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Where do I start with the Bible?

Have you ever thought about reading the Bible – or a snippet of it, at least? We’ll be running through a few approaches on how to read the Bible – especially if you’re new to it. 

As a book that’s had a major impact on religion, the arts, law, culture and politics, people read the Bible for various reasons. Some read it to understand its impact on art and literature, others read it to learn more about its role in world religions, and others view it as an ancient book of wisdom that’s central to their personal faith. 

But what if you’re completely new to it? How do you approach reading the Bible for the first time? What’s the best way to go through the Bible? And can you read the Bible like a book, or can you dip in and out in whatever order you fancy? Let's begin... 

How do I approach the Bible?

If you’re just starting out with the Bible, it’s worth trying out a few different translations to see which one you prefer. You might find it helpful to narrow down the options with our guide on Bible translations: ‘Does the Bible have to sound old?

Once you’ve settled on a translation – or two – that you want to explore in more detail, you might be wondering where to go next. And that’s a perfectly normal feeling.

The good news is that there’s no right or wrong way to approach the Bible; there are lots of different ways to read it. Here are a few approaches:

Start at the very beginning

In the words of Maria from The Sound of Music: let's start at the very beginning. But why might this be a very good place to start? (Don't worry – there won’t be any more song references from this point on ...)

Well, one benefit of reading the Bible from cover to cover is that you get a picture of everything that’s happened before you reach the stories of Jesus found in the Gospels – the first four books of the New Testament. These are stories that Jesus knew himself, and they’re the background for his teaching.

Character focus

What’s your favourite book, film or TV show? Why did you pick it – was it for the plot, the drama, or the characters?

If you’ve gone with the last option, then you might like to try a character focus when reading the Bible. Although there are over 3,000 named characters in the Bible, many are only briefly named. But some get a lot more coverage, like Abraham, Moses, King David, or Paul. Their lives are pretty fascinating!

By theme

Have you ever read something that’s perfectly captured how you’re feeling at that exact moment in time? Maybe it even expressed your emotions better than you could?

For many, the Bible offers words of wisdom on every aspect of life – from life, love and relationships to work, loss, doubt and faith. 

To help you navigate the text, lots of printed and online Bibles include guides to help you find certain passages relating to a particular theme or topic. If you hit the ‘view themes in this chapter’ on our online Bible, you’ll be able to browse a wide list of different topics to find relevant Bible verses.

By genre

Do you have a favourite genre of film – maybe you always go sci-fi, turning to classics like Star Wars or Blade Runner. Or perhaps you’re more of a fantasy fan – The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones are your go-tos.

In the Bible, you’ll find a variety of different genres and literary styles – just like your favourite TV shows, some might appeal to you more than others. This is a quick guide to the Bible’s literary genres and the books that belong to each genre.


Writings that offer guidance on how to live and be in relationship with God and each other.

  • Genesis (which also falls into the category of ‘narrative’)
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy


Covers the history and stories of the nation of Israel, the life of Jesus and the establishment of the early Christian Church – 

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 and 2 Samuel
  • 1 and 2 Kings
  • 1 and 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts


Texts that aim to try and make sense of life, especially the hard parts –

  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes 
  • Job
  • Song of Songs*
  • Psalms*

*(these can also be categorised as Poetry)


A collection of texts said to include messages from God, shared via prophets, about the future – 

  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi


Also known as 'epistles', the letters found in the New Testament were written to early Christian churches to provide guidance on how to live a good life – 

  • Romans
  • 1 and 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 and 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 and 2 Peter
  • 1, 2 and 3 John
  • Jude


Dramatic texts that include the writers’ visions about the future – 

  • Daniel (parts of)
  • Revelation

You might be interested in:

Keep in touch

Interested in exploring what the Bible has for you to discover – without the tricky language and cultural barriers? Join our email community for people who are curious about the Bible but wouldn't normally read it. We'll unpack what the Bible has to offer you on the things that matter to you today, like love, loss, peace and acceptance. 


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