If you are a new Christian, which book of the Bible should you read first? Do you start reading the whole thing from cover to cover starting with Genesis and working your way to Revelation?
Or perhaps you’ve even been a Christian for years. You tried reading the Bible before but gave up after a while. Now, you’d like to get back into reading again more diligently and are determined to get to grips with at least one book.
You might find the whole thing intimidating. After all, there are 66 books of the Bible containing various types of literature from about 40 different authors.
Whatever your situation, here are some suggestions I would personally recommend. While people’s opinions may vary, these are my top 5 easiest places to start reading the Bible going from easiest to hardest.
Which book of the Bible should you read first?
1. The gospels
One good place to start is in the New Testament with one of the gospels. By starting in a gospel, you can get to know Jesus and his character and see what he is like as a person.
The whole of the Bible is centred around Jesus. Therefore beginning with a gospel helps us focus on the main point of the scriptures. If you are working through the Old Testament, it may take you a while before you get to the gospels and you might miss the main point. Everything must be seen in the light of Jesus.
Some people would suggest John’s gospel gives you a good insight into who Jesus is as a person. While John is a good start, some readers might prefer more of an overview of the whole of Jesus’ life from birth to death to resurrection. Both the gospels of John and Mark only introduce us to Jesus as an adult already and as he is about to begin his ministry.
Personally, I would point people to Luke’s gospel. That is a comprehensive book which contains all of the key elements of Jesus’ life. It also sometimes feels more down to earth than John’s more spiritual gospel and may therefore feel more accessible and an easier read.
2. Paul’s letter to the Romans
Another good place is St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here Paul explains the human condition and our inability by our own efforts or by observing the law to live up to God’s perfect standard that is Jesus Christ.
He explains how Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about our freedom from sin and death, as well as emphasising that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ alone and not our works.
For a new Christian wanting to gain a better understanding of the basics of the Christian faith, Romans is an excellent place to start. It cuts straight to the point and explains everything systematically. If you didn’t fully understand the significance of certain events in the gospel, Romans sheds light on that.
From there on, you can progress to the other letters such as 1 and 2 Corinthians, or jump about to Galatians, Ephesians or Phlippians.
I would definitely recommend reading through all the New Testament letters to get started, but beginning with Romans to understand the central message of the gospel.
3. The book of Psalms
This book is full of songs written by the likes of King David, Asaph, the sons of Korah, Heman the Ezrahite and many others. The Psalms offer a lot of hope and encouragement. There are songs for different occasions, whether you’re full of praise and celebration, or in anguish, sadness, fear or despair.
The Psalms are designed to be read aloud rather than silently to yourself. When you read them aloud, the words demand a response on your part. There is something about the words that you simply can’t ignore without it feeling that they are stirring something up in your soul.
The reason for that is because the Psalms are speech acts which I’ve written about in more detail here.
Starting off with the Psalms can help you to fix your eyes on God. It can shift your eyes off your own situation, especially if you are speaking the words aloud.
4. The book of Proverbs
Proverbs is a good place to start if you want to read an Old Testament book. It contains the wisdom of Solomon, with plenty of practical advice that is easy to read. Many of the proverbs are broken down into short sayings which make it more digestible and byte-sized.
There are also 31 chapters of proverbs, which can be used for a daily Bible devotion for a whole month.
I would only recommend Proverbs for more of a light read rather than as a way to really get into the Bible. It’s easy to end up seeing it as a bunch of quotations or pithy sayings and end up missing the central message of how the Bible should be pointing to Jesus.
5. The book of Genesis
Genesis is one place I would suggest. But I wouldn’t recommend it if it’s the first time you’re ever reading the Bible. It’s more for if you’ve read through the Bible before and want to approach it in a different way.
Genesis sets up the entire scene. It’s like Act 1 or the set up of a film. It shows us the creation of the world and the fall of humans due to sin, and already points to a prophecy about Jesus’ crucifixion in Chapter 3:15 which says:
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
It’s important to see the overall big picture of the Bible and how it all fits together. The Bible is all about Jesus and God’s saving plan for humanity. While all the Old Testament stories can be interesting by themselves, it’s important to recognise that all of these characters are pointing towards Jesus in some way. They are types foreshadowing Jesus.
While it’s good to start in Genesis, I wouldn’t advise simply going through the rest of the Old Testament in book order. You’ll probably find that by the time you come to Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy that you’re getting bogged down by hundreds of laws and rituals. You might question the relevance of these laws for your life today, or wonder why there are all these genealogies of people you’ve never heard about.
However, if you do decide you want to start with Genesis, after that I would skip ahead to one of the gospels – possibly even the gospel of John. The first chapter of John also echoes the opening words of Genesis but shows it in a new light.
If you go through the Old Testament in book order, you may soon find you’ve become discouraged and eventually give up and not end up reading your Bible at all. That’s why I’d recommend starting with the New Testament first and picking one of the other choices above.
I’ve given my top 5 recommended places for which book of the Bible you should read first. But there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. It all depends on where you are at in your Christian journey and what you’re trying to achieve. However there are some entry points which are more accessible than others.
Wherever you start though, it’s a good idea to have a modern translation written in contemporary English. Even if you begin reading in the most accessible place but are wrestling with a version written in old English, you’re going to struggle with the language. You don’t want to put an extra obstacle in the way.
>> If you want to read about creative ways to make your Bible reading more interesting, I’ve written an article about it here.
Now one way of getting into a book of the Bible easily is by reading a graphic novel version of the gospel of Luke. I’ve created and illustrated one which includes every single verse. That will allow you to follow it each step of the way from beginning to end while viewing the images at the same time. You can read more about it here.
You can also download a preview of it below.
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Finally, where do you find the easiest place to start reading the Bible and which book would you recommend to a new reader? Leave me a comment below.
Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.
This Post Has 4 Comments
K.18 Aug 2019
This is really great. Thank you! I’m always looking for a new way to engage with God’s word and I think your suggestions are very practical. Approaching Bible study in this way makes it less intimidating.
iamloved9 Mar 2020
Love your suggestions, in particularly Luke instead of John for a starter gospel – makes more sense to me too. And Romans as an overview of the gospel message – yes! Great idea.
Tim4 Apr 2020
This is senseless! Do you buy a novel and begin reading in the middle or back of it? The reader will NOT understand what’s occurring without first understanding WHY the apostles do and say what is contained within these books and letters.
Robert Sang4 Apr 2020
Thank you for your comment. While in the case of a novel it would make sense to begin reading from the start of the book in order to get a chronological idea of the plot, this is not the same for the Bible. Your analogy of a novel is not accurate here. The Bible is a collection of 66 books, not one single book from start to finish like a novel. The central focus of the Bible is Jesus, and every book of the Bible points to Him in a different way. You can start in the gospels to see the life and ministry of Jesus unfolding, or in the letters to get an explanation of the message (similar to a commentary). Or you can start at Genesis if you want more of a chronological overview. It depends on what you want to concentrate on when you are reading it on that particular occasion and how you want the Bible to impact your life.