News and Views
The Bible: Ways To Read
There are many ways or approaches to reading the Bible, but in all of them, we are seeking to know more about God, seeking to better know Him and His will, and seeking to grow in relationship with Him.
One approach is to read to get the sense of the Bible as one whole narrative or story from its beginning in Genesis to its end in Revelation. This is the account of God's dealings with humans on earth in time and into eternity. Every part of the Bible is part of this whole context, so is best understood when we have a sense of this whole. Reading for this big picture is fast, and does not stop to examine details of words or phrases beyond taking note of that to which we want to return to study in greater detail. There are now a number of editions of chronological Bibles in which passages are rearranged into the order in which they probably occurred. My favourite remains “The Daily Bible in Chronological Order,” because it gives one full account of each event while clearly indicating where all accounts of the event may be found in the Bible, and because F. LaGard Smith wrote such excellent narrative bridges to help understand how the various events relate to each other thus giving continuity. All Bible reading and study is more easily understandable when seen within the big picture of the whole.
Reading or studying a book of the Bible is another approach which is often used individually or in group Bible Studies. This lends itself to inductive study which involves considering the setting of a passage, the meaning that passage would have had for its first readers, its meaning for us today, what it tells us about God, and how we can apply it in our lives. The leader in an inductive group study is more a facilitator, rather than someone who has all the answers. Inductive study lets the Bible speak for itself to each person rather than simply accepting the interpretation supplied by some authority or leader.
Studying the life of an individual character in the Bible can also prove very helpful in better understanding God and how He relates to individuals. In Genesis, we find the account of the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel. His father's favourite son, Joseph is so hated by his brothers that they sell him to slave traders on their way to Egypt. There, his owner's wife accuses him falsely, so he spends years in jail. He is finally released from jail so that he can interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, is appointed second in command for the whole nation and saves both the nation and all of his own family of origin from starvation. When Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, he can tell them, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good, for the saving of many people.” Wow!
Word study, searching out the whole constellation of meanings around a particular word in the original language and how it is used in the Bible as a whole, is less pursued nowadays, but can be interesting and enriching. Formal-equivalence translations are best suited for this type of study.
One helpful approach to Daily Devotional Bible reading is, as you work toward your Bible reading goal, to read each day until you come to a portion, a few words or a verse or two, that stand out as God's Word to you that day. Stop reading for the day at this point, highlight that special portion, perhaps date it, maybe copy it out to take with you to meditate upon during the day or memorize it. Make sure that your understanding of this small portion fits into both the immediate context and the broader context of the book and the whole Bible.
The single aid that I have found most helpful toward understanding God's Word and God's Ways has been consistent involvement in small group inductive Bible studies. Here a fuller understanding of God's Word is developed by several seeking minds enriched by the presence of the Lord. Here is the best of Christian fellowship.
Many of the Daily Devotional books readily available are also very helpful. They provide a daily contact with at least a verse from God's Word, and expand on its meaning and/or application. A longer Bible reading which includes or relates to the key verse is usually identified.
The Bible also contains a variety of types of literature which need to be read and understood as the poetry, narrative, wisdom sayings etc. that they are. There are many idioms in the Bible, some of which no version helps us to understand in the original meaning, such as the one in Romans 12:20 quoted from Proverbs 25:21-22.
To know God's Will, and to align our will with His we must know and do His will as He communicates it to us in His Word. May this help make His word more approachable for many of you.
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