The Bible is the world’s best selling book of all time. It has inspired thousands of generations of people and been the primary influence in the development of many things we take for granted including caring for the sick, educating children and helping the poor.
But is it still relevant?
Watch the video below to find out how to start reading the Bible
Got a question about the Bible? Chances are many others are asking the same question! Check out some FAQs below. If you’ve got a question not shown here, email us and we’ll try to find an answer for you.
The Bible is a collection of ancient writings that tells the unfolding story of God’s relationship with humanity (that’s you, and everyone ever born). The Bible is divided into two sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament begins with the story of God creating the world. It then follows the story of Abraham and Sarah, and their descendants who became known as the Israelites. It’s a very honest story of their struggle to follow God.
The New Testament follows a man named Jesus and then his followers as they spread the good news of what Jesus had said and done. Much of the New Testament is made up of letters that were shared around new churches to encourage them in their faith.
Well, no. The Bible won’t tell you everything there is to know about life or God. It won’t tell you how tall Jesus was or what car you should buy or who to marry. But the Bible does tell you about God’s relationship with us –
And that’s really important. Because we read it as part of this relationship and not just to know stuff, it’s OK to have questions or not know what to do with certain parts of it.
You mean I don’t start at the beginning? If you start reading the Bible at the beginning (like, you know, an ordinary book) you’ll probably get bogged down somewhere in Exodus, the second book of the Bible.
So where should I start? It’s best to jump three-quarters of the way through the Bible to the New Testament. The New Testament starts with four books which are called Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). It’s in the Gospels that we read about Jesus. That’s important because Jesus is at the centre of Christianity, and he said that he reveals exactly what God is like (check it out in John 14:9,10).
Because of this, Jesus is kind of like a compass. He helps us make sense of the rest of the Bible and points us to God. So it’s good to become familiar with the story of Jesus. In fact, it can be helpful to come back to the Gospels often as you read the Bible.
Once you’ve read the Gospels, go to the next bit of the story – the book of Acts – which tells the story of how the church started.
After you’ve read Acts, go back to the very first book of the Bible – Genesis – which tells of how God created the world and people, and how we humans messed it all up. You’ll be introduced to Abraham and Sarah and the nation of Israel that God started through them.
After this, you could carry on reading in the New Testament with the letters, or if you want a bit more background then read the first 20 chapters of Exodus. Another good idea is to read a Psalm or a few Proverbs alongside your other readings. Reading the Psalms shows us we can express all sorts of emotions to God, and Proverbs has some wise, but sometimes challenging tips for life.
Sometimes it’s not easy to find stuff in the Bible. That’s because there are more than 700,000 words
in it! That’s why, when you open a Bible, you’ll find lots of numbers everywhere – big ones and small ones. These were added in later to make it easier for people to find their way around. The big numbers are chapter numbers. The books of the Bible are divided into chapters.
The little numbers are verse numbers. The big chapter numbers and the small verse numbers make it easy for you to look up passages in the Bible. You can find any passage if you know the book name, chapter number and verse number.
For example, if a reference is John 14:27, you will go to the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 27. You’ll also sometimes see letters after the Bible reference like NRSV or GNB. These letters refer to the version that has been used.
Help! There’s some really strange things in the Bible. Yep, that’s why it’s really helpful to understand the context.
This means the situation, culture, and circumstances that something is written in. As you’ve probably worked out, the Bible is really, really old and this influences the way the stories in the Bible are told and meant to be read.
To better understand what you’re reading, use a study Bible or other resource to find the answers to these questions
How does what I’m reading fit into the whole Bible story?
What was the culture like?
When and why was this written?
Who were the first hearers/readers and what would this have meant to them?
What was the author’s personal experience and understanding of God?
Why has this lasted the test of time?