You want to study the Bible for the first time, but don't know where to start? Here are some suggestions to help the absolute Bible novice get going with reading and understanding the Bible. This is information about the Christian Bible and should be a help to anyone wanting to get more out of their Bible study time.

Bible Facts

The Bible is a book consisting of two large sections called testaments. There is the Old Testament and the New Testament. Even though the Bible is one book, there are 66 smaller books; 39 of these books are in the Old Testament with the remaining 27 in the New Testament.

The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years by more than 40 authors. The vast majority of the human authors who wrote God's Word never met, yet they also never contradicted one another. The Bible reads as if it were a single book, written by a single author. Christians believe that there was only one author-God. He inspired the authors to write His Word for us. Christians believe the Bible is the actual words of God.

Book Layout

Both the Old and New Testaments have book groupings within them. There are various ways to group the books, but here is one way that will help you understand what each book contains.

Old Testament

  • Law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (these are also known as the Books of Moses and the Pentateuch)
  • History – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther
  • Wisdom – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon
  • Prophets (Major) – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel
  • Prophets (Minor) – Hosea , Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
  • (The "Major" and "Minor" terms have to do with the size of the books, not which are more important.)

New Testament

  • Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • History – Acts of the Apostles (more commonly known simply as Acts)
  • Pauline Letters – Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews
  • Other Letters – James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Jude
  • Apocalypse – Revelation

Finding Your Way: Chapters and Verses

The Bible is broken into smaller books which are further divided into even smaller sections. Each of the books are split into chapters and verses (with the exception of Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude which only have verses).

When someone talks about "John 3:16" they are giving an address as to how to find that verse. "John" tells you it is in the book of John. The "3" in "3:16" means that it is in the 3rd chapter of the book. The "16" means the 16th verse. Therefore you would look in the index of your Bible to find the book called "John." It is the fourth book in the New Testament. Once you find the page number from the index you will flip to the book and look for the 3rd large division, which is the 3rd chapter. Run your finger down a couple of columns from the large 3 and you will find verse 16.

Eventually you will want to memorize the order of the books of the Bible which will make it easier to find a reference quickly. But until you get it memorized here is a helpful suggestion for you. Take a piece of paper that is about the size of your Bible; this way you can keep it with your Bible easily. Find the index at the front of your Bible and write down all the books, in order, along with their page number. You are essentially just copying your Bible's index page. This will be unique to your Bible since the page numbers will be different in different Bibles. Now when you look up a passage you don't have to have one finger in the index page and another looking for the right page number. You can lay out your custom index page beside your Bible so you can easily refer to it until you learn to find the books of the Bible quickly.

Start Reading

There are many Bible study tools and aids that will help you in your Bible reading. However, you don't really need a lot of extra books and online study aids to find out what the Bible says. There are some passages that may not make sense to you at first. This is because the best way to understand the Bible is allow the Bible to explain itself. If you don't know what the Bible says in other parts, then what you are currently reading may not mean much to you. That is why it is important to read the whole Bible, not just the Old or New Testament.

Take your time and read a few chapters each day. If you want to read your Bible in a year then you will need to read about 3.25 chapters a day, or 23 chapters a week. Because chapters vary in length, I have found an easier way to read the Bible in a year. Take the total number of pages in your Bible and divide it by 365. In my Bible that means I need to read about 5 pages a day.

As with anything related to studying the Bible, there are different recommendations as to where to start reading. Many people recommend the book of John. Because of the intended audience of the book of John, that is excellent starting point.

Another good place to start is where the Bible starts-in the beginning-with the book of Genesis.

Whichever starting spot you choose, try to be consistent in your Bible study and try not to jump around too much or you will lose the flow of what God is teaching through the Bible from one end of human existence to the other.

The Bible is a remarkable book. As you start your journey to reading and studying the Bible, be willing to let the Lord speak to you through His Word.