Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to read the bible

John Schwarz has a nice little paperback called 'Living Faith: A Guide to the Christian Life.' On p. 21 he has some "helps" in reading the Bible:
  • The Bible should be read with an open mind and with the view and expectation that God will speak to us through his Word. It is said that the Bible is God's "telephone line" to us.
  • The Bible is one continuous story, from Genesis to Revelation. The biblical story of salvation begins with God's call of Abraham and his covenants with Moses and David; it reaches its fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The Bible was written several thousand years ago and is, in places, hard to understand. Don't be discouraged. Someone once asked William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, what he did when he came across something in the Bible he did not understand. Booth said, "I do the same thing I do when eating a fish: I put the bones on the side of the plate and get on with the good meat."
  • The Bible should be read in its plain or natural sense, without veering off into extreme literalism. Also, be conscious that the Bible is really a "library," with books of history (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Acts), prophecy, poetry (like the Psalms), wisdom literature (Proverbs and James) and lots of letters.
  • The Bible is its own commentary. This means that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. When Jesus "declared all foods clean" in Mark 7:19, he overruled the laws regarding clean and unclean food in Leviticus 11.
So, there ya go. Personally, I would add, get a readable translation - like the New Living Translation, or New International Version, or something. Stay away from the King James Version. Read away, my friends.


Jim said...

I am currently reading the TNIV translation in the 'The Books of the Bible' format (you can get it cheap here - As that page says:

o Chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (A chapter and verse range is given at the bottom of each page)
o Each book's natural literary breaks are shown instead
o There are no notes, cross references, or section headings in the text
o Text is presented in one column rather than two or more
o Books that have historically been divided into parts are restored
o Books are presented in an order that gives readers more help in understanding

I like it. It "reads well" and the ordering (which is based more on the actual historical order of the books) helps the "story" come through better.

dan horwedel said...

That sounds similar to Eugene Peterson's "The Message." It is nice to read it without all the numbers and notes and things. I was not aware the TNIV had done it too. Cool!

Jim said...

Yup. But instead of being The Message's paraphrase (which I like, too), it's the TNIV translation. 'course, there's controversy around that translation, there's controversy around every translation. I envy you padres for being able to parse the original text - I don't think I'll be taking Biblical Greek at this stage in my life. :o)

Anyway, I'd recommend picking up a copy.