1 The Bible is a book, not a box of chocolates; with chocs, it’s fine to open the lid and always pick the Strawberry Cream. A book generally needs to be read from start to finish. The Bible is no exception.
2 Take a bookmark and a Bible, and read four pages per day. You’ll be through in a year. The next year, it makes a lot more sense. Better still in subsequent years. Don’t worry about understanding everything you read each day; just read, and allow God to provide revelations in His time.
3 There is no perfect translation. Even the King James Version translates “People of God” as “Church”, something King James insisted on. The NIV is much worse, but at least it’s in modern English. The big problem with bad translation comes from hanging a whole doctrine on one or two verses. If you’re reading the whole Bible, the risks of misunderstanding are not great.
4 Try to ignore Chapters, Verses, and sub-headings. These are all later additions to the text, and may skew the meaning. Sometimes badly.
5 Where the words have an obvious meaning, this is almost certainly what they mean. There may, of course, be secondary and even tertiary meanings. Interpretation should be reserved for obviously poetic or prophetic passages. Much of what people refer to as “interpretation” is simply twisting.
6 DO NOT use any kind of Study Bible. Or if you do, ignore the study notes. You want to know what the Bible says, not what some latter-day individual says it says.
7 Try to put out of your mind, when reading well-known passages, what the conventional wisdom says they mean. This is very difficult, but important. The conventional view may be a twist.
8 Don’t dismiss little-known passages which strike you as significant. They are still part of the Bible, as important as any other part. And if they are significant yet unknown, there may be a perverse reason why they have been hidden.
Finally, always remember that William Tyndale, who gave his life so that people could read the Scripture for themselves, desired that “every plough-boy would read it”. His translation provided the first draft of what later became the Authorised Version; authorised (and twisted) by the King already mentioned. And remember also that many of Jesus Disciples were “mere” fishermen. In short, God’s Word is meant for everyone to read and understand, and we all have a responsibility to do both, as far as we are able. Leaving that to a man in a dog-collar or a University Theology Faculty is a dereliction of duty.
Read and be Inspired!
A Reader asked:
Should I just start from the very beginning as in the Old Testament? I know that’s a stupid question. But I always seem to read the New Testament and neglect the Old.
That’s a good question, which I failed to address directly. Yes, the very beginning, Genesis, is best. But I guess if you’re fairly new to the Bible, you may want to read the New Testament (NT) first.
Other options might be to read Genesis, then skip to the NT; or read Luke’s Gospel, followed by Acts, since Acts is also written by Luke, and then you get a single narrative of Jesus and the Early Church. But then I would want to suggest Romans as well, since Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome before he ever visited them, so it gives a fairly comprehensive summary of Christianity.
However, I guess you’d prefer a straight, simple answer. So I’ll go for Luke’s Gospel, then Acts, then Romans. (You will have read about Paul, the Author of Romans, in Acts. He was originally called Saul.) Then start with Genesis and go right through.
It may help to know that the books of the New Testament are essentially letters. Hence “Epistle to the Ephesians” just means “Letter to the Christians in Ephesus.” Some of the letters go by the name of the author rather than who they were addressed to. The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are written by those three and are very similar to each other. The fourth, written by John, is much more “spiritual”. Luke’s Gospel and Acts are both addressed to “Theophilus“. This may be a chap called “Theophilus“, but since in Greek that name means “Friend of God“, if you consider yourself such, you can take them as being addressed to you personally!
Oh, and probably worth mentioning: on your first read through the OT you’ll find Leviticus a slog. For ten days. Hang in there!
And . . . . with Genesis Chapter 1 you’ll need to wrap your brain around Six-day Creation. Start with the Science Page on this site.