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how to read the bible

  1. don't start at the beginning and try to play your way straight through to the end.  if you do, you�re almost sure to bog down somewhere around in the early books of the old testament.  besides, the bible wasn�t arranged to be read straight through.  rather, it is a �book of books.�  the books are grouped according to categories such as books of law, wisdom literature, prophets, history, gospels, teaching letters and so on.  it is a variety of different styles of literature communicating the unfolding story of god and god�s people.

  2. if you find yourself getting lost along the way, try a bible commentary or study bible.  not all bible commentaries or study bibles are worth the paper they were written on, so you may want to check out the church library, or ask someone who has had training in biblical literature and theology to recommend one.  a commentary will give the historical background of the time the book was written.  it will explain the circumstances that the book was written for.  it will give some verse by verse reflection .  it will help you to see the various passages instead of just a bunch of verses strung together in which you try to pick out what�s what.

  3. if you can read at any level in a foreign language, try reading a bible in that language.

  4. use various english translations also to see how the hebrew scripture and the greek scripture can be so diversely translated into english.  it isn�t simply translating words, but context, phrases and so on into the form of english that we can understand in our own time.  ironically, the most used english translation, the king james version, is one with the most mistakes in translation and in printing errors.  when we only use translations that we are familiar with, we don�t really hear them.  we can recite the more famous quotations from the versions we know.  thus we miss their original impact.  for instance, when jesus was crucified, the romans nailed over his head a sign saying �king of the jews� so nobody would miss the joke.  to get something closer to the true flavor, try translating the sign instead as �head jew.�

  5. as much as possible, read a book of the bible completely through in one reading.  each of the books/letters in the bible were intended to be read as a complete whole, not with a piece here and a piece there.  even the organization of  the psalms in the book of psalms has a purpose and direction.

  6. pray to god to give you guidance and insight each time before you read.  pause with passages.  let them �speak to you.�

  7. be careful not just to read something that was written 2000 to 2500 years ago as though it was a news article written yesterday.  also, don�t limit �truth� to something that is historically or scientifically verifiable.  truth comes to us in many fashions.  the deepest truths and revelations often come from far beyond our ability to control or even to originally conceive.  poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, rap and choral music all speak to us of the �truth� of creation, of spirit, of god and of ourselves.  the books of the bible were written for that purpose...not to be able to fit into a narrow intellectually acceptable box 20 centuries after their time

  8. read using the lectio divina.

  9. visit fairlawnwest.org/aboutthebible.htm for more guidance on reading the bible.