How to Read the Bible: A Beginner’s Complete Guide

The desire to know and practice proper bible reading often emerges from the realization of the key role Bible reading…
Achinike Amadi

on May 7, 2024

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  • The desire to know and practice proper bible reading often emerges from the realization of the key role Bible reading plays in spiritual actualization and fulfillment.

    As a new or to-be convert, it could be the means through which you know the Captain of Your Salvation better.

    As a seasoned, or cold Christian who is concerned about their spirituality, it could be how you kindle a fire for a newer level of spiritual growth.

    For a skeptic, it could be a much-needed challenge in the search for truth and resolution of conflicting convictions.

    And if reading the Bible is the means to your desired spiritual “place”, I am more than honored to walk with you and show you the ropes of how to read the Bible.

    Take my hand and come with me.

    What is reading the Bible?

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    Bible Reading is one of the ways of engaging with the written word of God’s word. What reading the Bible means essentially is the process of going through the letters of the words and sentences that constitute the sacred text and understanding the basic embedded message of each verse, chapter, and book of the Bible.

    When we read the Bible properly, we gain an understanding of God (and the things of God) which allows for a deeper connection with Him.

    While it is common for people to use ‘bible reading’ and ‘bible studying’ interchangeably, these practices are inherently different.

    Unlike studying the Bible, bible reading requires a low level of textual engagement which promotes a general understanding of the message being conveyed to the reader.

    Each of these bible practices has its own place, importance, and purpose when it comes to spending time with the word of God.

    5 Steps on How to read the Bible for all it’s worth.

    Reading the Bible is a practice that can bring us to a desirable place spiritually. However, for those who are new to reading the Bible, it can be an overwhelming exercise to begin especially when you are figuring things out all by yourself.

    We could breach protocols and dive right into it by simply opening the Bible to a random page and reading it.

    End of article.

    Or take a complete and proper approach that allows us to optimize for success and enjoy maximum returns.

    Two decisions you need to make that gives you the right mindset for reading the Bible

    • Decide to go from easy passes to developing a systematic actual plan for reading the Bible
    • Decide to read the Bible for reasons beyond mere knowledge unto being discipled by God.

    Having made these decisions, Here is how to read the Bible for all its worth as a beginner.

    Step on to read the bible for all its worth. Go from beginner to pro.

    Step 1: Start with your “why”.

    The reason you are considering or have decided to read the Bible {and read it well) is because you probably perceive it to be valuable or helpful in some way. Considering the reputation of God’s word and the benefits of reading the Bible, I could conclude that you have perceived it correctly.

    Starting with your why, as a first step, causes you to discover your motive for reading the Bible, assess it, and leverage it as a driving force. So Why do you want to know how to read the Bible? Why is reading the Bible important to you now?

    The purpose of asking yourself these questions isn’t to dissuade you from learning how to read the Bible but to help you crystallize your goal and have an expectation; a first creation; an end in mind. An Expectation based on God’s character and word welcomes positive results—even in the absence of a plan.

    Step 2: Choose your Bible platform(Print and/or digital)

    Stage: Plan.
    
    A man reading both a digital and physical bible

    A plan often follows a decision. Yet, the planning stage is where new bible readers feel overwhelmed as they consider what to read, how to go about it, and the resources to consult — which are in no small amounts.

    According to Wordsrated, Zondervan, a publishing company, lists nearly 400 versions of the Bible as being in print and for sale. This is still a large number of options to choose from even after considering only reading materials and leaving aside bible study materials like commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, etc.

    On the bright side, these numerous bible materials offer an extensive and deeper understanding of the Bible if carefully selected.

    Online resources like apps, and websites are also a major viable option to consider when starting a bible reading exercise. Research shows that screen-based Bibles ie Bible resources on smart devices increase the frequency of daily Bible reading but might reduce comprehension on the flipside.

    So which should I choose when reading the Bible – print or digital?

    There’s no hard-coded rule here. There isn’t enough reason to say it’s one over the other since they serve one ultimate purpose only in different ways. However, to choose your Bible format you would need to adopt a heuristic approach that prioritizes the goal, supports the plan and sometimes considers personal preferences.

