What You Should Know Before Reading The Bible
Have you ever sat down to read the Bible, only to discover that you didn’t know where to start and weren’t sure what you were reading? If so, you aren’t alone! We’ve discovered, through personal experience and the experience of others, that it helps to know some fundamental information before reading the Bible. That’s why we’re excited to share a few fun facts and practical tips that will make your Bible reading experience both easier and more enjoyable!
What Is Your Approach To Reading The Bible?
Which of the following scenarios best describes your current approach to reading the Bible?
- An aspiring reader who wants to learn more about the Bible but feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start?
- A tentative reader who finds the idea of the Bible fascinating but has trouble understanding it on your own?
- A random reader who casually flips through the Bible, waiting for the perfect passage to catch your eye?
- A disciplined reader who tries to read the Bible from cover to cover but often gets stuck in the middle?
- An enthusiastic reader who eagerly dives into Scripture to see what it says about God and faith but has difficulty applying biblical principles to your life?
Here’s the good news. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey or what type of Bible reader you are, you can enhance your overall reading experience by incorporating the things you should know before reading the Bible into your Bible reading routine.
We All Need A Helping Hand When We Read The Bible
Did you know that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time? Year after year, people turn to the Bible for spiritual wisdom and guidance. We long to hear the timeless, enduring, and transformative words of God.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote:
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8 NKJV
History amply attests to the truth of this prophecy!
The Bible contains many types of inspirational content. Some parts of the Bible contain stories that are easy enough for a child to understand. Other sections deal with complex theological issues that challenge even the most brilliant adult minds. That’s why we need to invite mentors and teachers alongside us to guide us. This is especially important when we are reading the Bible for the very first time.
Consider the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40:
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Acts 8:30-31 NKJV
Finding a trustworthy mentor or teacher who can guide us through Scripture is crucial to our spiritual growth.
What else do we need to know before reading the Bible? In the following sections, we’ll explore how the Bible is structured, why the Bible sometimes seems so hard to understand, and what books of the Bible we should read when we’re not sure where to start!
How Is The Bible Structured?
Most of us think of the Bible as one big book. Would it surprise you to learn that the Bible actually contains 66 different books?
Here’s another fun fact. The Bible was written over a 1500-year span by more than 40 men living on three different continents! The only thing that these men had in common was that they were all inspired by God.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 - NKJV
If you have a physical Bible nearby,, turn to the beginning of the Bible and look at the Table of Contents. Notice that the Bible contains two major divisions:
- The Old Testament contains 39 books written before Jesus was born.
- The New Testament contains 27 books written after Jesus was born.
Together, the 66 books of the Bible collectively tell the story of God, His great love for us and His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ in a miraculously united way!
Why Does The Bible Sometimes Seem So Hard To Understand?
One reason the Bible may seem difficult to understand is that we often approach it as if it were one book, written by one author in one literary style. To properly understand the Bible, however, we need to be aware that each portion of the Bible was written by a different individual in a specific genre.
For instance, Old Testament leaders like Moses and Joshua wrote about the historical events of the day while prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah focused on future events. Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ while the Apostle Paul penned pragmatic letters to the early churches.
Different books of the Bible also contain a variety of literary styles including poetry and prose, narrative and psalms, proverbs and parables.
Think of it this way. When you pick up a newspaper, you expect to encounter a variety of content inside. Your brain automatically switches gears as you go from page to page reading news articles, op-ed pieces and cartoons. Imagine how confusing it would be to read a newspaper if you were not aware of its structure and you read every piece in the same way!
Reading the Bible is a lot like that. Without an advance awareness of the different types of content it contains, it can be challenging to read and understand. Once you know what’s inside, however, you can read things the way they should be read. Suddenly, everything makes a lot more sense!
Bibles also come in a variety of different translations. Some Bible translations are easier to read than others. If the vocabulary in your Bible seems outdated or difficult to understand, perhaps you need a new Bible. Read our article Which Bible Translation Is Best For Me? for more information about this topic.
What Book Of The Bible Should I Read First?
Often the biggest challenge we face when we decide to read the Bible is determining where to begin! To help you move past that obstacle, here are a few Bible reading suggestions for you:
- Do you want to learn more about Jesus? Read the Gospels! Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – the first four books in the New Testament – provide eye-witness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first three gospels – the synoptic gospels – contain similar accounts of Jesus’ life while the Gospel of John portrays Jesus’s life in a unique way. For this reason, many people recommend the Gospel of John as their top choice for new readers.
- Are you going through a difficult time, grappling with your emotions or struggling to pray? Go to the Old Testament and begin reading the Book of Psalms! There you’ll find 150 Psalms that contain the praises and cries of the authors during both the good and bad times in their lives. No matter what type of circumstance you are going through, you’re sure to find a Psalm that resonates with you. Psalm 23, Psalm 91 and Psalm 119 are great places to start.
- Need practical advice you can immediately apply to your life? Read a New Testament epistle! We recommend the Book of James because it is short, easy-to-read and understand. Fun fact: Did you know that James is the half-brother of Jesus?
We’ve shared some foundational information about what you should know before reading the Bible in this article. We addressed how teachers and mentors can facilitate your growth. We also examined how the Bible is structured, and provided tips to help you start reading. This information should help you to feel more comfortable as you explore the Bible.
What’s Your Next Step?
Now that you’ve learned a few fundamentals about the Bible, what’s your next step? Which book of the Bible do you plan on reading? Please share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!