Many people who try to read the Bible in order from cover-to-cover seem to get stuck. The Bible is a long book and it’s easy to get lost in all the details and nuances. Is the Bible meant to be read cover to cover?
No, the books of the Bible were arranged by the type of book and are not meant to be read in order. I want to suggest an order to read the books of the Bible so you can get the most out of your reading.
What is the best order to read the Bible? The best order to read the Bible is to start with the books that give an overview of the main themes and storyline. This order should also include a sampling of every type of book in the Bible. Here is the order that I would recommend based on these criteria.
The Best Order to Read the Bible for Beginners
- 1 Samuel
- 2 Samuel
- 1 Kings
- 2 Kings
What order to read the bible for beginners? Starting with these 15 books of the Bible will help you cover all the major themes and storyline of the Bible. The remaining 51 books can be read in any order after that to fill in all the details. This is the best order to read the bible for the first time.
But, here is a big exception:
If you’re not sure how much of the Bible you might read or might only read one book, I would recommend reading the book of Mark first. I explain why in this article: Which Gospel to Read First – The Best Way for Beginners.
Mark gives the climax and the main point of the Bible. It explains what the Bible is building towards, so it would be bad if you missed the main point.
In the list of 15 books above, I recommend Luke as the Gospel to read because it’s the most thorough. But the Gospel of Mark presents the Good News of Jesus Christ as well.
Any of the first 3 Gospels in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) would give you the same main point of the Bible. I recommend Mark because it’s the shortest of the Gospels, being only 16 chapters long. But you can’t go wrong with any of the 3 Gospels accounts of Jesus’ life.
If you’re thinking of reading through the Bible or following the list of 15 books above, a great resource is: Unlocking the Bible: A Unique Overview of the Whole Bible (You can check out the reviews on this link to Amazon). It has a chapter on every book of the Bible and helps you see where each book fits in the big story. I highly recommend it. Be sure to get the book and not the companion volume which only has charts, diagrams, and images. The covers look very similar.
What Each Book Contributes to the Main Storyline of the Bible
Here is a brief summary of each book on the list, so you can get an idea of the overall storyline. It’ll also help you to know what to expect as you read.
God created a perfect world without brokenness. Adam and Eve depart from God’s way and go their own way, leading mankind into the brokenness that results from sin and death. God sets into motion a plan of redemption by choosing Abraham, a man of faith. God promises Abraham land and descendants who will become the nation of Israel to bless all the peoples of the earth (Genesis 22:18).
God delivered Israel from their oppressors in Egypt. God makes a covenant with them on Mount Sinai. God will bless them as a nation if they will follow in His ways and follow His Laws. The Tabernacle is built and the Ark of the Covenant is placed in it, symbolizing God’s dwelling with mankind. Genesis and Exodus are 2 of the 5 books of the Law.
Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, but God calls Joshua to lead the nation into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.
Samuel is called to be a prophet to call Israel to God. Saul, the first king does not follow God. Samuel anoints David, a man after God’s heart, to be king after Saul.
David rules over the nation of Israel for 40 years. David makes Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
Solomon reigns during the height of the nation of Israel. After Solomon, the nation of Israel is divided into two: the Nothern region of Israel and the Southern region of Judah.
God uses Elijah the prophet to call the nation of Israel back to Him. Israel does not follow God for many centuries with the exception of a few instances of revival. The Northern Kingdom falls to the Assyrian army. The Southern Kingdom eventually falls to the Babylonians. The people of Israel are sent into exile in Babylon for 70 years.
Ezra leads a group of Jewish people back from Babylon to Israel to rebuild the temple. Ezra calls the nation to commit to walking in God’s ways.
Nehemiah leads another group back from Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Joshua to Nehemiah are examples of books of History.
The prophets called the people of Israel to remain faithful to God. Some prophesied before the judgments of Assyria and Babylon. Others prophesied of God’s mercy to return them back to the land of Israel after the invasions. Habakkuk is an example of a prophet who was calling the nation back to God and warning of the imminent invasion by the Babylonians.
Proverbs is a book of wisdom sayings, an example of one of the 5 books of Hebrew poetry.