    One myth about reading the bible that has held a lot of Bible readers back from choosing the best bible format for their bible reading goal is “Reading from a physical bible makes a person more spiritual.”

    Myth:

    Using physical print Bibles makes me more spiritual than those who use a digital copy.

    Fact:

    Whether you are reading from a physical copy or a digital version, the content and message of the Bible remain the same. Spiritual growth and connection with God depend more on the heart and intention of the reader rather than the format of the Bible. It is the receptiveness, humility, and open-mindedness of the reader that foster spiritual growth, not the specific way the Bible is accessed.

    Step 3: Craft/follow a Bible plan.

    Stage: Plan.
    
    planning stage of bible reading.

    With the insight from Step 1-Start with your Why, you are better equipped to develop a custom plan. Or identify a plan suited to your needs and based on your goals.

    The responsibility of developing a bible reading plan could fall either on your shoulders or on someone else’s. Whether you bootstrap it or have it done for you, a good plan must;

    • contain a where, what, and when: Where in the Bible are you going to start reading from, and where will you stop? I call this the Itinerary of a Bible reading plan. What does success look like and what are my metrics of success? When are you going to read and for how long? Append a time to it.
    • be clear, specific, and easily achievable(if you are going to find it interesting and eventually follow through on it).
    • identify possible challenges and contain remedial solutions or makeshifts to curb them.
    • run on a proven strategy that catalyzes success.

    Protip: If you are crafting a bible reading plan yourself, I recommend starting with the book of Luke because it adopts the style of a historical narrative and explanatory approach. This makes it suitable for new converts or any person with a budding faith.

    Step 4: Prepare physically and spiritually.

    Stage: Preparation.
    

    Preparation is being ready for a future event. You have not seen the event or that future you expect but you believe in it enough to prepare. You dont wait to see it first, before you start preparing. In this sense we can say that preparation is an act of faith.

    – Bishop Norman Jonah, Make it Happen.

    If you diligently followed through with the preceding steps, you would already have a defined expectation and know the power of the right attitude and heart towards God’s word. Your readiness and preparedness to read the Bible will keep on increasing as an outgrowth of the positive snowballing effect of a step-by-step guide such as this.

    Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, defines Effectiveness as the fine balance between the production of desired results, and the production capacity of the asset producing the result (which many people often neglect). To be effective in reading the bible, you must take care of yourself and the functions or entities directly associated with the exercise.

    What would this look like practically?

    1. it would be managing your body’s energy by getting enough sleep and rest and staying mentally sharp during the actual Bible reading.
    2. Attending to your mind by finding a quiet place to read, choosing a Bible translation that you understand, and procuring only reading supplies you need(Personally, I love to keep things stupid simple).
    3. Preparing your spirit in the place of prayer. This is so important. Before you start reading the Bible, take some time to speak with the Author of the Bible. Ask God to help you understand His Word as you read it and apply it to your life.

    Step 5: Know some Bible basics.

    Stage: Execution.
    

    Brief Introduction to the Bible

    The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, tà biblía, ‘the books’) is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are, in part, full, or as a variant, held as sacred in Christianity, Judaism, and many other religions. You can think of the Bible as a Library comprised of 66 books, according to the Christian Canon. These books are classified into the Old and New Testament where each represents a dispensation in relation to the salvation of mankind.

    read the bible graphic

    Anatomy of a Bible Reference

    A Bible reference typically consists of the book name, chapter, and verse number(s) to which it refers. A common reference format is [Book chapter: verse(s)”] such as “Luke 1:1-3” which refers to the book of Luke, chapter 1, verses 1 through 3.

    Illustration of the anatomy of a bible reference as a basic step to how read the bible using Luke 1:1 as an example.

    Navigating the Bible;

    Open the Table of Contents page on your print or digital Bible. There, you will find the catalog of books that make up the Christian Bible classified into Old Testament and New Testament. On each listing, you would see the name of the book and /or the page number if you are using a printed Bible.

    Let’s take the Book of Luke as an example. Luke is a New Testament book so you would find it under the “New Testament”. Clicking on it on a digital resource will take you to the first chapter of the Book and the first verse (Verse 1) which is the first paragraph.

