How to Read the Bible (and Understand it) – Unfolding Faith Blog (2023)

The Holy Bible is the biggest-selling book of all time, with sales of over five billion copies and counting, and more than100 million copies sold every year! It has been fully translated into over 530 languages and partially translated into more than 2,850 languages.

It’s safe to say that the Bible is a pretty popular book.

You’ve already experienced significant life change because you have made the decision to follow Christ, and by reading God’s Word you will experience even greater change and momentum as He speaks into your life.

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With all the different versions out there—and, frankly, all the books of the Bible to get through—you might be wondering where to start, which to buy, and how to read the Bible. Let us help you!

Which Bible Should I Buy?

There are lots of translations available. As a new believer, you may find some harder to get into than others, and if you’re reading the Bible for the very first time, some of that “olde-style” language can be difficult to comprehend! Check out theNew Living Translation—it combines the latest biblical scholarship with a clear writing style to powerfully communicate God’s Word. It renders the message of the original texts of Scripture into modern English and was designed to be read aloud. It encourages you to go deeper into the biblical text to discover God’s story for your life.

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You may also want to exploreThe Message, which is a version of the Bible that reads like a regular book. Again, it’s designed to be an easier way to dig into the meaning of God’s Word, but this one combines the authority of God’s Word with the cadence and energy of conversational English.

Don’t own a Bible yet? Check out this selection and choose aBible based on what you need. >>

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Okay, so—how should you read the Bible, and where should you start? What would be a good action plan here, given that it is so massive?

You could just jump in and start at the very beginning. You may be somewhat familiar with Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In it, God creates the universe, the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve. Then the serpent (otherwise known as the devil) persuades them to eat the forbidden fruit, bringing sin into the world. Genesis then goes into lots of examples of God’s relationship with humanity and describes His love for us, lays out His promises to us, and shows us His heart.

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Genesis is very dense and fast-paced—it’s easy to miss the points being made about God or to skip past some important details. One resource to help with reading Genesis and the rest of the books of the Old and New Testaments isHow to Read (and Understand) the Bible. It’s great to read along with the author, Larry Richards, who picks out all the themes, promises, and points being made throughout the Old and New Testaments. It helps give you a basic understanding of the texts and what they mean. It is, literally, a lesson in how to read the Bible!

And you can try the first chapter for free!Just click here>>and see how you like it.

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For a new believer learning how to read the Bible, however, the best book to start with is the book of John. John was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, and the book is his firsthand retelling of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Since Christ is at the center of our lives, and the reason we’re called Christians, a lot of what happens in the Old Testament (everything before Jesus’ birth) will make more sense with an understanding of what happens in the New Testament (Jesus’ life and works).

If you stick with John and just read one chapter each day, you’ll have read it all in 21 days. Once you’ve finished John, move on to the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which all offer their own takes on the same story, each with different emphases on the various aspects of Jesus. If you click this link >> it will take you to the New Living Translation website, where you can read the entire book of John (and any other book of the Bible you like) for FREE!

Perhaps you’re looking for something to help with your Bible study. Read on for some great resources to help you learn how to read the Bible ... and understand it!

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Best Bible Study Books

If you want a study guide and Bible all in one, you can buy a (rather literally named!) study Bible. These are fantastic for reading the Bible and having all your notes and guides in the same place.TheChristian Basics Bibleis a great one to start with, but you can check out a handy list of top study Bibles here >>

Alternatively, alongside your Bible, you could get some Bible studies. These books help us, through various topical studies, to discover what God’s Word has to say on any number of subjects close to us. Here is a neat little list: The Best Bible Studies for New Believers >>

How about a FREE reading plan designed especially for new readers of the Bible?! Bible Reading Plan for new believers*

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You might also want to consider a Bible-reading app that will help you read through the whole thing in a year or two, with reading plans for each day. This app is extremely popular:The One Year Thru The Bible.

Bible apps are extremely popular (you may even have one already on your phone?!) and the New Living Translation Bible is now available for download and reading – for FREE – via the YouVersion app. Click here for mobile app and here for the desktop version, or go here for the voice smart speaker info.

Another resource that you will love because it’s so easy to use and helps to imprint the Word on your mind (via your ears!) is the Streetlights hip hop audio Bible. Gohere >>for the audio downloads and info andhere >>for the mobile app. And this is all FREE!

Let’s talk aboutThe Bible Projectas well, which presents the books and themes of the Bible in an easy-to-understand animated video format. It is very helpful for growing in basic knowledge, and many people like to watch each video after reading its corresponding book. Check out all the videos on their YouTubechannel here. >>

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Finally, there is a superb audio New Testament called theBreathe Bible, which brings well-known actors together in “a remarkably vivid listening experience that will transport you into the world of the Bible”—basically, it’s like the Bible as a Hollywood production, and it’s wonderful. You can sample some of ithere for free. >>

One last thing: Some words in the Bible will be totally new to you, and the geography and lineages can also be highly confusing. To help you orient yourself in the world of the Bible, you can pick up a handyBible Dictionary.

However you decide to tackle it, the answer to the question of how to read the Bible is ultimately a matter of being intentional about reading God’s Word. And bonus—it will bring you closer to God Himself! Don’t be afraid to seek help here. Your friends, pastor, mentor, small group, or anyone else who knows God can help in this area. You can even pray about it! Ask God for His help with reading the Bible. Also know that almost everyone uses Bible study aids. There is zero shame in needing help to decipher the meaning in the Bible. That’s why we have preachers, pastors, and books about God’s Word!

Just remember that the Bible is the way God speaks to you. Be open to hearing His voice in His Word, and He will direct your path.

* Bible reading plans are taken from Christian Basics Bible copyright © 2017 by Mike Beaumont, Martin Manser, and Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.


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