A lot of people read the Bible.
The Guinness Book of World Records estimates that between 5 and 7 billion copies of the Bible have been sold in recent years, yet there are only about 2.6 billion people in the world who call themselves Christians. So it’s not a stretch to imagine that billions of people from all backgrounds and faith traditions are finding wisdom and value from the world’s best-selling book.
But it’s also an ancient book, so it can be confusing when you first encounter the Bible. That’s why we’ve created this complete beginner’s guide to the Bible. We will break down what the Bible is, why so many people find it so valuable, and the best ways to experience it for yourself.
Overview of the Bible
The Bible isn’t just one book. It’s a collection of 66 books and not as long as you might think. Clocking in at 783,137 words, it is about 300,000 words shorter than the Harry Potter book series. It was written over thousands of years by many different authors. Yet it still tells one unifying story about God’s relationship with humankind, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Bible is split into two halves, called testaments.
- The Old Testament recounts the story of God’s relationship with humanity from the beginning up until the birth of Jesus and includes a few other books relevant to that story. Proverbs, for example, is a collection of ancient wisdom describing how life works best, and the Psalms is a prayer book.
- The New Testament tells the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, followed by the story of what his first disciples did, and includes a series of letters meant to encourage those first disciples.
The two testaments are each broken up into books, and each book is divided into chapters. Those chapters are broken up even further into verses. That’s why you often see references to Bible verses that look like someone’s name and a random time from a digital clock.
For example, John 3:16 is a popular verse that reads,
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
In the above Bible reference, John is shorthand for the name of the book where this verse is found. The numbers, then, refer to the chapter (on the left side of the colon) and the verse (on the right side of the colon). So, John 3:16 is the 16th verse in chapter 3 of the Gospel according to John.
Why do people read the Bible?
First of all, people read the Bible because it is reliable.
The way we can tell if an ancient text has been altered or not is by how many old manuscripts we have available to us.Scholars simply cross-reference a modern text with any ancient copies of that text. If there are many different ancient copies that are the same as our modern text, it’s considered reliable. For example, there are about 150 early manuscripts of Plato’s The Republic all similar to our modern version, so scholars consider it a very reliable text. With the Bible, however, there are approximately 25,100 manuscripts showing that our modern versions are almost identical to the originals!
Secondly, people read the Bible because it helps them grow spiritually.
The Bible is full of useful information about how to navigate life. It can teach us a lot about marriage, parenting, managing our finances, finding true joy, and discovering our calling. But most of all it helps us to understand ourselves in relation to God. Many people believe it to be the very words of God Himself, given to us through human authors. Do you believe that as well? The best way to find out is to jump in and see for yourself!
So, how can you use the Bible to discover God’s truth?
In many ways, the Bible is just like any other book. You can open it up and start reading. But in some ways, it is different. The following is a list of helpful tips to get the most out of the Bible.
- Get a translation that sounds similar to the way you talk. There are a lot of different translations of the Bible. Some try to preserve the way people used to speak in ancient times. But in most languages, there is at least one version that is designed to sound like the typical speech that everyone around you uses. There is nothing wrong with using one of these translations to help you understand what you are reading!
- Be open to God speaking through the Bible. It has been said that the Bible is the only book you can read with the author since God is present everywhere, and it’s true! Because of this, it’s always good to pray and ask God to speak through the Bible. If you’ve never prayed before, or feel uncomfortable praying, just try to be open to what He might want to put on your heart from the text.
- Read the Bible with your friends or family. Since God wants to speak to us as we read, it’s important to read it in a group with others. This is because one of His favorite ways to speak to us is through the other people in our lives! An easy way to do this is to simply ask open-ended questions for discussion, like “What does this teach us about God?” or “What do we learn about people from this passage?” No need for anyone to be an expert. Just share what you think with others and listen to their thoughts too.
- Put into practice what you are learning. It’s really hard to truly understand something if you just talk about it. If you want to experience what God has for you through the Bible, you need to act on it in some small way. Don’t worry about reading a lot. Instead, just read a little and do it. That’s the best way to learn and grow through the Bible.
- Share what you are learning with someone else! God is like a good father who wants all his kids to have a good relationship with each other, as well as with Him. Because of this, reading the Bible often works best when we share it with others. God loves to see people helping each other rather than keeping good things to themselves, so He blesses us as we share with others.
The Easiest Way to Get Started!
Now you know everything you need to get started and experience the Bible for yourself! But to make it even easier, we’ve created an entire app to take you by the hand and guide you through your journey of discovering God through the Bible. It’s called Waha, and it will help you know what to read next and even facilitate an in-person meeting with your family and friends for you. It’s available for free on Apple or Android stores, so download it today and get started!