Author Bruce Barton called the Bible The Book Nobody Knows. That is practically true, but you can know it.
How should you read and study the Bible? The overall answer is any way that works for you! Just do it! Starting something new seems strange and difficult. So new Bible students are the ones most likely to become discouraged and give up altogether.
What is important is to get started and then stick with it. Take the most interesting approach and begin to get familiar with the content. Whet your appetite and hopefully the Bible will be a big part of your diet for life.
Many books and articles offer helpful suggestions for Bible study approaches, and we recommend that you eventually read and consider them. But don't feel obligated to take a certain approach or to follow a rigid structure or to stick with an approach when you would rather switch to a different one.
For example, one approach is to read the Bible all the way through in chronological order to get an overview. It is good to do that eventually, but it's not necessary to start that way. You can go through the books in any order. Another popular approach is topical Bible study, studying all the scriptures on any one topic.
The publishers of The Good News offer an excellent booklet, How to Understand the Bible, to get you started. We also offer a free, eye-opening, 12-lesson Bible Study Course that gives a new student a very good foundation of understanding. All are yours free for the asking.
We're also in the process of producing a commentary on the entire Bible—the Good News Bible Reading Program. You can access it at www.ucg.org/brp.
It's also fine when part of your personal Bible study is reading trustworthy articles, booklets and books about the Bible that explain it accurately. Of course, any such sources should be compared against the Bible itself to make sure they properly represent the Bible's teachings (see Acts 17:11). Indeed, over the long run be sure that much of your study is reading the Bible itself so that you become thoroughly familiar with the content and context of the Scriptures.
As you can afford it, you may want to purchase various Bible helps—reference books and computer programs that provide assistance in your studies.
If you have difficulty reading, you can take advantage of the fact that the Bible and many books are now available as audio recordings.
Also be sure to avoid the classic mistake many people make. Don't start out with preconceived doctrinal ideas and try to find verses that appear to provide support and justification for those beliefs. Read the Bible with an open mind and see for yourself what it says. Have the attitude of Jesus Christ who said, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).
Above all, seek to know the mind of God and His plan for your life. Apply what you learn in your life. Be a doer of the Word and use the Bible as a spiritual mirror to see how you need to change (see James 1:22-25).
Read the Bible. Study the Bible. Live the Bible.