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How to Read the Bible When You have No Idea Where to Start, Part I

Updated: Jun 8

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13-21

I love this passage. It is direct evidence in the Bible that you do not need to be a Bible expert to do the Lord's work, you just have to have "been with Jesus." In the long term and short term, however, the Scriptures changed my life. They relentlessly share the love of God, are beyond beautiful, and they share the astounding story of of our Savior, Jesus.

The Bible is the most controversial book on the globe. Men and women have been persecuted and died to preserve these words for us to enjoy. It's rawness lends to it a certain credibility. It's intense drama, outlandish claims, and x-rated content do not seem to be the kind of things found in a book claiming to be non-fiction.

It's offensive in nature, and it is the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.) that the Lord can use to connect with us, lead us, and show us the truth.

So as modern people, where do we start? In this article, we will discuss 4 different things that have helped me. I have been blessed to read Bible cover to cover almost 3 as of the writing of this article (I am currently reading through the book of Revelation). I am humbled to not only have the Scriptures and not be persecuted for it, but that the Lord gave me a heart for his Word six years ago when he saved me. So let's begin.

Bible Version

Many of us receive a Bible as a gift (as was the case for me) and this often dictates which version of the Bible you read. This can be stressful if you are given a version that is incredibly hard to read, especially if you are just getting started. I looked it up on Wikipedia and they had 109 versions listed! Holy Moses! Where do you even start? I also found the five most-sold translations which I think this is a good way to narrow it down. I list them below and give a brief description on what you can expect:

1.) New International Version

The version I read! Translated from the original, most reliable manuscripts (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) to modern English. It was first published in 1978. Not word for word, but rather thought for thought, so that it is easily understood by the English reader.

Psalm 23 (NIV):

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

2.) King James Version

The KJV is the most widely printed book in all of history! It was commissioned by (you guessed it!) King James I of England & Ireland in 1604 and published in 1611. It was translated by around 47 scholars and is translated as a "word for word" translation. Thus, though it is closer to the original words of the Bible, it does not read as smoothly as an NIV might. Furthermore, because it was written in the early 1600's you are going to find the verbiage is old English and therefore not really easy to my opionioneth.

Psalm 23 (KJV)

The Lord is my shepard;

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the path of righteousness

for his name sake.

3.) New Living Translation

Created by a large number of scholars from a wide variety of Christian denominations, this version was published in 1996 with 90 translators. It was created in order to make revisions to "The Living Bible" (TLB). This, however, eventually led to a complete rewrite and a new version all together. It is important to note that the translators did not translate from the TLB, but rather the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts. The reasoning behind this rewrite was to change the word from word writing into a thought for thought basis for the modern reader.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to his name.

4.) New King James Version

This is an updated version of the original King James Version. The project was started in 1982 by Thomas Nelson and had 180 scholars, pastors and theologians collaborate to write this version from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.

They also included the newly discovered "Dead Sea Scrolls" in the text. The goal was to be faithful to the original, but also give an update to the clarity and readability of the original KJV that was produced in the 1600's.

Psalm 23 (NKJV)

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

5.) English Standard Version

This is the version my husband Elijah reads! This translation was created in 2001 by over 100 different scholars. This version has an emphasis on word for word reading of the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts, but also considers modern English and grammar.

ESV: (Psalms 23)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

So, which one should we choose? I would encourage you to read a few different versions online or the bible app (posted below) and see which one works best for you. The most important thing is for you to find a credible version you enjoy and is as easy as possible to understand.

Bible App mentioned above (Not Sponsored, Just Awesome.)

2. Where to Start

Where you start in the Bible is pretty important. I don't advise starting at the very beginning as it is daunting and can be very confusing.

If this is the first time you have ever opened the pages of Scripture, there are a few different sections that I feel should be read first: John, Romans, and the Psalms, respectively.

John is the one of the four gospels of Jesus. It is at the beginning of the New Testament and should not be confused with 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John near the end of the Bible. Those are letters from John to the church and we will want to wait until later to go through those letters. John gives us an opportunity to get to know Jesus, his miracles, how He treated and cared for people, and how he fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament that were written 400+ years before his birth! John walked with Jesus, saw his life from a unique perspective, and ultimately saw him die on the cross and raise from the grave!

Romans is the next book I would read. It is also located at the beginning of the New Testament and was written by the apostle (meaning "one who is sent") Paul to the believers in Rome. This is one of the most in-depth letters that is packed with so much theological truth that there have been pastors that have preached on this one book for years. This book is vital because it explains the significance of Jesus' death on the cross and the implications of this death. It also speaks to us in our humanity. Controversially, it says that there is no such thing as a good person:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one."

Romans 3:10

This is a hard statement and difficult to digest as everyone wants to believe they are a good person. They reason that since they have given to the poor, have remained a virgin, don't curse, make good grades, and so forth that they must therefore be a good person. The Bible disagrees. So what do we do? Thankfully, Paul tells us these details! I will explain a little further since this reality is so offensive and stressful to someone first hearing this bad news...

Paul explains why our good works are useless under the law and how we can only gain righteousness in faith through Jesus Christ. If this was not the case, then why did Jesus go through the agony of dying on the cross for our sins? If we were "good people," this act would have been meaningless for us as sinners. This is why the cross is such Good News. Jesus died for even our smallest sin and when we truly put our faith in him and trust him we can stand righteous before God because Jesus is our defender and advocate. I can't stress this point enough. There is nothing you can do to be considered "good" by a perfect God. This is why Jesus did what he did. The sacrifice that Jesus made for us is so important and beautiful and saves us from our sins and leads us into a relationship with God! This is literally how we enter the Kingdom of God! What Jesus did, not us!

Psalms is a must read as well. It is located in the Old Testament. It is also one of the easier books to read. Most of the Psalms are written by King David. David was a musician, and in affect, most of the Psalms are poetry. This book gives wonderful insight on David's relationship with the Lord which can give us some details on what are relationship can look like with Jesus as well.

Upon completion of these books, I do think you will be in a place to start reading the Bible from the first page to the last. With that being said, my personal bible has 2000+ pages, so how do I stay motivated? I discuss this and many other topics in Part II of this series. I hope this article has been a blessing and given you a good place to start!

Final Thoughts...

I hope you found this article useful! So what are your thoughts thus far? Were you able to pick out a good version of the Bible? What are your thoughts on John, Romans, and Psalms. Do you think that is the best place to start reading? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Also, if you have any prayer requests, please leave them in the comments below as I would love to pray for you!

Coming Soon...Part II of How to Read the Bible When You have No Idea Where to Start

Reading the bible is not easy to do. However, I hope that some of the tips in this article have really helped you! We are going to continue this same conversation with a Part II in this series to help guide you on this journey. To stay in touch and receive updates on when this next article is released, you can follow us below. I look forward to going on this adventure with you!

Blessings Always, Michelle Williams :)

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