First Time Reading The Bible Questions


Hi all, yesterday I decided to start reading the Bible after intending to for years. While I realise I’ve barely scratched the surface I’m finding the more I read the less it makes sense to me and the more confused I’m getting as to why people believe that it’s true. Any advice on what to do?

I’m up to Genesis 28 by the way.


Sure, get a Bible commentary to read along side of it. There are lots of them out there. Look for a good Catholic one.Or take a Bible study class.


Well, usually things do start to make less sense the deeper you get into it. At least, that’s how it starts. I thought I knew everything there was to know of organic chemistry because we had touched on it in my general chemistry class. I quickly found out after signing up for organic chemistry that I really knew nothing, so nothing made sense. This is why we keep learning everything we can, so that it will eventually make sense.

The Bible came as a shock to myself as well. I heard from it and of it a lot in my childhood, but I had never gotten very far in reading it on my own. I may have read the first chapter of Genesis my first go at it (I was in high school at the time). I quickly gave up on it until I got into college, and read it all the way through within a year and a half after starting it the second time. I mostly heard from the Old Testament as a child, so I was already somewhat familiar with it when I began, but I understand that it’s hard to take everything in it in a literalistic way.

That’s why we shouldn’t take things literalistically. The Bible is a library, not one single book (even though we can fashion all of its individual parts into one volume). It contains some very literal and historical facts, as well as allegory, and certainly everything in between. Jesus Himself frequently employed hyperbole, and then there were times when what He meant was precisely what He said. Just the same with everything else in the Bible’s pages.

Using Catholic Answers is a good start- this is where I started, and it’s been indispensable. You should make use of both the forums and the “main” site. You should also find a good study Bible. The Ignatius Bible is the best one that I know of, but unfortunately only the New Testament is completed (you can buy some individual books from the Old Testament, but that’s going to be costly).

You should also talk to actual Christians. Ask them (us) what they (we) think. For Christians of the Catholic variety, we also have Church history and our magisterium to point to for guidance, so our theological tradition is very impressive. We’ve probably answered, or are answering, any question you could possibly imagine- that may just involve you taking some of the answers to individual questions and fashioning them together to find a more precise one.

I hope that helps.


Search for a good Catholic Bible study in your area. I’m partial to Jeff Cavins’ “Bible Timeline” study (the 24-week one, not the 8-week one)…


Hello Inquisitor85,
First off, I agree with the posters above. A good biblical commentary or a study bible is a good place to start. Next, you must keep in mind that the Bible is not a linear narrative. It is not even a single book, but rather a collection of books. As such, every book of the Bible is written at a specific time, for a specific people, in a specific literary style. They are not all meant to be taken literally.

Genesis as it is today is anywhere from three thousand to two thousand, five hundred years old. The writing styles and the imagery used by the author may be totally foreign to us and as such we need a commentary to understand the context in which it was written. Genesis is not, in fact, even meant to be taken independently. It is part of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. These are the primary basis for Jewish scriptures and meant to be taken as a whole.

There is a lot of groundwork put down in Genesis which is built upon later in the Bible. For example: the sacrifice of Isaac. The sacrifice of children on or near Mt. Moriah (where Jerusalem is now built) is a recurring theme. God tests Abraham’s faith by placing the life of his son into God’s hands there on a spur of the Mountain. The valley of Gehenna (the valley directly to the east of Mt. Moriah/Jerusalem) was cursed because King Hezakiah sacrificed his eldest son along with some of his other children there by fire to the pagan god Moloch and Christ was crucified on Calvary, a spur of Mt. Moriah overlooking Gehenna (identified by some scholars as the same place where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac). Again, a commentary helps to provide some of this context.

God Bless,
Br. Ben, CRM


Personally I’d start with the New Testament (while reading the complementary texts of the Old Testament) if you want to understand Christianity, as the Old Testament really does make much more sense once you understand the New Testament… at least it did to me.

The Old Testament foretells the coming of Christ and shows us the many evils of mankind, but God becomes easier to understand once one reads the New Testament, IMO - I don’t pretend to understand God fully, just to clarify :slight_smile: but I found the Old Testament a tough read, with some books tougher than others, but now I can recognise their beauty and great importance. The meaning of the passages scream out at you, when you might otherwise miss their significance.


Start with the Gospels in the New Testament


My university’s theology classes often uses this text, written by a Catholic priest. It is quite good.


I take the first sentence in the Bible to be an absolute truth, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. The rest of the bible is a lifetime journey that you try and understand bit by bit.

