How do I read the Bible?


Hello there,

Being a newbie I just bought my first Bible, Ignatius Press Second Catholic Edition.
Where do I start? Just dive in or have a more structured approach.

Perhaps learn to read using Lectio Divina first?

I’m in the very early stages and there are many major changes going on in my life, one of them being my forever growing interest in the Catholic faith.

Oh, and I’m not a fast reader!
Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

God Bless,


I know some people that start at the begining and read to the end and then start over again. Seems reasonable. I find that by reading the daily mass readings, it gives me a way to manage the amount of reading and so forth. I think God is fully aware we have responsibilites. Also, by doing it that way I get to see how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament and how the books of the New Testament relate to the Gospels. When I run across something that I don’t understand, I google using the word catholic first and then type in the passage or type in commentaries, explanations, etc. BTW, that’s how I found this forum. Anyway, I suggest you try different things. Maybe a Bible study at your church. Find something comfortable and go with it. God is patient. Afterall, he’s got all the time in the world. :thumbsup:

Peace be with you.


Recommended reading:
Jewish People in the Bible
Catechism, Article 3, Sacred Scriptures


I have a strong opinion about this, based on my own experience. Coming from an atheist background, I made several unsuccessful attempts to read the Bible over a period of several years before I finally managed to make any progress. I think the reason my first attempts were unsuccessful was because I tried to start at the beginning, i.e., Genesis. I realize people are different, but here’s my take:

I strongly, strongly recommend beginning with the New Testament. Start with the Gospel of Matthew. Then, read the Gospel of John and the 3 epistles of John. Next, read the other Gospels (Mark and Luke). I think familiarity with Jesus is very helpful and important for understanding the Old Testament.

Once you are familiar with the Gospels, you could try (in any order you wish) reading Genesis and Exodus and the prophet Isaiah, and also read the NT epistles of Paul, which give interpretations of OT prophecy and events in light of the Gospel. Psalms are good to read at any time - they are prayers.

Obviously, the Bible is a huge book and quite dense, and this will take a while, but be patient and just enjoy it. At some point I would love to read the Bible through from beginning to end, but I got lost trying to do that at the very beginning.

Hope that helps!


Ah yes. The journey into scripture. If your anything like me when I started out, you’ll be wondering what those numbers are above the sentences. those are called verses. And the reeeaaally big numbers are the chapters. When you start a new chapter, the verses start over from one again.
You quote scripture like this;
Book Chapter:verse
for example;
John 3:16
But maybe you’ve had more exposure to the Bible then I have when I started out. The Bible is not only one book, it’s 66 books in one. (not sure how many books there are in Catholosism) It is split up into two sections, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins in the New Testament in the book of Matthew.
I recomend just carefully reading it. It’s good you’re not a fast reader. Absorb it’s message. Good luck, and God Bless.:thumbsup:


How I got started was I just flipped through it and started reading whatever caught my eye.

Later, I went through the Book of Proverbs one Proverb at a time, and used a Concordance to find, for example, every instance of the word “instruction”. (Now that we have the Internet, you could just plug any word you want into the search engine of your favourite on-line Bible, and see what pops up.) That was a really quick way to start learning my way around the Bible.

I used to have an outline for a comprehensive reading through Scripture that gives you a sense of “The Bible Story” without getting bogged down in endless “begats” etc., but I seem to have lost it.


Well, Grimble, I think you’re getting a lot of very good advice. I had forgotten that I too as a boy stayed away from the OT and focused on the NT. Unfortunately, it was rooted in a mistaken belief that the NT rendered the OT inoperable. I corrected my mistake later so there’s no need for anyone to tell me why that was wrong.

Still, I think that I was able to understand the OT much better having focused for so many years on the NT. I really like the “flip thru the pages” startegy. I have done that alot thru the years. I’m continually amazed at how the reading that “randomly” comes up is perfect for what my situation is at the time. God is truly great.

Just keep in mind, the scriptures are God’s love letters to you. Christ is your personal savior. Let the scriptures speak to you in your heart. The Holy Spirit whispers. So, be still, patient, and listen for the whisper.


Hi Grimble. Good luck on your journey.

My 2 cents.

