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 that we've memorized over the years, and a lot of the basic bible stories from Sunday school (Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses, David and Goliath). However, many of us 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 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?
- 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 its time to make it a priority to learn how to begin reading the bible. The good news is that reading the entire bible is no where near as complicated as we make it out to be. Anyone can do it, and with a little guidance, it can actually be a simple and fun process.
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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. (Psalms 119:105)
I don't know about you, but if I put my faith and trust 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 our Christianity is based on?
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 methods of learning the bible: 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 know what it's content is.
Studying by definition is the devotion of time and attention to the detailed investigation and analysis of a subject. 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?
I'm sure you are already aware that the Bible is divided into two parts: 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 tells about what life was like under the old covenant that God had with his chosen people, the Israelites. While the New Testament describes life under the new covenant that we have today. You can also look at the Old Testament as "before Jesus" and the New Testament as "from Jesus on".
Together the Old and New Testament tell the amazing story of the creation of mankind, our struggle with sin, and God's ultimate plan for human redemption. The Bible is adventurous, full of comedy, excitement, and page-turning drama! 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 authors (including kings, prophets, priests, leaders, apostles, and other followers of God), each word of the original manuscripts were 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 their own 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:
- Narrative/History - tells us what happened. These writings are pretty straightforward compilations of stories that tell us what God's people in the past did, and how they lived in relation to God.
- 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 country, to worship God in His temple, and to maintain a right relationship with God.
- Poetry and Wisdom - helps us worship God, understand the human condition, and provides wisdom for right living. In these writings we find a beautiful collection of songs and poems, and a wealth of wise advice about right living, the meaning of life, and what truly matters.
- 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.
- Epistles/Letters - instructional letters to individuals and churches. These writings were meant to instruct the first-century Christians on how to live, and are used to guide and instruct Christians in the faith today.
Now that we have an overview of what the Bible is all about. Let's dive into the specifics of how to begin reading the bible 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, many people get stuck on reviewing all the thousands of recommendations, but never actually get started reading. That's where this post comes in. Regardless of what suggestion you follow, there are 4 simple steps to get started right away.
Choose Your Bible
The first step is to choose your bible. However, before doing so, it's important to know that there are several versions, sizes and styles of bibles to select from.
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 further enhance the text 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 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 - These are dynamic equivalent translations which attempt to keep a constant in regards to the literal history and facts, but updates the writing style and grammar to equate to modern English, making the bible easier to understand. Examples of this type version include: the New International Version (NIV), the Good News Bible (GNT), and the New Living Translation (NLT).
- Paraphrased Versions - As the name dictates, these versions do not attempt to be constrained by the original words or language, but rather seek to make it as simple to read as possible into the modern English language. 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.
Once you select which bible version works for you, its 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)
After you decide what version 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, some even include note taking sections
- Study/Reference bible - includes study notes, bonus materials, and references that will help you dive deeper into the text (charts, maps, pictures, historical facts, timelines, etc.)
- Parallel bible - shows multiple bible versions side by side for easy comparison. This style is great if you want to read through the bible in more than one version at a time.
- Chronological bible - arranged in the order of the events in which they actually occurred. This style is great if you want to be able understand the flow of events in the bible better as you read through it.
Be sure to select your bible version, size, and style dependent upon how you intend to complete your bible reading. In other words, if you are planning to read through for familiarity sake (no deep dive or note taking) I would recommend a basic or chronological bible.
If you want the added commentary, notes, and extras to enhance your understanding as you are reading through, then a devotional or parallel bible may be better.
However, if you want to pair your reading with studying, then a study/reference bible would be the best choice.
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 new to reading the bible in general, I recommend the random order. One suggestion is to start with John, then Psalms and Proverbs. Followed by the book of Acts, and then Genesis - 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 definitely provided much more insight on the bible as a whole.
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!
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 2 chapters a day Sunday through Saturday
NOTE: You can certainly read through the bible over a longer time span. However, remember the goal here is simply to read it in it's 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 will greatly accommodate your study time as you become more and more familiar with it's content.
Start Your Simple Bible Reading Plan
Once you choose your bible, your reading order, and your timeframe, all that is left is for you to simply get started!
Start by declaring and committing to your bible reading goal. Make a commitment to yourself, and to 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 what your start date is, 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!
Get started today. It doesn't matter what day of the week it is, or what month we're in. 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.
Pray For Understanding and a Desire to Read the Bible
Lastly, but certainly not the least, it's important that you pray for God to give you understanding, and a desire to read His Word, 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, a lot of it may not even 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 we can learn about our Christian heritage, know God more, and learn to live in obedience to Him.
I promise you, the more time you spend reading the bible, the more God will begin to not only open up your understanding, but He will give you a desire to read, learn, and study the bible more and more. Plus, there are so many more benefits that come along with learning the Word of God that you won't want to miss out on!
Be sure to read:
- 10 Amazing Benefits of Reading the Bible Regularly
- What is the Importance of the Word of God for Today's Christian?
- 30 Bible Verses About Spending Time With God
Encourage someone else today by sharing: