With approximately 1700 pages in the 66 books that make up the Bible, and more than 450 English translations, how is a person to know where to start reading? It can be confusing. Since reading the Scriptures is important, you may need a guide to Bible reading for beginners. I want to help you on this journey and to give you a roadmap that is easy to follow.
Why is Bible reading important for beginners?
The Bible is the primary way that God speaks to us. If we want to know how to think, act, and navigate life successfully, then we need to get to know God. Since He designed and created us, He knows what works best. The Bible is kind of like an owner’s manual for the Christian life. It also is God’s love letter to us. God does not make us try to figure out how to live on our own. He has given us the instruction we need in the Bible.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 ESV
What is the easiest Bible to read for beginners?
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Over time, it has been translated into many different languages. The first major translation was commissioned by King James of England in the 1600s. While this version is in English, our language has evolved and changed so much that many people sometimes have a hard time understanding what they are reading. The King James Version uses a lot of old English terms like thee, thou, wilt, hast, mayest, doest, and whilst.
If your primary language is English, then a modern English translation is probably the easiest Bible reading for beginners. There are many to choose from. To give you an idea of how they read, first I have a couple of verses from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? ” Psalm 8:3-4
Here are the same verses from three modern English translations of the Bible:
New International Version (NIV)
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? ” Psalm 8:3-4
English Standard Version (ESV)
“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4
New American Standard Version (NASV)
“You are my hiding place; You keep me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have set in place; What is man that You think of him, and a son of man that You are concerned about him?” Psalm 8:3-4
Translations to avoid
There are quite a few translations of the Bible that were created by one single author. It is too easy for a solo writer to insert bias into their translation or paraphrases, cut out what they don’t agree with or don’t understand, and mislead the reader sometimes out of their own misunderstanding of the Scriptures. Credible translations always have a panel of individuals who are skilled in original Hebrew and Greek. There is always safety in numbers when handling something as important as the Bible. Examples of solo translators are:
- The Message (MSG) by Eugene Peterson
- The Passion Translation (TPT) by Brian Simmons
- The Living Bible (TLB) by Kenneth Taylor
There are other books that are referred to as translations of the Bible but which are erroneous. They perpetuate a single church’s doctrines or have cut out large portions of original Scriptures. The most widely recognized are:
- New World Translation (NWT)
- The Reader’s Digest Bible
Layout of the Bible
The Bible is a collection of 66 separate books written by over 40 authors, but all inspired by God. Those 66 books are divided into the Old Testament, written before Jesus, and the New Testament, written during and after Jesus walked this earth. The layout is not in chronological order but grouped by the types of books.
The Old Testament contains 39 books and is divided into 5 sections: The law, history, poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets. The New Testament contains 27 books and is divided into the Gospels, history of the church, epistles (letters), and prophecy.
The most important thing for new Bible readers
The original manuscripts were not divided into chapters and verses. This layout was added much later to help individuals locate passages easily, as well as for memorizing and quoting scripture. Chapters are usually a page or two long, whereas verses are a sentence or two long. Chapters begin with a large number, and verses begin with smaller numbers. So when someone says something about John 3:16, they mean that it is located in the book of John, chapter 3 and verse 16. Every Bible also contains a table of contents in the front which will help you locate the book you want to read.
Where to start reading the Bible for new believers
It often is hard for beginners to decide where to start reading. Logic would tell you to start at the beginning and read to the end. That is how you would read a novel or a school textbook. But the Bible is a collection of many books, so logic doesn’t hold true in this situation.
To avoid frustration, I would suggest starting with easy reading. You can learn a lot about God, yourself, and how to live in the easier sections of the Bible. There are plenty of advanced, difficult sections you can study down the road once you have a solid foundation and understand the basics. With that in mind let me give you an overview of easy to difficult passages.
- The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
Fairly Easy Reading
- Genesis and Exodus
- Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes
- Letters to the different churches on how to live (Romans through Jude)
Moderately Difficult Reading
- Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job
- Isaiah through Malachai
The Most Difficult Reading
- Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
So where should you start? I would suggest Bible reading for beginners in the book of John. It reads easy, and its sole purpose is to help us grow in faith. Yet, there are deep truths hidden in it also. Leon Morris, an evangelical theologian once said, “The book of John is like a swimming pool: shallow enough that a child can wade, and deep enough that an elephant can swim.” John, the writer put it a little more eloquently.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31 ESV
Preparing to read the Bible
In order to get the most out of your Bible reading, there are several things to have on hand. Some people like to keep these items in a basket so they can easily pick them up and go anywhere to read.
