Have you ever read all of the Bible? If not, what is stopping you? A follower of Jesus should read the Bible every day. We should also read all of the Bible––and then read all of the Bible again and again and again. Here are a few pointers. In this article, I will mainly provide help for those beginning to read the Bible. Next time, I will give further advice on your “whole Bible” project.
First of all, find a translation of the Bible that you will actually read.
Please note, people will often tell you about the “best” translation or the translation that you need to use. My point is a bit different. Most people have the same version of the Bible, it is called, “The Dusty Version.” The fact is that we English-speaking Christians today are blessed beyond measure – there are many, many fine, faithful translations. So, you do not have to read (or try to read) just one version.
The best translation of the Bible is the one you will actually read.
After my conversion, well-meaning Christians told me to read the King James Version. I found it impenetrable and could not read it. I happened upon a so-so paraphrase called the Good News Version. (I became a Christian in 1972). But, by God’s grace, that was the version that got me reading the Bible. I tried the NASB for a bit but found it hard to read.
My Bible reading got a boost with the old RSV. However, it was really only with the advent of the NIV that I was able to sustain Bible reading. The point is this, do a bit of sampling, and find a version you will actually read for a long season. So go to a webpage like Bible Gateway, or go to YouVersion and sample many versions of the Bible. Try reading Mark 1 in different versions and see which version feels best for you. The best translation of the Bible is the one you will actually read.
Second, Bible translations are not different because some want to be faithful to God’s inerrant word written and others do not.
I am assuming that you are looking at the principal English versions. The New World Translation is not a translation, it is willfully rewritten to fit Jehovah’s Witness heresy. But apart from such clear “non-translation,” which you will not find on YouVersion or Bible Gateway, Bible translations differ for three principle reasons.
First, they choose different reading levels. All things being equal, one version will be different than another because they are aiming for different reading levels.
Second, the unit of translation can differ. Do you translate each word? each clause? each sentence? Several sentences? In each case, the goal is accuracy. A moment’s thought will show that if you were in a conversation with someone that had to be translated, sometimes one of those options would be better than others, but all are reasonable. A version like the ESV tries to be closer to a “word-for-word” translation. The NLT works with larger units of the original languages.
Finally, some translations are paraphrases. This means that some of the contexts are added in translation to help you to understand. If you are curious about why this can be really helpful, buy or borrow Moises Silva’s excellent commentary on the book of Philippians and look at both his notes and his own paraphrase translation.
Third, once you have found a translation you might actually read, start by reading the Gospels.
I recommend that you never start trying to read the Bible by starting from the beginning – Genesis 1. The problem with beginning with Genesis is that you will quickly get to genealogies and laws and other parts of the Bible which most Canadians find hard to read. So start with the four gospels – begin to develop your Bible reading habit there. Jesus is the key to understanding the Bible anyway, so you should get deeply familiar with the four accounts of is life.
After you have read all four gospels, read them again. You want to develop and deepen the habit of Bible reading. Remember, you are not in a rush, you have the rest of your life to read and re-read the Bible, so develop your habits and strengthen your discipline with “easy” reading.
Fourth, begin with the goal of reading a chapter a day.
Start with Mark or Matthew, because the first chapters of Luke and John are long and you might get discouraged. Just use a bookmark to mark your place. By the way, you can use any old bookmark, just make sure you have something to remind you which side of the book you are on. This of course is not an issue if you use your phone, tablet, or computer to read the Bible.
Fifth, do not let the devil trick you into thinking you need to “make up” for days you did not read the Bible.
He loves undermining Bible reading by creating guilt, scruples, and accusation. The devil knows that if you have missed three days, and you feel you need to “catch-up,” then the next thing that goes through your mind is that you don’t have time to read four chapters – so you read nothing.
The devil loves instilling “high ideals” and “big commitments” as a way to stop you from taking steps to faithfulness that you will actually take.
The devil loves instilling “high ideals” and “big commitments” as a way to stop you from taking steps to faithfulness that you will actually take. So, if you miss a couple of days, ask the Lord to forgive you for your failure; then ask him for help to read every day, and then return to reading where you left off and still read only one chapter.
Sixth, once you have developed your habit, increase the amount you read.
I recommend that you seek out a good “Bible-in-a-year” plan. Most of these plans are very helpful and guide you to read small bits of the Old and New Testament every day, as well as breaking up the Psalms and Proverbs into manageable chunks.
Seventh, pray before or after or before and after you read the Bible.
The triune God is the ultimate author of the Bible. It is his word written. Every word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book and Testament is ordered and written as he planned. He wants you to hear and understand him. He is far more willing to speak to you than you are willing to listen to him. He wants you to understand more than you want to understand.
So humbly ask him to help you hear, understand, remember, and apply his word to all that makes you “you.”