Reading the Bible

Rev. Sue Ostrom   -  

Scripture is the primary guideline for our faith.  Reading Scripture is thus an important spiritual discipline.  And it can be hard to do. Reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience for us.  It was written thousands of years ago, in a variety of settings, none of which are familiar to us now. I like to think of the Bible as a library which many types of literature: poetry, story, history, sermons, and letters.  Here are some tips to help in reading the Bible.

  1. Find a translation which feels accessible to you.  You might need to look at several versions before you find one which uses language that makes sense to you.  I can recommend the Common English Bible, the New Revised Standard Bible, or the New International Versions.
  2. Before you begin reading, ask God to guide you and help you to hear what God might be saying to you in your reading.
  3. Read a passage several times through: jot down questions or thoughts you have about it.  What words or phrases stand out to you?
  4. What type of literature is this passage?  For example, is it a song or a sermon, a letter or history?  Just as we read the words of a song very differently than we read history, so too with the Bible.
  5. Often passages in the New Testament will quote passages from the Old Testament.  Look up the Old Testament quotation and see how it is the same or different from how the New Testament used it.
  6. Read a passage in context.  That means pay attention to what comes before and after the verses you are reading.
  7. Who are the people in this passage?  What have they done? Where are they located?  Is there movement – are they changing locations?  How is God at work in this passage?
  8. Are there parts of this passage which disturb you or are uncomfortable for you?  Make note of those as well.
  9. Read the passage again. What words or phrases stand out to you now?  Make note of those.
  10. Talk to other people about what you have read.  The Holy Spirit often reveals God to us best in community.