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Where would you recommend someone start if they really wanted to read the Bible for themselves?

I love this question so much. I wish more women were asking this question.

If you’ve hung around the blog for practically any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me say that next to “Is ______ a false teacher?”, the question I’m most often asked is, “Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?“. I give the same answer to that question every time: no.

First of all, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than a doctrinally sound study at a Christian retailer. But, second, why would you rob yourself of the joy of holding the actual words of God in your hands and studying them for yourself? I can’t bring myself to recommend something that would be less – less joy, less growth in Christ, less depth, less knowledge of the Word – than the best. I recommend that you study God’s Word itself, not the gleanings from somebody else’s study of God’s Word.

When I first received this question, I wasn’t sure whether the reader wanted to know which book of the Bible she should start with or which method to use, so I’ll cover both.

📖 Fear not. Let’s take just one step backwards from this reader’s question for a moment. Sadly, some women have never been introduced to the idea that they can study the Bible for themselves, without using a pre-packaged (I call them “canned”) study (book, workbook, DVD, etc.). If this Mailbag article is the first time you’ve ever heard of such a thing, and you’re intrigued but apprehensive, don’t be afraid to give it a try. Until some time around the latter part of the 20th century, when people wanted to study the Bible, they just picked up the Bible itself and started studying. And it worked. People – usually with far less education than you have – grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. There’s no reason you can’t do that, too.

📖 Go into it with the right mindset. Bible study is a skill just like anything else. You’re not going to be perfect at it the first time you try, just like you didn’t ride a bicycle perfectly the first time you tried. You may try a method of studying that just isn’t a fit for you. You might choose a book of the Bible that’s not as suited for beginners as another book might be. That’s OK. There’s going to be some trial and error. Stick with it and don’t give up.

📖 Commit I always encourage women to commit to putting aside all of the workbooks and devotionals for a year. It takes a while to get out of the habit of relying on somebody else to do the heavy lifting for you and into the habit of diligently digging in to God’s Word for yourself. If you have a little hiccup in your studying, don’t quit and go back to the canned studies, assuming you can’t handle studying God’s Word on your own. Yes, you can. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.

📖 “Training wheels” If you need a little help getting started, choose one of the studies I’ve written at the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. My studies are designed to train you to study the Bible for yourself. You’ll learn about context, cross-references, culture, the storyline of redemption from Old Testament to New, the kinds of questions you should be asking of the text, and more. They are “teach a woman to fish” studies rather than “give a woman a fish” studies. I fully expect that you will be able to bait your own hook in no time.

📖 Structure If structure and schedules and plans are your jam, you might want to choose a Bible reading plan. It’s become my New Year’s Day tradition to publish an annual round up of super Bible reading plans. Here’s the one for 2018. There are plans that range in length from seven days to indefinite. Some will take you through a biblical topic, others through one or two books, others through the whole Bible. If you’re a beginner, I would recommend starting with one of the shorter ones (90 days or less) to get your feet wet. And, when you’re ready to read through the whole Bible (which you really need to do at some point), I highly recommend the chronological plan.

📖 Freestyle If you’re more of a “set your own schedule” kind of person, just choose a book of the Bible – maybe one you’ve had your eye on – start at the beginning, and read a bit each day until you reach the end of the book. Then choose another book and start again. Not really familiar with the layout of the Bible? Try choosing one of the shorter (less than 20 chapters) books if this is your first try and you’re taking a shot in the dark. Enjoy reading stories? You might want to start with Genesis or one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Looking for instruction instead? Try one of the epistles (basically anything between Acts and Revelation). You will probably want to save the longer and more complicated books (ex: the major and minor prophets, Revelation, Leviticus) for when you get a bit more experience with studying Scripture. As you get more confident in studying the Bible, make it your goal to study through every book at least once. 

📖 How to? There are a variety of methods and techniques you can learn for studying the Bible, and whatever method enables you to rightly handle God’s Word and works best for you is fine. I like to keep things simple. Before I start studying, I spend some time in prayer. I confess my sins, ask God to speak to me through His Word, and ask Him to help me correctly understand, obey, and apply His Word. After that, I have a spiral notebook and a pen, and I simply take notes on the text. (If you want to see the kinds of things I write down when I take notes, read through the questions in one of the studies I’ve written at the “Bible Studies” tab. I write those studies the same way I take notes during my personal study time.) As a beginner you may wish to simply read the text and build up to taking notes as you become more comfortable with reading.

📖 Get some help. You don’t have to do this all by yourself. Maybe your husband, a godly friend, one of the older ladies at church, or your pastor could offer you some pointers on studying your Bible or help you out with any questions you might encounter along the way. Never be afraid to ask for help. That’s what brothers and sisters in Christ are for.

I’ve also got a number of resources on how to study the Bible under the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. Click on the link and scroll through, or you might wish to start with one of these.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them

As a newly doctrinally sound Christian, should I stop journaling?

(More details on taking notes on the text of Scripture.)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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