As a Christian, the most important thing you can do, is read the Bible. The Bible is God’s heart for us in written form, so the more we read it, the more we get to know Him.
However, it can be very daunting if you’re just starting out. It’s such a big book, you may not know where to begin!
Never fear! That’s what this blog post is for! Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the last few years, that have helped me.
I. Get a good translation. One that you can understand. My favourite translation right now is The Passion Translation (TPT). It’s such a beautiful poetic translation that I enjoy reading so much. The entire bible isn’t translated into this version yet, but you can get the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs all together in one book right now, as well as a few other books of the Bible done by themselves in separate books.
Another translation I really like is New International Version (NIV). Biblical scholars believe that the NIV is the closest to the original Hebrew/Greek, but also written in a way that English readers will understand the best. It’s sort of like the best of both worlds.
A good translation for new Christians is the New Living Translation. It’s easy to read and understand. And many New Believers Bibles have sections that explain different aspects of Christianity, such as the Holy Spirit, water baptism, fruits of the Spirit, etc. If you’re new to getting into the Word, the NLT is a great translation to start with.
Also, get a Bible with a commentary. Commentaries explain things better, usually using a footnote with extra notes at the bottom of the page. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, and while many things are the same as today, many things are also different. For example, one of my favourite stories is in John 13, when Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. It wouldn’t mean much to us today, but it was a very powerful display of humility and servitude, which the footnote/commentary in The Passion Translation explains really well. So commentaries can definitely give us a better understanding of what’s happening. They also help bridge the gap in our language barriers. The Greek (what the New Testament was written in) has four different words for different types of love. The English has only one to explain all of them. Commentaries usually explain which type of love they might be referring to.
2. Don’t start at the beginning! The first two books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus, are a lot of really great stories, and give very detailed history of the first Jewish people, so you could read them if you’d like. But the next few books after that are lists of all their old laws and traditions. Not that they’re not important, but for just starting out, they’re harder to follow.
In my opinion, the best place to start is in the Gospels. Those are the first four books of the New Testament. They mainly focus on the last three years of Jesus’ life and ministry, told by four different view-points. Matthew is the first one and was primarily written for a Jewish audience, hence why the first 17 verses are the genealogy of Jesus all the way from Abraham, the Jewish Father. Mark is next, and is one of my favourites. It’s full of exciting story-telling, using words like, “immediately,” and “astonished.” It is said that the Apostle Peter dictated it to Mark, which would explain the dramatic detail. As you read about Peter in the Gospels, you’ll see what I mean. I relate to Peter in so many ways! Luke was written by Dr. Luke, as part one of a letter, with the book of Acts being part two. When you do read Luke, skip John for a minute and go right into Acts; makes it flow better and more fun to read. The book of John is absolutely beautiful. John was known as the Apostle of love, and as you read his gospel, you’ll see why. One thing I especially love about John is that he really shows how beautifully and respectfully Jesus interacted with women.
Once you’ve read the Gospels and the book of Acts, pick any of the New Testament books and dive in! They’re all awesome! Although, maybe wait to read Revelation until you’ve read a few other books first. Revelation has a ton of imagery and metaphoric illustrations that can be difficult to wrap your mind around when you’re just starting out. Biblical scholars have been debating the book of Revelation for 2000 years, so don’t be discouraged if it’s a little confusing.
3. Read with an open mind. A lot of people will form a theological opinion and then find scripture verses to back it up. This can and does create a lot of unnecessary conflict because scripture can back a number of different opinions on any given topic. This is because, for example, all the different churches the Apostle Paul wrote to in the New Testament, were all going through different things. The church in the city of Corinth (1 & 2 Corinthians) was dealing with different things than, let’s say, the church in Ephesus (Ephesians). The role of women in ministry is an example of a massive theological debate. Paul does have more than one stance one the subject, depending on which church he was addressing. So it’s important to read ALL the scripture pertaining to an issue, and study all the history/context behind it.
4. Pray! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you wisdom as you read; to open your heart and mind to what He wants to tell you through his Word. The beauty of scripture is that just one verse can mean so many different things to different people. Depending on what you’re going through in your life and what God wants to teach you, which is so different for everyone, different things can pop out of the same scripture verse. One thing I often do is ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to tell me in my daily reading. Then, when I read, a verse will often times jump off the page to me and speak right to my heart. And somehow, that verse helps me get through the day!
5. Highlight and take notes! There are so many good things in scripture, that if you don’t keep record of them, or at least underline/highlight them, you’ll never remember it all! Then, when you go back through it, you’ll see what was meaningful to you then, and remember what God taught you during that time. It’s like being encouraged over and over again!
I hope this helps you navigate reading the Bible. It’s such an amazing, beautiful book that is just as relevant today as it always has been!