I was struck by a line in a Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz book called Knowing the Bible 101. (This book has a 5 star rating on Amazon, by the way). In it, they said, “A 1996 survey by the Barna Group found that the average American owns, respects, and swears allegiance to the Bible, but doesn’t read it.”
I think that is because they haven’t had much or any help in knowing how to study the Bible.
As Bickel and Jantz went on to say in their book’s introduction (p. 5-6):
1. “The Bible is easily understood once you see the big picture…”
2. The Bible contains eternal, universal truths which are relevant to you and the personal circumstances of your life.
3. You can connect with God by reading the Bible.”
How To Choose a Bible for Yourself
Of course, the challenge is to pick a version of the Bible that appeals to you and is readable by you. Sadly, you will often see people on the internet arguing about which Bible is the most authentic presentation of God’s word.
Because of that, my suggestion to you is to browse through Bibles at a bookstore, and find one that feels readable for you. If it is a Study Bible, that’s even better (it will have notes that explain things on each page).
Why Are There So Many Versions of the Bible?
The Bible was originally written, for the most part, in Hebrew and Greek. People have translated it to English (and many other languages) either by translating it word for word or, they have translated it thought for thought. Additionally, there are some bibles that are paraphrases. The authors took passages and rewrote them in simpler, more understandable words.
Some people criticize the thought to thought and the paraphrase versions. They say, “That’s not accurate enough.”
My Opinion on Choosing Your Bible for Study
But, my opinion is this. Those groups of scholars who gather to translate try very hard to honor the true meaning of the very first writing of the scriptures.
I would rather someone read a paraphrase Bible and get a great deal out of it than have a King James Version (KJV) sitting on their shelf which they never read because it’s full of “thee” and “thou” and Old English words that make no sense to them. (The KJV is the version many declare to be the best.)
And, by the way, the Bible is, of course, online, can be studied from your phone, and listened to with Audible or some other similar access.
Ok, I Have My Bible, Why Study it?
Let’s answer the question, “Why should I study the Bible?” first.
Do you know that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time? In Nicky Gumbel’s, Questions of Life, he wrote this:
“Bible sales amount to more than half a billion dollars a year in North America. The average American household has 3.2 Bibles. Twenty-seven percent of Americans own at least five Bibles. An article in the London Times in London said, “Forget the modern British novelists and TV tie-ins; the Bible is the biggest-selling book every year.” (p. 70)
But that’s not the reason to study the Bible – because it remains a worldwide, treasured, best-selling book. Lots of books are popular but they don’t have the effect on your heart or life that the Bible does.
Study the Bible Because it is the Word of God
The reason to read it is that God spoke through it. The Bible is how he has chosen to reveal himself.
“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Bible is God-breathed. It is God speaking his words of life.
Therefore, the Bible takes us to knowing and having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. All scripture leads to Jesus whether obviously, in the part of the Bible known as the New Testament, or more subtly, in the part known as the Old Testament.
Finally, the most wondrous thing about the Bible is that it leads you to knowing God intimately. Because of this, he then can guide and help you with every day of your life and to live with him eternally.
Where Should I Start Reading to Study the Bible?
Usually, we pick up a book and begin on the first page. And, that’s alright to do with the Bible also, but it’s best to understand what kind of book the Bible is. Then, you can make a good decision about where to start.
The Bible is actually like a library. It contains 66 books. It was written over a period of about 1500 years, and was written by at least 40 authors. Among those authors are “kings, scholars, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, historians, and doctors.” (from Questions of Life by Nicky Gumbel, p. 74)
These different books have poetry, history, prophecy, and so on, so the writing style differs from book to book. In order to understand much of the Bible, you need to know about the history of the people. Understanding the culture and how men and women lived in those days helps you to better understand what you are reading.
Reference Books Help You to Study the Bible
We’re blessed these days to have access to the internet. You can always look up questions that you have. For instance, you might read the measurement “a cubit” somewhere in the Bible. What is that? How does it compare to the way we measure things today? Fortunately, you can look that up online or in a Bible dictionary.
But, to answer the question in the main heading above, I always recommend starting in the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
In them, you will find out about Jesus, why he lived and died. Knowing him will whet your appetite to learn about everything else in regards to God.
What Are the Steps to Study the Bible?
Finally, as you read, don’t read too much at one time. Often, stories will have a title or heading. Read a story, then stop.
Then, think about these things:
- Who is the story about?
- What are they doing?
- Are there words I don’t understand?
- Is there history I don’t understand?
- Is God highlighting a word or phrase – does something keep sticking out to me? Why?
- How does my life today connect to what I am reading?
- Based on all of the above, what would God like me to do?
And, always pray as you read. Tell God, “I want to understand this. Help me.” Often reading and studying with good friends is very helpful. You can talk things over. One of you may help the others understand something that seems hard.
Truly, God wants you to know him personally as your dearest and closest of Friends. And, the Bible is the chief tool he has given us for us to hear his voice. Be sure to pursue it as often as you can.
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