Many people of faith wish they knew more of the Bible. At times the Bible can seem confusing or difficult or outdated or mysterious. Very often people tell me that they’ve tried to read the Bible but at some point, they just gave up.
This week is week 2 of Lent and the spiritual practice we focus on is “learn.” In particular, the invitation is for you to learn more about the Bible, to read it, to ask questions about it.
Here are my 5 quick tips to get started on (or get back to) reading the Bible:
- Start with the book of Mark.
Reading the Bible is not like reading other books where most people start at the beginning and keep reading until the end. The Bible is more a collection of books than a single book. By starting with the gospel of Mark, you’ll get a good overview of the life and ministry of Jesus. From there you can move to other books – perhaps Genesis for an overview of God’s promises to the Hebrew people, or Jonah for a comedic story about a wayward prophet, or the Psalms for a time of prayer.
2. Use a study Bible.
A study Bible has an introduction to each book with a summary of its contents. It also provides helpful footnotes to explain unusual concepts and maps to show the places discussed. A couple of study Bibles I’d recommend include the Lutheran Study Bible from Augsburg Fortress https://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/9780806680606/Lutheran-Study-Bible-Paperback or the Harper Collins Study Bible https://smile.amazon.com/HarperCollins-Study-Bible-Revised-Updated-dp-0061228400/dp/0061228400/ref=mt_other?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=1614008301
3. Join a Bible study.
Faith has a Tuesday morning Bible study which studies a book of the Bible over a number of weeks verse by verse. It’s a great way to learn from others and develop connections with other people as well. The group is currently meeting on Zoom which makes it accessible from your own home!
4. Choose a Bible that fits your style.
The bottom line is that the best Bible is one you’re likely to pick up and read – so style of font and print size is important as is the weight (the study Bibles I recommended above are quite hefty). Translation also matters. The Bible you received at your Confirmation may not be the best one for you now. Perhaps it was the King James Version – which is lovely English, but not the easiest to understand today and from a scholarly standpoint, often not a translation of the original language (the King James was translated from a translation). The ELCA generally uses the NRSV translation (New Revised Standard Version) which is considered a good translation of the Hebrew and Greek original languages of the Bible. Other less-formal translations often in use include the Contemporary English Version (CEV) or the paraphrase (which is different from a tranlation) version called The Message.
5. Write in, highlight, mark up your Bible.
The Bible isn’t meant to be sitting on a shelf to be kept in pristine condition. Well, maybe it was at one time when it was difficult for people to obtain their own copies. But with the advent of the printing press and the Kindle reader, the Bible is meant to be marked up and highlighted with copious questions and exclamation points in the margins so you know where to turn back! Don’t be afraid of dogearing pages or leaving it around where your golden retriever might chew some corners of the gospel of Luke (yes – it happened to me). The Bible is a living word and meant to be explored!
Blessings on your study!