What Book of the Bible Should I Read First?
Spending time in the Word of God is so important to growing your faith! If you’re a new christian or just new to Bible study you may be wondering “What book of the Bible should I read first?”
While their may not be any RIGHT answers, there are definitely WRONG answers (looking at you Song of Solomon and Revelation)!
The Bible is telling one BIG story, but it’s also comprised of smaller stories in 66 total Bible books by over 40 human authors.
Think of the Bible like a river–all flowing in one direction. You don’t want to drop in completely midstream where the water is flowing fast and you have no idea what’s going on, but there are also a lot of easy places where the water slows and it’s a great time to hop in!
New Testament Books to Start Reading
The New Testament is a great place to start reading as the storyline of Jesus entrance into the world kicks off! All of the rest of the Bible is all pointing toward Jesus–so for those who are new to faith or even just curious about faith the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) are a great place to start!
1. Gospel of John
John is my favorite of the gospels and maybe my favorite book in all the Bible. The first chapter is so incredibly beautifully written! The book of John highlights Jesus deity as the Son of God.
It also has really beautiful themes and imagery of light versus dark woven throughout.
The book of John also has the most popular Bible verse John 3:16 which is such a beautiful encapsulation of the gospel!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
The life of Jesus is chronicled in this book, his many interactions with people, his miracles, parables of Jesus, the lessons he shared with his disciples, his death, his resurrection and the time afterward until he ascended to heaven.
2. Gospel of Mark
The book of Mark is the shortest gospel and is a great place to start reading the Bible for the first time because it is short, punchy and to the point.
Mark’s gospel focuses on Jesus as the Son of Man and the Servant. It has a slightly different perspective than the other gospels and Jesus humanity is highlighted more than any other book in the Bible.
The other two gospels, the book of Luke and the book of Matthew are also great places to start reading the Bible! It was so hard to pick between them all. Matthew was written by the former tax collector and disciple of Jesus, Matthew and he emphasizes Jesus as the King and Messiah for the Jewish people.
Luke’s gospel was written from firsthand accounts of eyewitnesses to Jesus life and ministry. Luke was a doctor and his account contains tons of beautiful details of Jesus as well.
3. Book of Acts
The story of the early church continues to unfold in the book of Acts. We see the Holy Spirit coming into the new believers and how God spreads the message of Jesus all over the world.
This helps frame the continued story from the gospels and see how deeply Jesus impacted his followers and the impact they had all over the known world.
I’m constantly challenged and encouraged by the acts of the early church when I read this book!
4. Book of Ephesians,3,0.51
The book of Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul and is a great introduction to Paul’s letters (he wrote almost half of the entire New Testament!).
Ephesians begins with a beautiful explanation about God’s grace and love then moves into Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church. He ends with practical teaching about so many different types of relationship and encouragements to stay strong in spiritual warfare.
One of my favorite verses in Ephesians is…
For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
It’s a short book (only 6 chapters) but it is incredibly dynamic and uplifting to read.
6. Book of James
James is a great book–it is practical and powerful–and is a good place to begin reading in the Bible!
James was written by the half brother of Jesus who also became one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. James didn’t believe in Jesus until Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. James is another relatively easy and short read, but you can also slow down and spend lots of time in it.
One Bible study on James I recommend if you want to dig deeper is James: Mercy Triumphs Bible study by Beth Moore!
Old Testament Books
1. Book of Psalms
This is one of my favorite books of the bible, for sure! The book of Psalms is the songbook of the Hebrew people–recalling their joy, sorrow, and hope over hundreds of years. It’s such an honor just to hold and read such a precious book.
There is so much honesty and emotion in the Psalms.
The Psalms are full to the brim with God’s promises which is why I love this book so much!
I created my 30 Days to Claiming the Promises of God Bible Study after spending the summer reading through the Psalms. I found the most powerful promises for today’s Christian women and in this Bible study we spend 30 days immersed and meditating on them.
Psalms is a great place to start reading because the Psalms are simple and heartfelt. Reading them helps me feel seen, known, and loved exceedingly by the God of the universe.
2. Book of Genesis,
The first book of the Bible is a great place to start reading the Bible! You see the origin of the universe and the need of humanity for a Savior, Jesus. In Genesis you meet the Patriarchs–the founders of the nation of Israel and see how God raises up one faithful man, Abraham to bring about the rescue of the whole world.
Perhaps the most famous verse in Genesis is the first one…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..Genesis 1:1
3. Book of Exodus
In Exodus we follow the continuing story of the nation of Israel as they struggle with slavery in Egypt, how God delivered them, and then led them to the promised land. Of course, it’s a great follow up to Genesis!
Parts of Exodus are really hard to read–it’s frustrating to read how stubborn and ridiculous the people of Israel are–but their story is a rich teacher.
In the wilderness God leads them and loves them relentlessly. He is passionate about their pure devotion to them and what is best for them.
4. Book of Ruth
The book of Ruth is a breathtaking love story that illustrates the love of God, and His faithfulness. It’s a nice, easy read and you can fairly easily finish the whole book in one sitting.
Ruth is held up as an ideal woman and Boaz as her protector and provider. It’s truly one of the most beautiful love stories in the Bible!
5. Book of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs is filled with practical advice for Christian life. It has 31 chapters and reading a chapter a day for a month is a great place to start your Bible reading.
Proverbs centers around contrasting wisdom and folly. Wisdom is found by the fear of the Lord and folly is seen in laziness, in sexual sin, in pride and in living life apart from God.
One familiar verse in Proverbs is…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.-Proverbs 3:5-6
How to Approach Reading the whole Bible
Once you have read a few books of the Bible I highly recommend reading the whole Bible through in its entirety! It may seem intimidating but you can do it!
Most recently I have read the Bible through in chronological order using a Bible app, Youversion with the Bible reading plan called The Bible Recap. There is also a daily podcast to listen to that helps explain more difficult passage and gives you extra context for what you’re reading.
(Which is especially helpful in prophetic books or discouraging ones like Judges.)
What version of the Bible to read the first time?
I read most often from the New International Version. It’s a great translation and I also like the New Living Translation–it’s very conversational in it’s one which makes it great for longer passages!
You can check out a review of one my current favorite Bible: The She Reads Truth Bible
Beginning reading the Bible for the first time is really intimidating, but knowing where to start helps tremendously. I always encourage people to read with a journal in hand so they can jot down thoughts, questions, verses that stand out, and prayers as they read the Word.
To learn more about studying the Bible check out these articles and be sure to grab your FREE BIBLE STUDY WORKSHEETS to help guide you through your Bible reading.
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I loved this article, it’s very informative and helpful to those who need direction as to how to start reading the Bible. I use the Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan of 10 Chapters a Day reading one chapter daily from 10 different books of the Bible. It is the most exciting way I’ve experienced to read the Bible.
Thanks for sharing this article with everyone.
Okay, I stumbled across your site today and this was a lovely read. I go hot and cold with my faith and sometimes it’s hard to stick with a Bible reading plan. I’ve actually yet to make this a consistent habit, which is super annoying to me. I’m going to bookmark your site and check out your other articles, but this was helpful to me on getting started again.
I keep trying these read the Bible in a year programs and I’m thinking I should just start with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and then move through the other books you listed here before trying to read all the way through.
That’s a great idea Teresa! I have enjoyed reading through the Bible chronologically, but it’s a BIG commitment and it’s hard to keep up the pace while still getting the most out of it! Definitely love your idea of reading through the gospels and then some others on this list. Keep us updated with your progress!
I will try. Thanks again. I will try to stop by your site more often 🙂