Question: I’ve never read the Bible before, but I want to begin. Can you give me some hints for reading the Bible so that I can understand it?
Pastor Bill responds (pt. 1):
I’m so glad that you want to begin reading the Bible. Both the Old Testament (the 39 books written between 1450 - 425 B.C., i.e. before the coming of Christ), and the New Testament (the 27 books written after Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension and through at least the middle part of the first century A.D.) are the inspired word of God, cf. II Timothy 3:16,17. While these books have human authors like Moses, David, Isaiah, Matthew,
Mark, Luke, John, etc. God so superintended their thinking and writing processes that what they composed is the very Word of God. That’s why reading the Bible is so important. It’s our GPS from God to help guide us through this world. I’m glad you’re beginning what will be a lifelong adventure!
Before we get to some specific answers to your questions, let’s think about the kind of Bible you should buy. There are so many available that it can be very confusing for the person who is new to Bible reading.
1. Some Bibles are paraphrases, e.g. The Message, The Living Bible, Good News for Modern Man/Today’s English Version. I don’t recommend them to new Bible readers because they are not “word for word translations”, but very loose interpretations of the biblical text. The New International Version is somewhat better, but a more literal translation is far better. The New King James Version is a translation that is very close to the historic King Janes Version (but without the outdated language). It reads beautifully and is good for memorization. We use the English Standard Version at The Haven because it is an excellent translation, is easy to read, and is the version used in Orthodox Presbyterian publications and by many other evangelical churches. The New American Standard version is also an excellent translation, but it’s better for study than for daily reading, in my opinion.
2. I’ve not been a fan of Study Bibles, because it’s too easy for people to confuse the notes that are included in the Study Bible with the Bible itself. But, in the case of those who have little or no familiarity with the Bible, a good Study Bible can be helpful. It will include information on the author, date, and main purpose of each book of the Bible, helpful notes on difficult passages or words, cross references so that you can look at verses that shed light on what you are reading, maps so that you can see the areas mentioned in the Scriptures, and various other helps. I highly recommend The Reformation Study Bible if you’re wanting to buy a Study Bible.
3. Font size and spaces on a page are very important. If the font size is too small and if there is little white space on a page, your eyes will get tired very quickly and you won’t want to read very much. Take a good look at the pages of the Bible you are considering - either in a book store or if you are purchasing on-line. I cannot overstate how important this is. You must enjoy reading your Bible and the font, spacing, and format will either contribute to your enjoyment or detract from it.
4. Consider getting a genuine leather Bible. In most cases these will have a better binding than hardbound Bibles; and they will last much longer. It’s better to pay a little more and get something that you will use with pleasure for many years.
Get your Bible this week, and next week we’ll start looking at hints for reading it.