Imagine sitting down to chat with a group of long-time believers. Each one has read the Bible dozens of times over. When you ask them biblical questions, they provide solid answers with Bible texts to support their thoughts. But when you ask them, “Where should I start reading?” to your surprise, you get several answers.

  • “Start with Genesis to learn how our world began and was corrupted by sin.” 
  • “The life of Jesus as told in the four Gospels is definitely the place to start.”
  • “Read Job first to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the great controversy.”  

So what’s the correct answer? It really depends on you. These can all be good places to start. I’d say begin with the part of the Bible that’s most interesting to you and just keep reading. God will reward your efforts if you sincerely want to learn. Jesus promised, “Seek, and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).

You’ll probably have more questions once you’ve decided on a starting point. Here are answers to some of the questions that may have you puzzling.

What Translation Should I Choose?

The English-speaking world is blessed with hundreds of Bible translations. So how do we know which one is best? There is no such thing as a perfect Bible translation. But when it comes to studying, it is a good idea to start with a more literal translation such as the New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), or English Standard Version (ESV). Be wary of paraphrase Bibles which are more loosely based on the original texts and often infused with the writer’s theology.

It’s also important to use a version that is easy for you to read and understand. For example, the Old English of the King James Version (KJV) can be very challenging for some readers. Choose a Bible that’s right for you and then compare it with other versions to better understand what you read.

What About Study Bibles?

There’s nothing wrong with reading an inexpensive paperback Bible but a good study Bible can be very beneficial. These contain cross-references that link you to other verses related to what you are studying, introductions to books with historical background and themes, and commentary to give further insight into the text. The Remnant Study Bible and Andrews Study Bible are both excellent choices.

How Do I Verify What Others Say About Scripture?

Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) every time you study. Also, ask God to help you set aside any preconceived ideas you may have acquired about the Bible. There are many misconceptions about the Bible and what it teaches. False doctrines have been perpetuated by the malicious and well-meaning alike for centuries. We must take the time and effort necessary to study for ourselves if we genuinely want to understand the Bible. God commends those who test the teaching of others by the Scriptures and study for themselves (Acts 17:11). 

What Method of Study Should I Follow?

The inductive method of Bible study is an excellent place to start. It is simple and allows the Scriptures to speak for themselves. Follow these three steps:

  1. Observe: Read the passage you are studying several times and in a few different translations. Once you can summarize the passage, move to the next step.
  2. Interpret: Consider the historical and literary context of the passage. What was the purpose of the original writer, and how would the ancient recipients have understood the message? What are the spiritual principles put forth in the passage? Use the helpful resources mentioned here to assist you in this step.
  3. Apply: Ask yourself, “How do I apply the spiritual principles to my own life?”

Once you get a feel for the inductive method, try these other useful approaches too.

What about Reading Large Sections of the Bible?

It’s essential to slowly work your way through the Bible and let everything sink in, but there’s also a place for reading large swaths of text at once. This can help you get the big picture of an individual book and understand themes that can be hard to see when focusing on the details. Maybe start by reading Mark, the shortest Gospel, in one sitting. Or read some of the letters of Paul, such as Colossians or Philippians, which are only a few short chapters. 

Enjoy the Journey

Whether we start in Genesis, Job, the Gospels, or somewhere else, reading the Bible takes us on a journey toward a loving God. It is the story of the redemption of our world by the One who created it and contains instructions on how we can have joy-filled eternal life in Jesus Christ. God quickly answers when we pray, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalm 119:18 NLT). 

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