Start with the Gospel of Mark, and try to put yourself in the shoes of a first century AD gentile (non-Jewish) reader. Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, and tells the basics about Jesus. Also, I’m not sure how much commentary you will find in your particular bible, but IMHO, the more, the better. If it’s there, read it (the fine print).

Then, I’d recommend another book that gives you the basic time line of the Bible, with key events. A way to read the key parts of the Bible, from start to finish, while temporarily skipping over the less significant (and often quite boring stuff).

I’d specifically recommend this book which personally gave me much more insight into the bible than I had before. It’s a fairly expensive book but hey, sometimes you get what you pay for :wink:

May God help you find him!

LATE EDIT: Here is an on-line bible study that you could also peruse. It’s free.


Actually, 73 - there are 46 books in the Old Testament, and 27 books in the New Testament.

It is split up into two sections, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins in the New Testament in the book of Matthew.
I recomend just carefully reading it. It’s good you’re not a fast reader. Absorb it’s message. Good luck, and God Bless.:thumbsup:

Once you get more into it, you also start to notice that the Old Testament is divided into sections, and the New Testament is also divided into sections - for example, the first five books of the Old Testament are called the “Torah” or “the Law” (also known as “The Books of Moses” and also as “The Pentateuch,” which is just Greek for “the Five”; then the next 16 books are “The Histories” - these are the ones you think of, when you think of the Old Testament - all those wars, and all that thunder and lightning - after that, we have “The Wisdom,” in 7 books, and finally, “The Prophets” which in turn are divided into The Major Prophets (4 Prophets, with 6 books; “Lamentations” is the second book of Jeremiah, and “Baruch” is a commentary on Jeremiah), and finally, 12 Minor Prophets. :slight_smile:

In the New Testament, we start with the four Gospels, which give us the stories of Jesus and a great many of His sayings and commandments, followed by the Acts of the Apostles, which tells us about the origins of the Church. This is followed by 13 letters of Paul to various Churches, then the Letter to the Hebrews, which is of unknown origin (it is variously attributed to St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and St. Clement; modern Bibles printed in the last 30 years don’t give any attribution at all, since nobody really knows for certain who wrote it - they didn’t know when they were putting the canon together in the 4th century, either, which is why it almost didn’t make it into the canon of the New Testament, but it was finally decided that even if it was not of direct Apostolic origin, it still reflected Apostolic teaching and didn’t contain anything heretical, so it was left in) - after this, we have 7 Apostolic letters directed to the whole church (one could almost consider them to be the equivalent of 1st century Encyclicals, since from the outset they were intended for all Christians to read) and finally, the most confusing book in the whole Bible, the Book of Revelation - St. Jerome put it in last for a very good reason - read the rest first, and make sure you understand the Gospels as thoroughly as possible, before you even try to get into that one. :slight_smile:



Stories of “how I became a Catholic” often begin with the honest, free-from-assumptions search for truth, but the actual path thereafter in terms of books, activities, mileposts and friends is often unique to each person. God’s call and ability to bring us along knows no restrictions.

You are already on the right path, in the center of your path.

Spending frequent times in silence at your favorite place for listening is good way to be led in Bible reading that will fit you.

But I also know that it can be helpful to read what others have done, here’s what you might consider:

— Start with the Gospel of John. I was completely unchurched at age 37 and for me this was the only place to start. Everyone has a different view on this — so pick your path.

— Get several different study or specialty Bibles in different good translations. See Catholic Bibles blog for links to publishers. Each one will have a different help system that greatly aids understanding. There is a Catholic Prayer Bible, Lectio Divina Edition coming in March 2010.

— Get a good, complete, children’s Bible. When I was beginning to read the Bible, I frequently found that the paraphrased text of the children’s Bible made everything clear.

— Read the “Catechism of the Catholic Church’s” text that cite to the key passages you are reading in the Bible.

— Get a larger print reading Bible (as distinguished from a Bible you use for study) that has as plain a text as possible, ie no headings, no large verse numbers, no cross references or notes. I use a large-print Bible that is mostly text with smallish verse numbers so reading the Bible for lectio divina is just reading the Bible without the distractions of the organizational helps.

— Don’t mark in your favorite reading Bible, the underlining now is not what will stand out later and the underlining distracts from future fresh reads.

— Keep a Biblical reading journal.

God bless you.


Ah, so that’s how many there are in the Catholic Bible.


