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Monday, 29 July 2013

How to Read the Bible

1. Decide your purpose. 

There are a variety of reasons you may wish to read the Bible. It may be that you are Christian but have never read the Bible or have not read the entire Bible. It may be that you are not Christian but wish to read the text so as to understand it and be better able to discuss it with your peers. You may wish to read the Bible for academic purposes, such as to gain an understanding of ancient Near Eastern history. You should decide why you want to read the Bible before beginning, so that you will know the correct approach to take with the text.

2. Decide how much you will read. 

Do you wish to read the entire text or are you only interested in specific books? Do you want to read the Old Testament (the original Hebrew texts upon which the beliefs of the religion are based) or just the New Testament (the portion of the text dealing with the life of Jesus Christ)? Decide how much of the text you wish to read and what order you will read it in so that you will be better prepared.

3 Read a little every day. 

4 Decide which translation is right for you.

Once you have decided why you are reading the Bible, you will have to decide which translation is best for you. Many exist and there are a great deal of difference between the versions.

If you are reading for religious reasons, you may wish to read the translation common to your denomination and then later try another translation to see how the two compare. Knowing what other denominations believe will give you a better understanding of your own version and will lead to more critical thinking about your beliefs.

If you are reading to gain an understanding of Christianity as an outsider, it may be a good idea to read several different translations. This will give you a better idea of the difference between denominations, as well as an appreciation of how the text has changed over time.

If you are reading to study the history of the region, you should read the translations which are the most direct or the original text, if you possess a reading knowledge of the appropriate languages.

New International Version: This translation was done in the 1970’s, though it has been updated since, by an international group of scholars. It has become the most popular translation by far and is widely used.
King James Version: This translation was created in the 1600’s specifically for the Church of England. It is commonly used in the US, especially by Evangelical churches. The language of this translation, though dated, has had a large impact on the English language as a whole.There is also the New King James Version, which is a modernization of the original text and also quite popular.

New Living Translation: This translation, undertaken in the 1990's, focuses not on direct translation but on conveying the original intentions and ideas of the text. The language is modernized so as to be more widely understood and it makes use of inclusive language.

English Standard Edition: This translation, done in the 1990’s by academics, is a literal translation and was intended to be as accurate a translation as possible. It is most commonly used for study bibles, though it is the official text for some churches.

New World Translation: An example of a translation associated with a particular religious group, the New World Translation is the text used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is notable for using the name Jehovah in the text, instead of the word “lord”, when referring to God. (Note: This translation is bias in a way which supports Watchtower doctrine and is not recognised by any Biblical Scholar as an accurate translation)
The Joseph Smith Translation: This version of the Bible includes notes and changes made by Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church. It's meant to be read in conjunction with the Book of Mormon. You may want to read this if you either are Mormon or if you wish to understand Mormonism better.

5 Get a guide.

The language of the Bible can be very complex and since it is very old, much of the cultural context is missing. It is important to understand what the original authors intended, as well as the history of the time in which they lived and how it affected them. Buy a guide, which will help you read between the lines and better understand the text which you are reading.

6 Get supplies.

It may be wise to take notes as you read. The text is long, depending on which books you have chosen to read, and you can easily forget the details. Have paper and a notebook available to write down significant passages, notes, timelines, family trees, significant people, and any questions you have so that you may research the answers later.

7 Get a bible! 

You will need to get a copy or several copies, depending on the books and translations you have chosen to read. These can easily be acquired or purchased at local churches, bookstores, christian bookstores, or online. You can also use a free translation online, if you do not need a physical copy. If you purchased a bible guide, it may be that the guide already contains some or all of the text that you are interested in. Investigate this to ensure that you do not get more than you need.
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