I Finished Reading the Bible — Now What?
- Jessica Brodie Award-winning Christian Novelist and Journalist
- 2022 25 Apr
If you’re reading this because you just finished reading the Bible and you’re wondering where to go next in your daily Bible reading, congratulations! You just did something powerful and important in your faith journey. It also puts you in the minority, as many Christians have never read the Bible in its entirety. Maybe they’ve read certain books or studied some parts alongside others, or maybe they think they get what they need from sermons at church or in church Bible studies or small groups. Maybe they’ve only read the New Testament, thinking anything before the birth of Christ isn’t nearly as important.
But if you’re among the minority who has finally finished reading the Bible—the prophets, the psalms, the proverbs, all the old stories about kings and kingdoms past, every one of the Gospels, and all the epistles from God’s called disciples—bravo!
So now what?
What do you do after you’ve completed the monumental task of reading God’s word? The following is a guide with some options:
1. You Start Over
That’s right — you open the Bible back up to Genesis 1 and continue your reading, but this time with fresh eyes and a fresh heart.
Now, when it comes to “regular” books, most of us don’t read a novel or a nonfiction paperback and then pick it back up and reread the thing. That feels repetitious and dull. You already know the end of the story, and you have probably already gleaned the wisdom you need.
But the Bible is different. As the inspired word of God, God wrote the Bible through God’s people, and the phenomenal thing about God’s word is its transformative power. It’s not that God’s meaning is different, for God’s word is unchanging and eternal. But what we get when we read the Bible often changes with every read.
For instance, I might read a particular book in the Bible and come away filled with wisdom about obedience. Other times, I can read the same book and come away struck with a message of God’s compassion and mercy. It’s the same exact text, but the Holy Spirit shifts my understanding to what God needs me to understand at that particular point in my life.
Also, rereading the Bible brings another benefit: greater understanding. When you read something for the second or third (or 25th) time, you notice things you didn’t notice the first time around. Maybe it’s a small detail about what someone wore or said, or a bigger understanding about military strategy that didn’t make sense in the first reading. I imagine you could probably read the Bible 1,000 times and come away with something new and different each time.
2. Try a Different Translation
God’s message and meaning are universal and unchanging. But let’s face it — the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. Most of us are not fluent in these languages.
Also, think about how the meaning of words has changed over time. I use words today that just 200 years ago would have meant something different given the context of the time. Think about the difference across 2,000 years or more.
Bible translations are simply different looks at the Bible by scholars who sit down with the original text and then, in their expert and fully educated understanding of the language, literally translate those words into English or another language so people understand them.
Any of us who have studied foreign languages know that sometimes sentence structure is vastly different between that language and English. So part of this translation involves the translator looking not only at the words themselves, but the sentences and how they should be phrased to communicate the author’s meaning. Sometimes it can be unclear.
This is why different translations sometimes use different words. Others are translated into more old-fashioned English, such as the King James Version, because at the time of the translation, that is how everyone spoke. Other translations done in more recent years attempt to look at the original text and translate it into today’s English. It’s the same meaning, but it’s just different somehow.
If you’ve just read the Bible in one translation, you might consider picking up an entirely different translation and reading it again. Doing so might enable you to understand the text in a different or deeper way, as certain things you didn’t grasp the first time might be clearer when phrased another way.
3. Read It in Sections
The Bible is organized into various parts. In the Old Testament we have the first five books, comprising what is known as the Pentateuch, that give us the creation story and all of God’s laws so His people can live well according to His design. Then we have the historical books (Joshua, Judges, all the way through Esther), then wisdom literature (psalms, proverbs, etc.). Then we have prophecies (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) about everything from the end times to Jesus Christ to the fall of Jerusalem.
In the New Testament we have the four Gospels detailing Jesus’s time among us on earth, and then the historical book of Acts about the growth of the church after Jesus’s resurrection. Next are the epistles, which are God-inspired letters from certain apostles (such as Paul, Peter, James, and John) to the early church explaining how we are to live and prepare as the body of Christ post-resurrection. Then we have the prophetic/apocalyptic book of Revelation at the end.
You might consider taking a section and reading it, perhaps comparing and contrasting it with other similar books of the Bible alongside it.
4. Do a Study
Consider gathering with other Christians and intentionally studying a particular book of the Bible together. Most studies dig in to the historical context and help people better understand the meaning and what was truly being said. It can help to have other people reading the same thing alongside you and then discussing the meaning and how it can apply today.
For instance, the apostle Paul didn’t say a word about social media when it comes to parenting teens — not only did social media not exist back then, but parenting looked very different back then, too. Yet studies can explore how certain aspects of what Paul said can and do apply to very modern situations.
5. Pray about What to Read
Another suggestion is to sit down with the Lord, close your eyes, and ask God to steer you to what to read next. You might not have liked Revelation the first time, but maybe God wants you to read it again for a particular reason. Maybe Lamentations was a blur the first time but now God needs you to focus on certain aspects of that book.
6. Figure Out Where Your Heart and Mind Are Tugging You
Recently, I had a really hard time focusing on anything except the psalms. I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the psalms (I tend to like the stories best), but for some reason that was the only part of the Bible my mind and heart could truly digest for a good month or two. I’m convinced that’s because God was steering me to read that, and He made the other sections either unappealing or too difficult for me at that moment in my life.
With this in mind, pick up the Bible and start reading. If your mind is wandering, figure out where it is wandering to and what it can absorb. Then read that.
There are probably a number of other suggestions beyond these that can help. These are just a few to get you started. But the important thing to remember is not to stop. Reading the Bible is not a “one and done” experience but a constant journey.
Scripture tells us we are to meditate on the Lord’s word night and day (Psalm 1:2). That’s not just thinking about God and praying constantly, but genuinely reading and thinking about His words to us. We are told to read the Bible.
So figure out the way that seems right for you, and jump in.
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Photo credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burden
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.