The Old Testament is hard going, but I still recommend reading it. The first time I read through the bible, it took about a year, now it takes about two years.


Thanks for your replies everyone, is there a reason why several of you have suggested starting with the NT, that seems counter intuitive to me.


I did explain in my post why I made that suggestion. I also imagine that when the apostles went out to preach, they didn’t start with the OT, but with Christ. If it doesn’t make sense, then go with your gut instinct, it was just my personal opinion.


You will completely lose it by Leviticus. Read one gospel, Matthew, Mark or Luke… not John cause it’s not written plain. Then read the book of Acts which comes after the four gospels. Then finish genesis and read exodus. Then move onto the psalms and proverbs.

If you have been going to mass Sunday’s you have been through the Bible every three years. The Bible is a library of books, some focus on history, others law, others letters to churches. Mass takes a psalm, a reading from the Old Testament, one from the New, and then a gospel. What you could also do is get the daily mass readings. That would get you through the Bible in a year. USCCB can email them to you. If a passage doesn’t make you can then find out catholic comments on the passage just remember while goggling to our catholic, if you are catholic. At mass the homily is supposed to be about the readings/gospel. Can sometimes also talk about other things also but part of the time should be on what was read.


If you want to start with the OT Genesis and Exodus is the logical place to start. After that though you may very well get discouraged with the rest of the Pentateuch and the history books. I started with the first two books of the OT , then the NT chronologically, and then back to the OT starting with the wisdom books. As far as commentary, especially for the NT, I think it’s better to read through the first time without disrupting the narrative by getting caught up in reading commentary notes. You can always go back and read again and study what scholars and theologians write in the commentary.


The OT starts with the Torah, then moves onto other books. The New Testament starts with four gospel accounts then other books explaining the early church and then ending with revelation which is part present in desguise and park future. Which books were to be included in the Bible were decided around the 4th century. I know since the printing press people have been able to read the Bible on their own instead of being read to from bibles copied by hand and rare or passed down information orally. It was not originally a start to finish book. For instance the readings about Jesus coming fortold and the Christmas account are read during advent and Christmas, readings about the passion during Easter week.


Here is a link for Catholic lectionary statistics. If you go to mass every day for three years, you hear13.5% of the Old Testament minus the psalms. You hear about 71.5% of the New Testament.


Mind if I quibble a little bit?

The Catholic lectionary for Sunday Mass is on a three year cycle, but it doesn’t provide complete coverage of the entire Bible in three years. However, it does provide good coverage of the Gospels in that time frame.

The lectionary for daily Mass is on a two-year cycle, not one-year. Still, it does not cover all of the Bible – just a large portion of it.

In each of these lectionary cycles, there are periods of time in which we work our way through a particular book or a series of chapters in a book. However, there are gaps between the passages.

So, the best way to get all of the Bible is to sit down and read it. (And, I’d assert, the best way to understand what we’re reading is to participate in a good Catholic Bible study program.)



Start where you wish, but there are people who would rather you start with the New Testament. For starters, the Old Testament is “Jewish”, so you’ll be “learning about Judaism before Christianity”. Jews and Christians have a common history, but the point where we became Christian is the New Testament.

That being said, I began with the Old Testament myself. As long as you can get yourself on a plan where you complete the Old Testament within a year, I’d say you’ll be OK to start there. I might suggest skipping the Proverbs and Psalms at first because those held me up for a long time. Otherwise, they might be better read in conjunction with the other Biblical books rather than taken on their own, just for the sake of time. Maybe you could read one of them before or after your chosen reading for the day?


I might even go against the grain here and recommend that you start with the Old Testament, especially since you’re so far along in Genesis. If you really take in what you’re reading (and not just “blow through it” like I did my first time), you’ll understand a lot of what the New Testament recalls from the Old Testament, and you’ll understand why Judaism has Messianic expectations.


Genesis is very content heavy.

I would suggest reading the New Testament first :slight_smile:

Because the Catholic church reads the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.


A very useful tip also,
Is to download the audible app,
Go to and download the ‘Truth and Life’ audio bible (new testament),

And ‘Word of Promise’ old testament audio bible.

Both audio bibles are performed by hollywood actors in the form of listening to a movie, different voices for characters, sound effects, background music score,
(The Producer who made them was inspired to do this after visiting the set for the Passion of the Christ movie).

Very useful for the drive to work/ when out jogging/ in the gym.

The audible app will remember where you paused each bible, and continue from their the next day.

Also: you can click on specific bible chapters if you wish just to listen to specific bible books in your own order.

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