The Bible can seem overwhelming, boring and difficult, but a few basic tips can help you understand it more. Try these…
- Understand the historical context in which the Bible is written
Even the newest bits are about 2,000 years old. So start asking yourself questions about what it might have been like when the books were written and Google the answers. It will take you on a journey into the world of the Biblical writers and open your eyes to new and fascinating insights.
- Don’t read passages entirely on their own, look at what comes before and after them
It’s easy to take verses, or sometimes whole stories, out of context, by reading them by themselves. Try to work out where they fit in the bigger story or argument of the book. You’ll get a much better sense of what’s going on and what it all has to say to you.
- Read what’s actually there, not what you think might be there
This is particularly true for famous verses; we can think we know what it says and not actually read it. So slow down and chew it over. You’ll often find you understand it in a new way.
- Read the Bible with other people
We all bring our own experiences to the Bible so it’s really helpful to read the Bible with other people, for example, a home group or a prayer triplet. You’ll gain other people’s perspective on what they think the Bible says. To get some really different ideas, read it with someone from a different culture.
- Don’t read the Bible from start to finish like a novel
It isn’t one. Start with the bits that you can get on with. You might find Mark might be more interesting than Hebrews, Genesis more than Leviticus, because stories are often easier to read than sermons or laws. Once you have read the stories you might like to turn to some poetry (Psalms) or some letters.
- Use different translations
There are lots and lots of different translations. Look for the one you like best. It’s often a good idea to have a very literal translation (like the NRSV) and one that’s in easy-to-read modern English (like the CEV). The differences between them will get you thinking.
- And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling
The Bible can be a difficult book to read when you begin, but the more you read it, the more you’ll get to grips with it. If you keep going you’ll learn to love it and understand it better, and soon you won’t be able to remember how you got by without it.
Reproduced from an original by Paul Gooder