How to Read the Bible

by Kelsey Branderhorst on

I was not a big reader growing up. In fact, as a kid, I loved borrowing books on tape from the library and putting myself in the stories I would hear in my awesome yellow walkman. Somehow, when other people read, they knew which character to give which voice and could help me understand the big picture; but trying to do it myself felt overwhelming and exhausting. I would open to the first page and quickly put the book down for other activities that I understood like basketball or Oregon Trail.

When it came to reading my Bible, I found I approached it with the same attitude of uncertainty and feeling of being overwhelmed. I found myself backing away from reading any part of the Bible because there were so many characters and so many different sections that I was never sure where to start or if the stories connected. At some point, I gave up on reading and would wait for the next message at church to tell me what I needed to know about God. I never fully felt like I connected to God because I was hearing it from someone else and could tell I was missing some personal connection.

In Middle School and High School, something changed. I found a series of books that changed my way of reading forever: Harry Potter! These incredibly long series of books was filled with the largest books I had ever seen and yet somehow, with all the complicated story lines and the introduction of new characters throughout the series, I found myself engaged and in hope of connecting to the characters personally (Hermione felt like she came out of my own heart!). While reading this series, I began to recognize my own passion for reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. While I avoided the Bible for some, it soon became clear that I wanted to know Jesus for myself. The Bible quickly moved from a daunting task to my guide and go to place for truth!

To say that reading my Bible started out “fun” would be a lie. It was hard work. I spent quite a chunk of time in High School and college just understanding the structure of the Bible. However, as I began to dive deeper and deeper into reading, I found that it was fun to figure out who wrote each book, to whom it was written, and what was going on in the world at the time. I also began to see that there were resources around me to help me understand what was going on in each story and how it fit into the whole story of God’s heart for all people. Soon the Old Testament and New Testament all pointed me to God’s love and now I can’t get enough!

If you are starting your journey or have been reading the Bible for a while but find yourself confused and frustrated at times, stick with it. The books of the Bible actually point us to the people who knew God intimately and lived it out in real life. They remind us we are not alone and it’s entirely ok to struggle with learning all about God. Each life lived showcase a part of God’s heart for us and teach us to trust even when we don’t understand. Below you will find the breakdown of the books of the Bible as well as a book that can help offer ways to dive deeper. Enjoy your reading and fall in love with God personally, it’s an incredible journey!

The Law Books
Purpose: to share the story of God and his people becoming one and developing a covenantal relationship.

The History Books
Joshua-Judges-Ruth-1 Samuel-2 Samuel-1 Kings-2 Kings-1 Chronicles-2 Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemia-Esther
Purpose: the early struggles and stories of God’s people trying to live out their relationship with God.

The Books of Poetry
Job-Psalms-Proverbs-Ecclesiastes-Song of Solomon
Purpose: God’s people expressing themselves and trying to understand their world.

The Prophets
Major: Isaiah-Jeremiah-Lamentations-Ezekiel-Daniel
Minor: Hosea-Joel-Amos-Obadiah-Jonah-Micah-Nahum-Habakkuk- Zephaniah-Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi
Purpose: God sending plea-filled messages to specific people for His people who had forgotten their relationship with Him.

The Gospels
Purpose: to share the story of God saving everyone through His son Jesus!

The New History Book
Purpose: to begin a new community where everyone is welcomed called The Church.

Paul’s Epistles/Letters
Romans-1 Corinthians-2 Corinthians-Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians-1 Thessalonians-2 Thessalonians
Purpose: letters from Paul to the local house churches to help them understand the new way they relate to God because of all that Jesus did for them.

The Pastoral Epistles
1 Timothy-2 Timothy-Titus-Philemon
Purpose: Paul writing to his friends to help them specifically in their leadership in their church communities.

The General Epistles
Hebrews-James-1 Peter-2 Peter-1 John-2 John-3 John-Jude-Revelation
Purpose: Other letters written to different people and communities to help churches understand how to live now and how to trust God with whatever comes next.

Resource Recommendation: How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee

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