Reading the Bible
The Bible is multisided, complex and sometime in need of some backround information. It's full of stories about love, hate, joy, sadness and much more. It has influenced our culture. It's cherished by billions of people around the world. We want to encourage you to read, to explore and to think about the message of the Bible!
How do I find the right Bible edition?
Do I want to read a translation of the Bible that is close to the Hebrew and Greek or should it be easy to understand? Do I love the Kind James Version because I grew up with it or do I want to have a translation that is more interdenominational? Am I interested in a more experimental translation or a translation that represents a certain theology? Before starting to read the Bible it is good to think about some of these questions.
Often it is helpful to get additional information from lexicons, dictionaries and commentaries. Definitions to Words, details about the historical backround, maps and guides for interpretation- all these can give you a better and broader understanding of the Bibletext. There exists many resources.
Before starting to read the Bible you can think about your experiences with the Bible. Do you have any bad experiences that you connect with the Bible. If this is the case just give the Bible a chance and come to your own conclusion! Maybe you remember special Bibleverses that have meant a lot to you. You should be aware of these aspects while reading the Bible.
If you are starting to read the Bible and wondering how to go about it, it can help to go to a Bible study. Reading the Bible together and sharing thoughts about the Word of God can be a very enriching experience. No matter if you read the Bible in a group or alone it is always good to put a certain time aside for reading the Bible. It is also helpful to have a quiet place for reading and to read regularly. A prayer in the beginning helps to focus on reading the Bible.
What do I want to read?
The Bible is a collection of books. So it can help to think about what text one wants to read: Am I interested in the stories of persons of the Old Testament? Do i want to read about the life of Jesus in the New Testament? Do I like to read the Psalms or the books of the prophets?
A Bible Reading Plan can help to read through the Bible. The Austrian Bible Society publishes a Bible Reading Plan in German every year. With it you can read through the New Testament in four years and the Old Testament in six years. This Bible Reading Plan follows the order of the Bible Reading Plan of the Ökumenischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Bibellesen für den deutschsprachigen Raum.
In the beginning it can be good to start with the Gospel of Luke about the life of Jesus and then go over to the Book of Acts which reports about the first Christians. In many Bible editions there are lists of different topics and where they can be found in the Bible.
Frustration and Joy
Reading the Bible will not always be accompanied by good feelings. Some passages are not so easy to understand at the moment, seem to contradict or just do not mean much to you at that point. All of this is allowed to happen. It is a process where you learn more about the Bible and yourself. Like in a relationship between people that develops, it will need a lot of time and patience.
Reading the Bible personally
The Bible is a special book and you should arrange a special time for it. The following guide will help make it an enriching experience:
1. Preparation for Bible reading
It is often hard to leave the everyday life behind and quiet down. A song, a prayer, lighting a candle or just simply being still can help to calm down and focus on the text.
2. Reading the Bible passage
How can you "listen" to the text the best? Do not read the Bible like a newspaper but instead read it out loud and take your time. If you do not like to read out loud, you can listen to a Audio Bible.
3. The first impression
Then read the text a second time and mark passages that spoke to you, irritated you or which you did not understand. It helps if you mark these with different colours and symbols like questions marks and so on.
4. Additional information
To understand a passage it can be good to look up the meaning of names, definition of words, explanations of things and places. In many Bibles there are explanations of names, words and an overview of the history of the Bible in the back. You can find more information in lexicons, dicitonaries and commentaries.
You need time to reflect about the text. Do not read until you can not take in anymore. Take a break and come back when you can read on.
6. Reading the Bible passage again
When you read the text again, you will realize that you notice more and other things in the text. You have become familiar with the text.
There are many ways how you can deal with the experiences that you make with the text. You can share it with others, keep a diary, learn Bibleverses by heart, listen to music, express it through art and much more.
"Lord open us up for your Word and your Word for us."