    If you are using a physical Bible, You would arrive at this same place if you opened the page that has the page number assigned to Luke on the Table of Contents. This isn’t any different from how you would open any other book.

    How to open any bible reference on a digital Bible.

    1. Open the Table of Contents.
    2. Look for the name of the book.
    3. Click/Tap on it if you are using a digital Bible.
    4. Click or tap on the Chapter number.
    5. Click or tap on the verse or scroll till you arrive at the specified verse.

    How to open a bible reference on a traditional print Bible

    1. Open the Table of Contents.
    2. Look for the name of the book and trace out its page number.
    3. Flip leaves until you get to the page with the number from step 2.
    4. Keep turning until you find the specified Chapter number.
    5. Scan across the page and search for smaller print superscripted numbers (e.g.: 4).

    Background/Contextual information.

    On some Bible versions like New Living Translation(NLT) New International Version(NIV) and Good News Bible Anglicised(GNB), you would find a pre-section containing information about the book like the author, the time it was written, and a summary of its content. This section provides some context to the book which promotes a better understanding of its content.

    Step 6: Adopt Best Practices in Bible Reading.

    Stage: Execution.
    

    It is time for the main action.

    Before you get down to it, here’s one mistake to be conscious of and avoid as you read the Bible.

    One classic Bible reading mistake both newbie and seasoned Bible readers make is having the same manner of approach and strategy towards every book in the Bible. Different books of the Bible offer unique perspectives and serve different purposes. They vary in themes, writing styles, and intentions too.

    To avoid this mistake, It is crucial to approach each of them with wisdom and discernment.

    As a general rule of thumb,

    • Historical books should be read fast.
    • Theological books — books that form basis for doctrine and teaching– should be read slowly, attentively and repeatedly.
    • Poetic books could be read aloud.

    Also, you want to read during conditions when your focus has peaked. Personally, I find I have a clearer focus, longer stamina, and better assimilation when my body is rested and in fast mode.

    Other Best practices to adopt as you read the Bible.

    • Know the theme of a book and approach it accordingly
    • Take brief coded notes. This will help you remember what you’ve read and make it easier to come back to later. Actively engage with the text by highlighting or underlining important points.
    • Take breaks. Don’t try to read for too long at a time. Take breaks to allow your mind to absorb the information.
    • Stay engaged by using the Active reading technique, A protip from one of our community members, is to put on your “imagination” cap. Putting yourself in the scene allows you to experience the Word in another dimension.

    Step 7: Discuss and share.

    Stage: Review and Report
    
    free step by step guide on how to read the bible

    After reading the assigned volume of text per your plan in step 3, take some time to reflect on what you’ve read. Review key concepts and things that stood out to you over the course of your reading session. Reviewing what you read will further solidify your understanding and help with long-term retention. Your highlights could later become the entry point to a deeper bible study. In addition to your highlights, have a tracking document that allows you to

    • Create a bullet list of things you learned,
    • Journal your thoughts and
    • make connections between them.

    What usually follows a good bible reading session is a desire to talk about what was learned. This desire is often satisfied during bible meditation, prayer, or faith-based conversations with peer(s).

    Discussing and sharing newfound insights can help you discover insights and reinforce knowledge whilst checking against heretical beliefs. These benefits compound exponentially in a larger community of believers who read the Bible.

    Conclusion: How to read the Bible.

    The Bible, one on hand, is a literature text. Like every other academic book, it demands a level of diligence from its readers. On the other, it is a sacred text which necessitates a disposition of unparalleled reverence.

    When this demand is met, that is as we approach the Word of God with the right attitude, we experience the extraordinary transformation which the Word brings (Psalm 119:130).

    Don’t leave this article without taking action. Use the infograph. And follow the checklists.

    To read the Bible for all its worth, you have to plan your reading session, prepare your heart for it, and do it following the best practices laid out within this blog article.

    Today we saw how to read the Bible and read it well. Next, we would look at building the diligence and delight to read the Bible on a daily basis.

    Want to see this guide published on Chieflings.com? Let us know in the comments.

    Achinike Amadi
    Hello there, I am Archie. I share and curate digital resources to help you practice self-leadership.
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