A beginners guide to the Bible
Upon first glance, the Bible can seem intimidating. It’s a big book, the pages are thin, the writing is small, and sometimes the language doesn’t make sense.
Where do you start with a book like this?
Fear not, you can still read the Bible and find meaning in it. It’s a book full of wisdom, poetry and amazing stories. It can be comforting, offer advice, and it will change your life.
The first thing you need to understand about the Bible, is that it was written by a collection of authors, over thousands of years. When each author wrote their section, they weren’t writing with the Bible in mind. They wrote for a specific audience, and with the intention of their text standing on its own. So it’s best to think of the Bible as a library.
So how did these texts come together to form the Bible? Well, it was a long process and a lot of care was taken to ensure the right books were included. The author had to be credible, which usually meant they were associated with, or a recognized prophet or apostle. But the main criteria was the text had to be divinely inspired by God. We can call the Bible ‘God’s word’, because we know that He spoke through each of the authors.
The Bible has two main sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Everything recorded in the Old Testament happened before the life of Jesus. God lays out the foundations of His law, and prepares the way for Jesus.
The New Testament begins with the the life of Jesus, and talks about the spread of the Christian church.
The books in each section are diverse, and cover a lot of ground. So I will give you a brief run down of all the books, and hopefully you’ll come out of it with direction on where to begin.
It’s not the best idea to read the Bible from front to back. The first few books of the Bible are strongly tied to God’s law, and it’s easy to become bogged down by it all. The most important books are actually located near the middle.
The Old Testament
The Law Books (Genesis – Deuteronomy)
These are the first five books of the Bible, and they talk about the laws that God put in place for the people of Israel.
The History Books (Joshua – Esther)
This section goes further into the history of Israel. The great thing about these books is that the people in them made mistakes, which is very easy to relate to.
Poetry and Wisdom (Job – Song of Solomon)
Most of these books don’t cover specific events in detail, but they do explore concepts of love, suffering, God’s character and so much more. These books are written through songs, love stories, prayers and wisdom writings.
Prophets (Isaiah – Malachi)
These books are written by people God specifically chose to speak though about things in the past, and things to come in the future
The New Testament
The Gospels (Matthew – John)
These are the most important books in the Bible. Each book is a different account of the life of Jesus. If you’ve never read the Bible before, the Gospel of John is a great place to start.
This book talks about what happened after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It covers what Jesus’ followers do in response to the events that took place in the Gospels. Acts focuses on the spread of the Christian church. It is a great place to continue on after finishing the Gospel of John.
Letters (Romans – Jude)
These books are letters written to specific churches, or specific people. They are filled with encouragement, advice and information. They are great to read if you are new to the Bible, because many of them cover what it means to be a Christian, and how you should live as a follower of Jesus.
The author of this book received a vision from God, and was instructed to record it down. It is a book about the end times, and it can be difficult to understand.
All you have to do now is pick one book to focus on. You don’t have to read the whole thing in one sitting, it’s ok to read a little bit at a time. Usually I read one chapter per day.
Find a time and a place dedicated to reading the Bible. I find that the morning is the best time for me. I am least tempted by distractions, and able to fully focus on the word. If I run out of time in the morning, I make it my first priority for when I arrive home.
This works for me, but something else might work for you. Perhaps it is on your lunch break, or just before you go to bed.
And most importantly, pray. The Bible is one of God’s ways of speaking to us. Pray that you’ll be able to understand everything he is saying to you. If you do have trouble understanding what you are reading, that’s ok. It’s something I’ve been through many times, there’s no shame in it.
Talk to someone you trust about any questions you may have, or you could research online. There are many online resources available for you to use. I would recommend checking out the YouTube channel, The Bible Project. They have a short explanation video for each book of the Bible, which is very helpful in giving context before starting a new book.
Good luck! I hope this has given you a place to start, and that you now see the Bible as less daunting. It’s an amazing book, and as I said at the beginning, it will change your life!
07/09/2018 / Rachel Hayley