We now jump to the New Testament where we see the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus preached and demonstrated the Gospel, the Good News, that God’s Kingdom, His rule and reign, were near. Jesus called people to believe in Him as the Son of God who would die for the sins of the world and rise again.
After Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension back to heaven, He calls his disciples to continue His message and mission. It starts in Jerusalem and will end when the Good News goes to the ends of the earth. Acts is the history of the early church.
Ephesians is an example of one of Paul’s letters (epistles) to the churches that he ministered to. It explains the Gospel from his perspective and calls the people to live in light of their new identity as Christians.
Revelation is a prophetic book that reveals Jesus’ leadership at the end of this age. Jesus will return as a Bridegroom to come for His Bride (His people), King, and Judge to rule and judge the nations of the earth and restore God’s original design, resulting in a New Heaven and a New Earth.
If you want to know how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, you might be interested in this article where I explain it in a little bit more detail: Difference Between Old and New Testament: With Simple Charts (link opens in a new window). It will help make some of the connections and fill in some of the gaps.
Is the Bible Meant to Be Read in Order?
The books of the bible are arranged according to the type of book and are not meant to be read in order. In fact, most people who try to read from cover-to-cover in order tend to get stuck after a few books. It’s better to go for the overview first and then come back to fill in the details.
The books of the Old Testament are categorized into groups: the Law, History, Poetry, Prophetic. The books of the New Testament can get categorized into these groups: Gospels, History, Epistles, Prophetic. The order of 15 books recommended above includes at least one book from each category so you can get an idea of every genre.
There is also some repetition in the Bible. For example, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles cover much of the same history from slightly different perspectives. The same is true of the 4 Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is better to leave the nuances of the differences until after you get an overview of the Bible.
Also, if you read just 1 of the Gospels first, you can get a good sense of the life of Jesus. I recommend Luke in the list of 15 books above because he gives a thorough and orderly account of Jesus’ life and ministry. It also fits in well with the book of Acts, as Luke wrote that book too.
Reading for an overview of the Bible first is a good way to not get bogged down in difficult passages or a list of names and numbers that don’t make sense. Those can all be read later. Go for the main flow of the Scripture first.
Are There Other Ways to Read the Bible?
Another order to read the Bible is to jump back and forth between the Old and New Testaments. For example, read Genesis, then Luke, go back to Exodus, then jump to Acts, etc…
Another way is to read them simultaneously. For example, read a few chapters of Genesis and a few chapters of Luke each day. That way, you get a little bit of the Old and New Testament at the same time.
Also, if you want to read the Bible in chronological order, you might find a chronological Bible useful. You can take a look at one like the One Year Chronological Bible NLT (Link to Amazon). It’s formatted into 365 daily readings in the order that they happen in history. It makes it easy to read the Bible chronologically.
You might also want to consider a resource like the NLT One Year Chronological Study Bible (Link to Amazon). It has a brief commentary for each day so you can understand what you’re reading.
What is the right order to read the whole Bible? There is no one right order to read the Bible. It’s just a matter of what you want to get out of it.
I think the way above is the best and preferred order to read the Bible, but whatever order you choose to go about it, don’t feel restricted to the order. For example, if you find something really interesting, feel free to spend more time in that type of book.
May God open the eyes of your heart to encounter Him through His Word!
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13
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|After helping people read and study the Bible for many years, I’ve found that how you approach the Bible is more important than the order that you read it. In this article, I share 7 Guidelines: How to Start Studying the Bible for Yourself (link opens in a new window). The guidelines will help you get the most out of your Bible reading.|
I think you’ll enjoy The Bible Explained for Beginners (Simple Guide & Diagram). In it, I share a simple overview and diagram which I think will be really helpful as you read through the Bible.
Also, here is an article that I think will be helpful as you begin to read through the Bible: How to Read and Understand the Bible for Beginners (Essential Guide) it explains some of the essential people and ideas that will help you get the most out of your Bible reading.
Reading through the Bible is a great way to grow spiritually and receive God’s wisdom for your life. Here’s an article where I share 21 Valuable Benefits of Studying the Bible. I hope it’ll provide more motivation and encouragement for you as you read and study the Bible.