I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it, and as long as you give me credit.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

How to read the Bible

How to Read the Bible
1) Reading the Bible, like any other habit, takes effort over a period of time. And, unlike most habits, there’s an Enemy who is fighting you. Keep at it. If you stop, start over.
2) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t promise to read the Bible through in a year before you have trained yourself to read, and really process a few verses, or even only one, every day. Some fine Christians seldom or never read the Bible straight through.
3) Use a modern version. You can buy some from Wal-Mart or a religious bookstore. The American Bible Society offers editions of the NLT, the ESV, the CEV and the NIV for less than $10. Wal-Mart on-line has good prices for a couple of versions, including the New King James, and The Message is available from Amazon or other vendors. No version is perfect, but all of these, and others, can help you. There are some free modern versions for Kindles and other e-readers, but they don’t have all the helps of an electronic version that you would buy.
Be careful in choosing. Remember that some Bibles are sold with a particular doctrinal agenda, (Offered by TV speakers, some of whom are heretical, or who push a view of prophecy that many Christians doubt.) or to appeal to a particular group (teenaged girls, etc.).
The King James Bible has helped many people, including me, but some of its wording is hard to understand, some of it is incomprehensible to most people, and there are new findings. (See here for more information.)
4) Use a plan. The devotional book accompanying the Sunday School quarterly that my church uses seems to have a good reading plan. There are many others. Search on-line for “Daily Bible Reading” and pick a plan, or use something recommended by someone else. I use the ESV One Year Bible, which I get from the web each day, but it’s not for everybody. Some people’s plan is to study what is of particular interest to them each day. No plan is perfect. Any plan needs God's help.
5) Pray before reading. Ask God to help you get something out of the Bible that will help you, and remember that you may need a different kind of help than you want. You may need information, inspiration, a challenge, or something else.
6) Take notes. Write in your Bible, or in a notebook, or a computer file, or something.
7) A more expensive Bible may be worth it. But be careful. Get some advice. Find out if you like the translation, and if people you trust seem to be using it and are getting good from it. Check out the print size, how easy it is to turn the pages, the weight, and the helps included before buying. Helps may include red letters, references to similar passages, or to where a name or word is used elsewhere, maps, and notes on difficult or important passages, or even articles or charts on them. (The notes and articles in some Bibles are questionable.)
8) Remember that all of the Bible was not meant to be taken literally. This applies especially to poetry and prophecy. Also, the Bible was written so that people from a culture different from ours would understand it. Jesus is referred to as being in the grave for three days, when he died on Friday afternoon, and rose by Sunday morning. We wouldn't put it that way. Genesis does not include modern science. The amazing thing is that the Bible speaks to us today, and it spoke to its first readers and listeners!
9) If you read carefully and prayerfully, you will get new insight when you go back to a passage after a few months or years. Keep reading!


Anonymous said...

read nothing until you have received the Spirit of truth (Holy Spirit). The Bible (the word) is living and active shaper then a double edged sword; able to cut between soul and spirit. God is spirit; therefore we must understand the word in spirit not the soul(emotions). Don't buy a modern version; much has been removed and translated badly.

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, the Spirit can help us understand the Bible. I'm sure, however, that there are non-believers who read it.

That's your opinion on modern versions. Mine is that the King James language makes understanding difficult -- impossible in some passages -- and that there have been new findings of importance since 1789 (or 1611). But any version I have seen gives us enough knowledge for salvation.

Thanks, anonymous.