Jesus’ “Bible” (actually, Jesus had a Scriptorium; not a Bible) had 46 books in it. We added the 27 books of the New Testament to it in 405 AD, by decree of Pope Innocent I, after considering the findings of three Councils - Rome, Carthage, and Hippo - where they spent about 20 years or so to discern which of the books attributed to the Apostles were suitable to be read out at Mass. Once the Pope had their final list of recommendations, he also asked St. Jerome to translate them and add them to the work that he was already doing with the books of what we now call the “Old Testament” (those original 46 books that Jesus and the first disciples had used, and which were still being used by the Church).

I am not sure when or how it came to be that there are now some Bibles that have only 66 books in them; however, it must have happened after the Council of Trent, since on April 8th, 1546, they record the same 46 book Old Testament and 27 book New Testament that St. Jerome was working with at the beginning of the 400s AD. The list given doesn’t seem to be in response to any kind of argument to the contrary - that is, there is no mention in the Council records of the existence of any Bibles not containing the same number of books, but rather, the list is given simply as a point of order to ensure that everyone knows what they mean when they use the phrase “The Holy Scriptures.”


Hi Grimble -

I too have the book referenced below - it’s wonderful and for me was well worth the money.

I also think that the following was a great post…

For me, I fell in love with God through the Old Testament but then again I was craving a Father’s love, for my father was taken away from me way too soon. Then later, when I needed a companion, I was lead to the New Testament. Now God has helped me connect the two as well as see the application to my life. As Big Ro stated, God is truly great!!

So, remember that no matter where you choose to read, you are in God’s word. Simply read around until you find something that connects with you. But first, and always, ask for God to send the Holy Spirit to aid you in understanding what it is He is saying to you.

Peace –


I have included a website that will direct you to various Catholic Resources. When you look at the site look for the Didache Series and go the to complete course. Purchase the Book “Understanding the Scriptures, a Complete Course on Bible Study” Bar none this is the BEST IMHO introduction you will find anywhere. The entire Didache series is wonderful and I wish all Catholics were familiar with them. They are produced by some of our finest scholars and are very enjoyable. I really hope you take this advice to heart it will help you more than you can know at this time.

God Bless You:thumbsup:


After a couple of decades of reading the Bible, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that to really read the Bible in a way that will help you grow in knowledge and, more important, spiritually, a two track aproach is the best.

First, you should be reading the Bible everyday. Just reading it; little by little, meditating on that little bit and over time becoming familiar with it. This is really the basis of growing in love for God and his Word and it is something that comes over a long time of doing it. A ready-made way of doing this, of course, is by using the readings that the Church hears at daily Mass. That alone is enough to feed your soul and help it grow.That’s number one.

At the same time, if you really want to grow in an in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures (which will also benefit you in your daily Bible reading), you need to study the Scriptures in a more systematic manner. Some people like “topical” Bible studies where you study a theme of Scripture for several weeks (like, for example, about famous men or women in the Bible, courage, faith, stewardship, parenting, discerning God’s will, etc.). Personally, I prefer starting out by getting involved in a study which gives you a broad picture of salvation histroy. Two very popular programs are Jeff Cavins “Bible Timeline” series and another series Cavin’s did with Dr. Scott Hahn on EWTN called “Our Father’s Plan.” Studies like this will help you get that “Big Picture” that will make the rest of your Bible study come alive and be more understandable.

After that, you should start studying the Bible book by book.There are several ways you can do this. You can join a good Catholic Bible study group if there is one being offered near you. Also, there are a lot of good Catholic Bible study guides and commentaries that you can use (like the Ignatius Study Bible and the Navarre Bible commentaries) to go through each book one by on your own. If you like to download mp3s, there are some very good Catholic Bible studys that you can download and listen to at your leisure. Some can be found at in their audio library (especially studies on the Gospels). There is a site called St. Irenaeus Ministries that has on-going Catholic studies of many books of the Bible. Just these alone should keep you busy for a while.

So, to re-cap: the best way to learn the Bible is to read a little of it every single day for spiritual edification and to grow in familiarity. At the same time, be studying at least one book of the Bible all the time so that you can grow in knowledge and have a solid foundation to your daily Bible reading.

If you need more information or resources, please visit my webpage, linked below.

Hope that helps. :slight_smile:


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