The Bible makes such staggering claims about itself, that if it is not true, it is outrageous. It claims to be inspired and without error in its original manuscripts. It also claims to be the final authority for what is true and right and good for our individual lives, and for the entire world.
Many adhere to the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, but they have never actually read it. We will start with the proposition that, if you read the Scriptures as they are intended to be read, your confidence in them will be progressively strengthened so that you may truly say that these books, though written by men, are indeed the words of God.
Without venturing too far into the tall grass, we will take the time in several posts to give some practical suggestions about how to read the Bible consistently and for greater coherence and clarity. We will start with some general thoughts and expand to the various genres in later posts.
- Find a time and place of entry. This may come as a result of listening to others talk about the Bible with passion and intelligence. They inspire you to explore for yourself. Still others may challenge you to investigate as a result of well-intentioned suggestions. It is also important to find a translation of the Scriptures that you can comprehend.
- Know the basic genres of the Bible. This is where proper interpretation begins. Poetry cannot be understood the same way as a historical narrative or in the way that you read prophetic literature. The more that you read the more skilled you will become in seeing the rhythm of the whole and the connections between the parts. The tools for properly interpreting the Bible are contained In the Bible. You will discover them.
- Discover and grasp some historical context. This will make a huge difference in your study. For example, knowing that Israel became a divided kingdom unlocks vast areas of the Old Testament. The book of Acts is the fulcrum for understanding the history of most of the New Testament.
- Find some golden nuggets. As you read you will find verses and/or passages which become very dear to you. Mark them in your Bible. Meditate upon them. You will return to these often.
- Maintain a pace that works for you. Those programs that have you reading the Bible through in a year do more harm than good, as they produce frustration and guilt when you fail to keep up. You may not want to read the entirety of the Bible until you have established a personal rhythm.
Next time…How to read the Books of the Law, aka The Pentateuch.