How to read The Bible

How to read the Bible

The Bible is MASSIVE - Where do we start? What translation should I use? Loads of questions and worries can frighten us from opening it... Emma takes these questions on and tells us how to read The Bible.

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Emma Artis

Emma Artis

Emma has been part of The Bridge since the beginning, keeping us on the straight and narrow. She's a doctor, married to Toby, and is a super girl. She loves scripture and helping people grow in their faith. She's got a great knack of taking biblical principles and applying them practically to real life.

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The Big Story #6: God's Church

The Big Story #6: God's Church

Rounding off our big Bible overview we look to the conclusion of the story and what we need to do to get there. God has chosen us to play a part in it, but how? What does it mean to be God's church?

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The Big Story #5: God's Son

The Big Story #5: God's Son

It all points to Him, everything that had come before, the promises, the prophecies, the people. Here we reach the climax of God's story in a person, God's son, Jesus Christ. We don't understand him until we see how he fits into what's come before.

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The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

Look around the world and we see kings, presidents, leaders who are very much flawed. Israel had a king - God, but they wanted a human king. We look at how that worked out for God's people.

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The Big Story #2: God's People

The Big Story #2: God's People

God's story is both cosmic in scope and intimate in care, we see that as he chose to fulfil his purposes in a family. But why did God choose Abraham and the people of Israel to be the ones who would be a blessing to the whole world?

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How to read the Bible

The Bible can be a pretty intimidating book. I hope to offer some practical advice.

The wonderful Josh Heyes has shared with us why we should read the Bible (click here for his blog post), now the question is how do you read the Bible? It can be a pretty intimidating book, in terms of when or how much to read. I hope to offer some practical advice to answer some of these things.

  1. PRAY. We should pray in everything we do! Before you start reading the Bible and after, pray that God will give you understanding and wisdom through the Holy Spirit, pray that He’ll speak to you in what you read. It’s all too easy to read through as quickly as you can, so you can get on with the next thing, but prepare your heart and be expectant to hear from God through the scripture and to be changed by what you read.
  2. TRANSLATION. There are loads of translations of the Bible so I’ll mention a few. I often find it helpful to read two versions alongside each other. If you ask two different theologians, I’m sure they’d give you slightly different answers about which translation to read. The King James Version was an incredible historic breakthrough of Scripture in the 1600s and is beautifully written, but we now have more accurate and more up to date translations. If you want something which is accurate and flows well, the NIV (New International Version) is easy to read. The Message is a modern day wording of scripture, reading it alongside a more accurate translation can be helpful to get a general gist of the meaning. For a more literal translation, which is word for word from the original, the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) is great for in depth study.
    be expectant to hear from God through the scripture and to be changed by what you read
  3. QUANTITY or QUALITY. I think this is key for us; we could read pages and pages of the Bible but not take any of it in. There might be seasons in your life where you feel able to read multiple chapters in one go and some where you only feel like reading a verse, don’t be frustrated at yourself, but really look into what you’re reading. Try to get an understanding for the context it was written in, what it teaches you about God and His relationship with His people and how it applies to your life. You may find reading a Study Bible, or using a commentary alongside, helpful for explanation and understanding. Study notes are also a helpful way of guiding you in what book of the Bible to read and to help you apply it. Equally, books of the Bible were written to be read from the beginning to end, knowing the key themes of the books and the reasons for which they were written is invaluable in understanding the character of God. I would recommend taking some time out every so often to read a book beginning to end, to understand the bigger picture and what God is saying through the book as a whole. (Maybe start with the smaller books first). It’s ok to mix and match, but make sure you’re getting both quantity and quality.
    we could read pages and pages of the Bible but not take any of it in
  4. ROUTINE. I would really encourage you to get into a routine, this is probably the hardest part, but it’s important to find a time that works for you and make it a habit. That might be in the morning, after school/college/work, before you go to bed. A lot of people I know like to read the Bible in the morning, which sets their focus for the day. There is no right or wrong time to read the Bible, but if you’re reading it before bed or in the middle of doing something else, are you allowing enough time to reflect and think about what you’ve read?  It may at times seem like another thing to add to your “to do list” but I for one know that if I don’t make the time to read the Bible, the day is suddenly full. There will be days when this doesn’t work out for you and you might miss a day or two, don’t feel guilty. God knows our situation; He also knows we’re not perfect. Besides, we are reading God’s word to grow in faith and knowledge, not reading it to gain merit.
  5. ACCOUNTIBILITY. Get a friend alongside you, to encourage each other to keep going. If you read something that you don’t understand, ask your youth leader, talk it through with people in your youth group/small group, get chatting about the things that encourage you and inspire you and how you can apply what you’re reading to your life.

So, what’s stopping you getting into God’s word? If you’ve found a way that works, or have any helpful tips please share on a comment below or write to us. It would be great to share ideas and to encourage other readers!

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