Reading the Bible
The Bible is considered, by some, to be the greatest and most important book ever written. As such, it can be daunting to read. Here are some things to consider as you get started.
- Regular Schedule is important. Try to stick with a schedule that works for you for reading, even if it is only half hour a day. Read at least a chapter at a time.
- Read it with an open heart and mind. Your aim should be to fill your mind with God’s thoughts and how creator deals with humans.
- Reflect on what you have read and compare it with what you already know.
- Where to start For the first time reader of the Christian Bible, start reading in The Gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. – the books about Jesus life and works on earth. Build your appetite for reading more and how it relates to the other books.
- Topic by Topic Understand the Bible is not a single, massive novel. Don’t try to read it start to finish, but rather in its intended books. for example creation is explained in Genesis, Poetry and song is in Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon… Wisdom for living is in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
- Remember that when the Bible was written it was NOT divided into chapters and verses. Verses were never meant to be quoted out of their context; read the whole of a book to get a sense of how the parts are to fit together. This also applies to letters, often referred to as epistles. Read the entire letter, not bits and pieces like a jigsaw puzzle.
- If you get stuck, or do not understand a passage, go to other people you trust for help. See if your conclusion matches God’s character (Exodus 34), and continue from there.
- Though many religions use one particular translation of the Bible (most commonly the ‘King James Version’) as their official ‘canon’, you may find it useful to begin with a more modernized text. A reputable bookseller should be able to direct you to an easier-to-read version. A good version to try is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) as it is probably the closest to the intent of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of the earliest texts we have.
- As you probably have noticed, people interpret the message of the Bible in many different ways. If you find yourself confused or curious, don’t be afraid to share your concerns with a pastor or friend. However, don’t allow anyone to force their beliefs on you. Be faithful to your understanding of the Book. True, sincere prayer will also clarify any doubts.
- Approach the Bible with joy and honest curiosity. Don’t fret if you can’t understand a particular passage; search for the things that you do understand, and use them to make your life happier and more full.
- Be informed about the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. A translation is taken word-for-word from the oldest texts available (in most cases) and written in the usage of the intended language of the time. Thus, the KJV was translated from the oldest texts available in 1611, into a dialect of English now known as Early Modern English, which was in common use at the time. Some more up-to-date translations that are widely trusted are the New King James, and New American Standard, New world Translation, though this certainly is not a complete list. A paraphrase is different from translation in that the “translators” will use some discretion as to the intended meaning of a phrase, and translate the entire phrase into something more meaningful to today’s reader. Such paraphrases are The Message, Wuest Expanded Translation, The New Living Translation, and others. Paraphrases are often written by one author, though collaboration in such projects is becoming more common. The accuracy of paraphrases is often in dispute, and not often recommended for Bible study. If in doubt, read several translations if you can, and pray for an answer.
- Unfortunately the only good way to solve the translation issue is to learn the original languages of Koine Greek and Hebrew. If you are motivated to do this, find a synagogue near you to help teach you Hebrew; often they have classes for those interested in the language, or find a good study guide to begin the process. Greek is often harder to come by, and if one can find a learned pastor or professor the process would go more smoothly, though with careful study it can be learned on one’s own. Get several modern versions and paraphrases and read them in parallel. This allows you to see the places that translators had trouble with and therefore allows you to tread carefully.
- Be thankful you have a Bible, whatever it may be. Hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide have never seen a Bible, and many have only held a page at a time, split up to encourage more people and avoid detection.