from there based on the genres. 

If you have been a Christian for a while and are familiar with scripture but may have only read through the Bible once a long time ago, then I would recommend reading it in chronological order. The first time I read a chronological Bible, it opened my eyes in so many ways and provided much more insight into the overall story of Scripture.

If you have read through the Bible before (or multiple times), I recommend the cover-to-cover option (or chronological if you’ve never read it) because the Bible cannot be exhausted. It is the only book you can read over and over again and have God show and teach you something new every single time!

3. Choose Your Bible Reading Time Frame

Now it’s time to select the time frame in which you want to complete reading the bible.   Depending on your schedule, you can choose one of the two plans below:

  • One Year Bible Reading Plan – requires you to read 3 chapters a day Monday through Saturday, and 5 chapters each Sunday
  • Two-Year Bible Reading Plan – requires you to read two chapters a day Sunday through Saturday

NOTE:  You can certainly read through the Bible over a longer time span. However, remember that the goal here is to read it in its entirety, not study the entire Bible within 1-2 years. Studying the Bible is a lifelong process. Reading the entire Bible is something that you can do multiple times over the course of your life, and it will greatly accommodate your bible study time as you become more and more familiar with its content.

4. Pray For Your Understanding and Desire to Read the Bible

Before you get started it’s important that you pray for God to give you understanding and a desire to read His Word (and continue to pray this throughout your bible reading journey).

  • Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. Psalm 119:73
  • He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:  Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45
  • Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:36-37

Although much of what you read may not make sense to you the first time around (or the second, third, or sixth), it’s okay.  The goal is to embrace the Bible as the Word of God so that you can learn about your Christian heritage, know God more, and learn to live in obedience to Him.  

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us a proper understanding of God’s Word. And I promise you, the more time you spend reading the Bible, the more God will begin to open up your understanding and give you the desire to read, learn, and study it. 

5. Start Your Simple Bible Reading Plan

Once you choose your Bible, your reading order, and your timeframe, you can simply get started!  

Start by declaring and committing to your Bible reading goal. Make a commitment to yourself and God that you are going to read through the Bible in one year (or two years).  Say it out loud, mark the calendar so you know your start date, and tell at least one other person for accountability purposes.

Utilize a Bible Reading Chart.  This will help you track your progress along the way.  Even if you fall off track, or get behind, you can at least pick up where you left off.  

Don’t have one?  No problem, here is a FREE download just for you (no sign-up required), which includes a list of the 5 genres and the books of the bible that fall under each!

Bible reading chart

Get started today. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or what month it is. Just start reading and tracking your progress!

NOTE: It’s okay to bounce between Bible versions, sizes, and types throughout your reading of the Bible. It really doesn’t matter as long as you don’t quit reading.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Demetra is a busy, self-employed, single mom who loves Jesus and is a fanatic about prioritizing her time with God!  She created In the Mirror of God to help other Christian women learn how regularly looking into our spiritual mirror (the Bible) equips us to cultivate a deeper relationship with God, think biblically about everything, conquer the challenges of everyday life, and truly enjoy life to the fullest, the way God intended.  Go here to learn more about her story, or visit her contact page to send a quick message.

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The 5 Best Steps to Get Started Reading the Bible

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