It is recommended that you read the entire Bible, cover to cover, as often as you can. It is the greatest way to guard yourself against hearsay (rumors of theology that are not true). If you are new, there is a slightly different approach as described below. Once you get through the first approach, come back every year and make a point to read the entire Bible in one year.
There are several apps and programs you can use to read daily that it will keep you on track giving you some Old Testament and some New Testament readings every day. I like using YouVersion app for this. It only takes around 71 hours to read through the entire bible so if you spend just 12 minutes per day reading, you will read the entire Bible in 365 days! You can even set YouVersion to wake you up at a certain time every morning and prompt you right where you left off. Wake up. Read for 12 minutes then start your day.
When an orchestra tunes their instruments, they do it before the performance, not after. It is why I recommend reading before you start your day. If you want to read at night, that is great too, but always try to read in the morning first so that your mind is set on the things above before the craziness of the say sets in.
The Background of the Bible
The Bible is a series of letters and manuscripts from various authors throughout Old Testament times (before Jesus came to earth) and New Testament times that is telling the story from eye witnesses of when Jesus was here and then letters to churches after Jesus left. It is an account of the foundation and early church history along with predictive prophecy of what is to come in our future.
There are 66 books in the Protestant Bible. There are 39 Hebrew-Aramaic books in the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi and there are 27 books in the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation for a total of 66 books in the Bible. The Torah is the first 5 books in the Bible and are what are referred to as the “Pentateuch” or the “Five Books of Moses” since he is considered the author of them. The Torah is often the name used when speaking of Jewish teachings. The Catholic Bible has 7 additional books that are considered the “Apocrypha”. The Protestant Bibles do not contain these because they are of unknown authorship or are of doubtful origin.
You will see the Bible broken up into Books, Chapters, and Verses. These were not there in the original text but is helpful for us today as we read and note various locations.
While many think you should start at the beginning of any book, while true in most cases, the Bible is a little different. It is best to look at each of the 66 books of the Bible as individual books that inform and help reveal the entire story of God’s plan.
How to start reading the Bible
If you are new to Christianity or new to reading the Bible, it is recommended that you start the book of John. It is found in the New Testament in the last half of the book. John is the 4th gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are considered the Synoptic Gospel messages of the life of Jesus according to that specific disciple’s perspective. They are synoptic because they contain many of the same stories.
Once you finish John, skip over to Romans a couple books later. Then read James. Along the way feel free to mix in Psalms and Proverbs as they are very uplifting and encouraging. You will find those two books almost right in the very middle of the Bible.
Once you have a good understanding of Jesus and the gospel message, head to the beginning of the book at Genesis. Jesus was there at the beginning (although not called out by name) so it is exciting to read it with that truth already in your understanding of the story. Read John 1 alongside Genesis to see Jesus in Genesis. Feel free to read through Exodus if you want to get a good understanding of Moses. Then go back to the New Testament and start reading through all the gospels: Matthew Mark Luke and John again. Remember they are all the same account from 4 different perspectives.
Then simply continue reading through the Bible to the end. After John, keep going with Acts, then all the letters starting with 1 Corinthians. Every time you get to the beginning of the next book, read the introduction so you understand who wrote it and to whom it was written.
As you read, consider the context it was written in, who it was written to and why. Ask yourself what did this mean to the people then, what does it mean universally to all of us, and what does it mean to you now. Go back to chapter 7 to learn more about the Inductive Bible Study method.
Simple order to follow:
- John (again)
- Romans (again)
- Then keep reading through to the end of the Bible with Revelation.
- Sprinkle back in Psalms as it refreshes the soul.
- Once you finish, remember what I said at the beginning to read the ENTIRE Bible. Go back and get into all the Old Testament stories. It’s quite incredible!
As you read through the Old Testament, it is helpful to use Bible commentaries to understand some of the context and meaning. After this first experience through the Bible, get started on a daily reading plan that takes you through in a year. The ESV Study Bible One Year Reading Plan is a good one and can be followed for free on the YouVersion Bible app available on iTunes and Google Play.
I hope this helps you to break things down a bit and get you on the right track.