How to Use a Bible

How to Read a Bible and Follow Bible References

By Jeanne Dennis, Colson Fellow and Centurion

IMG_0391Parts of the Bible

First of all, the Bible has two parts, the OLD TESTAMENT and the NEW TESTAMENT. The Old Testament contains the books written before Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, lived. The New Testament contains the books written from the time of Jesus until after his death and Resurrection and late into the First Century.


Often the names of Bible books are abbreviated, or shortened, to save space. You can find some common abbreviations for Bible books in parentheses ( ) after the names of the books, below.

The Old Testament books of the Bible appear in this order:

Genesis (Gen.)
Exodus (Ex.)
Leviticus (Lev.)
Numbers (Num.)
Deuteronomy (Deut.)
Joshua (Josh.)
Judges (Judg.)
1 Samuel [We say, “First Samuel.”] (1 Sam.)
2 Samuel [We say, “Second Samuel.”] (2 Sam.)
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles (1 Chron.)
2 Chronicles (2 Chron.)
Ezra (Ez)
Nehemiah (Neh.)
Psalms (Ps.)
Proverbs (Prov.)
Ecclesiastes (Eccl.)
Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) (Song of Sol.)
Isaiah (Isa.)
Jeremiah (Jer.)
Lamentations (Lam.)
Ezekiel (Ezek.)
Daniel (Dan.)
Hosea (Hos.)
Obadiah (Obad.)
Jonah (Jon.)
Micah (Mic.)
Nahum (Nah.)
Habakkuk (Hab.)
Zephaniah (Zeph.)
Haggai (Hag.)
Zechariah (Zech.)
Malachi (Mal.)

The New Testament Books of the Bible appear in this order:

Matthew (Matt.)
Mark (Mk.)IMG_0480
Luke (Lk.)
John (Jn.)
Romans (Rom.)
1 Corinthians (1 Cor.)
2 Corinthians (2 Cor.)
Galatians (Gal.)
Ephesians (Eph.)
Philippians (Phil.)
Colossians (Col.)
1 Thessalonians (1 Thess.)
2 Thessalonians (2 Thess.)
1 Timothy (1 Tim.)
2 Timothy (2 Tim.)
Philemon (Philem.)
Hebrews (Heb.)
1 Peter (1 Pet.)
2 Peter (2 Pet.)
1 John
2 John
3 John [We say, “Third John.”]
Revelation (Rev.) or Apocalypse (Apoc.)

Chapters in the Bible

Each book of the Bible has been divided into chapters to make its parts easy to find. Chapter numbers are the large numbers you will find on the pages of the Bible.

Verses in the Bible

Each chapter in the Bible has been divided into verses. The small numbers you find to the left of lines or sentences in the Bible are the verse numbers. Smaller numbers and letters you might see to the right of words refer to notes in the margins or at the bottom of the page. These notes or cross-references are listed by the number of the verse.

How to Look up a Bible (or Scripture) Verse

Bible verses are written in a kind of shorthand, like this: 1 John 1:3.
The first part tells you the name of the book. In this case, the book is First John. The number after the book’s name is the chapter number, in this case, chapter 1. The number or numbers after the colon sign (:) tell you the verse number or numbers. In this case, verse three.

If you see something like this: 1 John 1:3,5 you would go to the book of First John, chapter one, and read verses three and five.

A dash between the verse numbers means that you would read from the beginning of the numbers to the end of the numbers. So if you see 1 John 1:3–5, you should go to the book called First John, find chapter 1, and read verses 3, 4, and 5.

You may also see numbers with a longer dash between them, like this:
1 John 1:3—2:5. This means that you should read the book of First John beginning at chapter 1, verse three, and ending at chapter 2, verse 5.

Where to Begin

People do not usually read the Bible from the beginning straight to the end. It is much easier to skip around a bit and get a feel for the whole Bible.

If you have never read the Bible before, the Book of John, Mark, or Luke is a great place to start. In the Old Testament, you might enjoy starting with Genesis. Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs, Esther, Ruth, and Daniel.

Make it a habit to read the Bible every day. Your whole life will be better for it!

This resource has been provided to you by Jeanne Dennis – Heritage of Truth.

Worldview Series Links:

Biblical Worldview

Vibrant Faith

Life’s Great Questions and God’s Answers

  Digging Deeper into Faith

Will I Go to Heaven?

How to Use a Bible



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