- Your Bible
- A notebook, paper, and pen
- A dictionary (optional but often helpful)
- Colored markers that do not bleed through paper (optional, but some people like to highlight verses that have special meaning to them)
- Bookmarks or sticky notes to mark places you want to go back to
When you actually sit down to read, start by asking God to help you understand what you are reading. Then ask Him to use it to transform you into the person He wants you to be. This is a prayer that God loves to answer.
“Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and wondrous things which you did not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
The difference between Bible reading and studying the Bible
Bible reading is just what it says. Reading. It is letting God speak to you one verse at a time. You may write down notes, especially when something jumps off the page at you. You may also write down questions to consider at a later time. This is where we begin. The more we read, the more we absorb and the more it comes back to our minds when we need it.
I like this quote from David Mathis:
“Bible reading is like watching a movie in real time. Bible study is going through a clip frame by frame.”
Bible reading is the first step in Bible study which seeks to answer questions and to dig deeper.
- Who wrote what I am reading?
- Why was it written and to whom?
- What is the context and culture?
- Are there words that I don’t understand?
- Is the passage prescriptive or descriptive? (Descriptive is an account of what happened, but not always what God wants us to repeat which is prescriptive)
- How does this passage apply to me?
Bible study usually goes through passages at a slower pace. It can center around a specific topic, a particular book of the Bible, or a person in the Bible. This slower pace and digging deeper helps a person go beyond the basics.
Easy Bible reading plans for beginners
It is important to have some kind of plan for Bible reading. Otherwise, it can easily slip through your fingers as other distractions take front and center stage. Here are some things to consider as you begin your Bible reading journey.
- Read a little each day. Of course, you can read more, but consistency is crucial in forming a habit of Bible reading for beginners.
- Decide on a plan and stick with it. Just picking up a Bible and paging through it trying to find something to read usually leaves people frustrated. You will be surprised at how much God will teach you and meet your spiritual needs just by reading what comes next in your Bible reading plan.
- Read in the morning if possible. This will give you the entire day to reflect upon what you read. This is called Biblical meditation.
Reading through a book of the Bible
Choose a book and read through it. Some people read a chapter a day. Personally, I like to read until something significant jumps off the page at me. I then stop, write my thoughts, and ponder it throughout the day. The point is to be consistent and try to find at least 1 significant thing that helps you appreciate God or challenges you to live the way He wants you to live.
Bible reading on a topic
There are innumerable Christian Blogs that offer daily Bible reading plans, usually on a different topic each month. Most are free. Some require an email, others do not. Mine is free, does not require an email, and is instantly downloadable. You can check it out here.
Formal Bible reading plans
Formal Bible reading plans come in all levels of difficulty. They can be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly in length. Some people like this kind of structure. However, sometimes these plans become a list to check off as completed. Bible reading is not for information, but for transformation. Being changed does not come from checking off a “to-do” list.
“Don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed as you renew your mind.” Romans 12:2
If a hard copy is your thing, a good collection of multiple Bible reading plans all in one place is Seasons in the Word from The Daily Grace Co. It has 30-day plans, 90-day plans, yearly plans, and a flex plan. Except for the 30-day plans, these are more advanced, pushing you through the new testament or the entire Bible.
For a little more advanced plan, try doing a Topical Bible Study. So for instance, if you were needing help making a decision, or maybe having trouble with negative emotions, you could study what the Bible says about these concerns. On the brighter side, you might want to learn more about God and His attributes, such as His faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy, or grace. The Creator’s Classroom has a free Topical Bible Study Template to help you do this kind of study.
Once you have a lot of Bible reading experience, you may want to go with a chronological, through the Bible-in-a-year plan. Again, if a hard copy is your thing, I would recommend Bible Recap, as every day it gives you a lot of information on what is going on in your reading. Parts of the Old Testament are hard to understand or quite repetitive (for a reason) and the explanations that Tara-Leigh Cobble gives are most helpful. If you are not really wanting a hard copy, she offers a daily podcast with the same information. I am a visual learner so a paper copy is best for me. You can also find this reading plan on the YouVersion app.
Are you ready for Bible reading for beginners?
Great! The more you read, the more you will grow in your life with Jesus. I would like to give you this scripture card that reminds us that God will teach us what we need to know and guide us in how to live. It is free, no email required.
You may also like to read:
Thanks to Biblehub for easy navigation through various translations of the Bible.