5 Helpful Tips When Reading the Bible for the First Time

Reading the Bible for the very first time can, being honest, feel quite overwhelming. I know when I first started to read the Bible on my own, I wasn’t really sure where to start; I wasn’t sure which other resources there were to help me read the Bible, and I found myself just flicking through the different books and not really fully understanding or taking it all in.

But over the years, I’ve found many helpful tools and resources. I’ve discovered lots of helpful tips and advice, and I would love to share some of them with you. Whether you’ve just got your first Bible, or you’re wanting to take those next steps in reading the Bible all the way through for the first time; perhaps you’re new to Christianity, or maybe the Bible is a book you’ve always wanted to read, or you’d just like to find some helpful tips, I pray that these 5 tips below will help. 

Here’s a quick little tip just in case you’re unsure how the Books inside are set out. The Bible contains 66 books, and is written in chapters and verses, so a verse or certain part of a book is easy to find. For example, let’s start with Genesis. At the top of the first page, you have the name of the book, which is Genesis. Then below you will find the number 1, which means chapter 1. Then throughout that particular book, along with all the others, you’ll find usually in a large size font, more numbers. So in the book of Genesis, there are 50 chapters altogether. Throughout the text you will see smaller numbers that will start before words written in the books, and these are the verses. This helps in looking for a particular part of the Bible and makes a verse easy to find. Let’s find Genesis, chapter 16, verse 13, which says the following (in the ESV translation): 

“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 

Usually you’ll also find a particular book, chapter and verse, written in the following way: Genesis 16:13. So we have Genesis, chapter 16 and a colon, and then verse 13. You may also find it written like this: Genesis 16:13-15. This lets you know that verses 13 to 15 are being spoken or written about in that particular chapter. 

Start with prayer 

My first top tip is to begin with prayer. Ask God for His help and guidance whilst reading His Word, and ask for wisdom and discernment too. God’s Word is powerful and life-changing.

Whenever I open up my Bible to read, even if it’s a book I’ve read a few times, I always find something new, something that really sticks out to me, and sometimes it feels as though I’m reading it again for the first time, but with a new sense of understanding. Sometimes I discover something completely new in a certain chapter or verse that I’m reading that I hadn’t seen before.

Choose a translation to read

One thing you may have already noticed, or soon will, is how many different translations of the Bible there are. Although there are a lot, don’t let it make you feel overwhelmed. I mainly use ESV, NIV, CSB and KJV. The King James Version (KJV) was published in 1611, so as you can already start to picture, the English language that was spoken and written all those years ago was slightly different to the English language we use today. I like reading that translation, but sometimes it can be a little harder to understand. 

The reason why the English Standard Version (ESV) is first on my list, is because it is what’s known as a literal translation. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, so over the years the Bible has been translated. I highly recommend researching the different translations of the Bible, specifically researching the literal translations. Some translations, such as The Message (MSG) and The Passion Translation (TPT),have been written in a way that has reworked God’s Word. Let me give you an example; in Philippians 4:13.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (ESV)

“I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger.” (TPT)

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (MSG)

See how different the second and third translations are to the first. Although The Passion Translation is lovely to read, it’s not a literal translation of the original text. It’s important to look for a translation that doesn’t change God’s Word. I’ll be explaining more about this in another blog post.

Start with the Book of John

If you’re stuck knowing where to start (you’ll probably see this recommended all over the internet and social media), I highly recommend starting with the Book of John. I think it’s a great book to start with if you’re new to reading the Bible. Throughout the Bible, we can see Jesus; all the different books point to Jesus, but to really get to know who Jesus is, the life and ministry of Jesus, His character, all that He has done and is doing for us, this can be found in the Book of John. I think it’s a really great book to start with, and will really help with reading the rest of the Bible.

Two of my favourite Bible verses can also be found at the beginning and at the end of the Book of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

John 1:1-2.

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

John 21:25.
5 Helpful Tips for Reading the Bible for the First Time

Use a Bible study tool, such as a study Bible or online commentary

There are lots of Bible study tools available, including many free ones. A quick search on the web will bring up lots of different results. One study tool that I love to talk about, is the YouVersion Bible App, which is free to download. You can find my blog posts here and here which go into detail about what the app is and how to use it. There are a whole wide range of different features available in the app, which also makes it great to use during your Bible study time, and it contains hundreds of daily plans. There are also other apps that you can download and websites too, such as Blue Letter Bible, Bible Gateway, She Reads Truth, Enduring Word, and many more. 

A favourite tool of mine is my ESV Study Bible. After looking around for one for quite some time, I managed to get a copy in the sale, which was a huge saving! I definitely recommend checking out the sales on Christian book websites! It’s an incredible study tool to have, and has a thorough commentary throughout. You can find the one I use here. There are also many other study Bibles and commentary books, such as the New Bible Commentary. I also have a copy of Search The Scriptures, which is a great help for daily study. 

For me, the study tools are like an accountability partner. They offer an in-depth look at the Bible, help with understanding scripture, with context, with daily Bible study, and with understanding the Bible as a whole. When reading the Bible for the first time, a study tool is a huge help for further understanding, for example to find out more about when a specific book of the Bible was written, its context and who wrote it, so you can also really start to understand the scripture that you read, and what God is telling us through His Word.

Bible in one year

The Bible In One Year is a wonderful way to read the Bible daily, and create good daily habits of getting into God’s Word each day. It’s also great for reading the Bible in easy-to-read sections at a time. The one I use is the NIV Bible In One Year. There is also an online commentary which can be found here by Nicky Gumbel, that goes alongside this version, and an app that you can download too. This Bible also (as you’ve probably already guessed) enables you to read the Bible in a year. I love spending time either in the morning when I wake up or in the evening before bed, reading from it. 

This Bible splits up the different books into daily readings, with an Old Testament and New Testament excerpt for each day of the year, along with a Psalm or excerpt from the Book of Proverbs. 

You can read more on this here.

I asked my husband David to include a little note on reading the Bible for the first time. He said, let God guide you as you read it. It’s an important point we mustn’t forget when reading. Sometimes we can be so desperate to understand something, when in fact we need to take a step back and let God guide us. As I mentioned further up in this post, every time I read the Bible I find something new, and verses speak to me differently than they did before. 

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