How do you, first of all, find anything in the Bible? Or figure out what it even means? And then how do you actually get something out of the Bible and apply it to your life? Texting, ice cream, and sex aren’t themes found in the Bible.
Besides, wasn’t the Bible written by old white guys who use thee‘s, thou‘s, and forsooth‘s? Talk about unrelatable.
If any of this sounds familiar, no worries, you are not alone. The Bible takes a bit of adjusting to get used to it. But, trust me, it’s worth it.
Here’s a bit of a guide to help orient you if you’re new to God, Bible, Bible study, or you just want a new perspective.
The Bible is broken up into two main parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Old Testament— the foundation of history, philosophy, law, romance, and prophesy for the Hebrew people.
It was written to, for, and by the Hebrew people and basically helped establish them as a nation that was distinct from everyone else.
New Testament— the foundation of Christianity. This part of the Bible is where God fulfills all his promises in the OT with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his son.
NT is mostly made up of the story of Jesus’s life and ministry (the 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), a history of the Early Church (Acts), epistles (letters) to the early Christians all over the civilized world at the time, and prophesy (Revelation).
Each book is broken up into chapters and verses. Whenever someone mentions a specific verse, they generally say Psalm (the book) 23 (the chapter): 3 (the verse)– Psalm 23:3.
The original pieces of the Bible were written in Hebrew (OT), Greek, and Aramaic (NT). As such, there are myriad translations and paraphrases of the Bible out there that each have their uses.
Translations— generally true to the original language.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version (watch out for the thees, thous, and forsooths)
- New King James
- New American Standard Version
Paraphrases— generally true to the spirit of the passage, but it relies heavily on the editor’s interpretation of the passage.
- New Living Translation (don’t be fooled by the “t”-word in the title)
- The Message
- Da Jesus Book
I prefer word-for-word simply because I want to draw my own conclusions based on what words actually are there and what the Holy Spirit is saying to me.
That said, I have paraphrases as tools that I go to for clarification or a different perspective.
Studying the Bible
I have a two-fold process:
- I ask the Holy Spirit to help me hear and understand him, then
- I read the Bible.
Since all of the Bible is worth reading, anywhere you start will suffice. Just read it with an open mind. See what pops out.
You see, the Bible was written specifically for you and the Holy Spirit is your link with Jesus and God.
Whenever they have something special for you, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job and delight to make a phrase, verse, or chapter hang onto a corner of your heart and mind just a little bit longer and harder than the rest.
So when that happens, write it down, thank the Holy Spirit, ask for help understanding, and think it over. Give it time. God does not communicate via high-speed internet or text message.
God conducts our relationships with him like a lover eager to share and hear. However, he also savors the tantalizing weight of anticipation.
Turn him and his word over in your mind and heart just as you would your favorite, most expensive chocolate, glass of wine, steak, cheesecake, whiskey, coffee, or tea– whatever floats your boat.
If you’re new to the Bible, that’s fine! You are in for a treat. I will warn you, however, that the Word of God (the Bible) is just that: a divine letter of love from a holy, just, loving, righteous, alien (not like you or me) God.
It’s an acquired taste but oh how delicious it is when you begin to appreciate it! There are many things that will likely confuse, discomfit, and frustrate you.
That’s what it’s supposed to do. If you take those things straight to God, I promise you that he will meet you there and walk through it all with you.
And, oh my friend, my friend! What comfort, joy, and love! Passion the likes of which you have never seen…. and all for you. You have no idea the romance that will sweep you away!
All of the Bible is worth reading. And if you’re new to this fascinating book (or rather used to it), I’d advise you to pick a book out of the Old or New Testaments and read it through like you would any other book.
Get the main idea, main characters (who are real people with real emotions and reactions, by the way), key words and think about what you read.
- What are the best, worst and most confusing parts?
- What are the main idea, characters, or key words?
- Why do you think they are the main ideas, characters, and key words?
- Did anything hold your attention more than something else? Why?
- How would you feel in a similar situation?
- How does this interact with, inform, measure up to what you know about the Bible?
- What would your life be like if you applied what you’re reading right now?
Something to keep in mind about the Bible that is truly unique to spiritual texts is that not every detail in the Bible is supposed to be imitated. Again, this is an account of how God worked in history with real people. Therefore, King David’s decision to stay home from war (shirk his duty), have an affair, and kill her husband is not recommended.
Instead, consider what that did to his relationship with God and Israel. Did anything change? What did God do? What did David do when confronted with his choices? Can you relate to making stupid choices? What can you learn from this account, about yourself and God?
That, my friend, are the basics of Bible study. Sure, there are lots of techniques out there to deepen the study, but if you just need to get started or need a fresh start, reading and asking the Holy Spirit questions is the foundation for anything else you’ll learn.
As always, the internet is a wonderful tool. There are many sites that can help you make sense of different passages, words, or concepts in the Bible.
I really encourage you to give the Holy Spirit a try first, however. He has a direct line to the Author, so who better to answer your questions?
Here are some sites I’ve used:
Bible Gateway— this is great for finding verses that you don’t remember the references to. It also has a few commentaries if verses confuse you.
Bible— This is a great way to decide which version of the Bible is right for you.
Bible Study Tools— For when you want to dig deeper.