I would encourage you to have a regular plan for Bible reading. This will
give you encouragement and nourish your spiritual life. The world and your
fallen human nature will discourage your spiritual life and urge you to do
things on your own. Jesus promised that the Spirit would lead us into
truth and God's words are truth (John 16.13; 17.17).
If you don't feel like reading on a given day or you are too busy; this is when
you need it most.
USE A READABLE TRANSLATION
You should also consider trying a readable Bible translation. While I
prefer to study with a more literal translation like the New American Standard
it does not flow well for reading, especially if you are new to studying the
If you are new to reading the Bible I would recommend the New Living Translation
explains many new concepts to the reader. Today's New International Version
(TNIV) is also
a good version; it is a bit
more updated than the NIV, and like the NLT it better explains some difficult
passages. Some groups prefer the
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) or the
NIV, these are also
good. Others insist on the King
James Version; I prefer something with more accurate and modern language for
today, the King James was translated in 1611. The
Message is also very good at putting things in today's language.
Click on any of the links in the above paragraph to try out these
versions online. Biblos and Bible
Gateway both have several versions online as well as other resources.
I also recommend a leather bound (or simulated leather) version since it will hold up better
over time and the
binding is more flexible to lie open while you are reading. The Bible is
so thick that hardcover versions often become difficult to read.
After you know which translation you want to purchase, you can save a lot by shopping at
Costco or Sam's Club but selection is sometimes limited. I typically buy from Amazon
because the price is better and the service is much faster than other online
stores...I've tried all of them. I have some ideas at the bottom of this page.
I currently use a plan that I created myself because I could not find anything
like it. I like to read the New Testament 3 times a year and the Old
Testament once every two years. This will edify your Christian life more
and continue to remind you of the background or prelude to the New Testament.
If you have never read through the New Testament.
Consider a 40 Day Immersion Plan. The following book-mark is color coded
to show you the different sections of the New Testament.
The Gospels tell the story of Jesus (Matthew, Mark,
Luke & John).
Acts tells the history of the early church.
The Epistles or Letters give direction or correction to
the early church.
Revelation is mostly about the future (and filled with
imagery open to different interpretations).
At times, I have also enjoyed reading a Chronological
Reading Plan. There is a One Year Bible that lays it all out for you below. You can also find Chronological Reading Plans and other helpful ideas
After reading a section of your Bible you will often have
questions you would like to have answered.
One of the most helpful things to quickly answer questions is a
Study Bible. Although I sometimes find it distracting to do my regular reading
in my study bibles, I will later pick up a study Bible to quickly answer
questions or suggest some key life applications. Re-reading the entire context will sometimes help answer your question.
THE BASICS OF INTERPRETING A GIVEN TEXT
There are many aspects to interpreting the meaning of a given text. In
short, we must consider:
The historical and cultural context. Why was it
written? What else happened that the author may assume the reader
The literary context. It is important to read the
whole book (ideally in one sitting).
The word meanings (more on this later),
The style or genre of the text.
Is the text literal history or a poetic song to God like Psalms?
Is it an Old Testament law that we are no longer bound to keep; or was it
renewed in the New Testament Gospels by Jesus; or is it a parable that Jesus
told (not a literal event, but a story to convey a spiritual
The most common potential errors come from New Testament letters or epistles
because they give us the answers without always telling the original
questions or circumstances. Epistles
were not primarily written as exhaustive theological treatises.They are task theologies, written to accomplish a specific
Commentaries often help us
navigate interpreting passages. But we must look at a few since it may be one
person's opinion. Better commentaries will discuss multiple interpretive
options. Others focus mainly on application, which is certainly important.
The great puritan commentary by Matthew
Henry is a free E-Sword download. Others are listed for free and for
purchase on the E-Sword web site.
A good overall guide on interpreting the Bible is How to Read the Bible for All its
Worth, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. You know a book is useful
when it is in its third edition. You will find this in my link to recommended
Here is one of the greatest advantages to the NASB for study. You do not
have to know the languages of the Bible to do word studies. You can pay a
mere $20 from E-Sword for the
NASB+ which gives a number for each
word. You click on that number and it will show you the word, then you can
quickly search for other occurrences of that Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek
word. It will list them for easy reading and further study. E-Sword
comes with a free KJV+ so you can practice with this to see if you want to spend
These word numbers come from the original Strong's Concordance...but they have
been updated from the NASB Exhaustive Concordance. A Concordance is an alphabetical
listing of every word in the Bible. The numbers are attached so a
beginning student can learn to do some more serious studies without having to
learn a new language. The Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek words can be looked up
and it will tell you how many times they occur and the various possible
Another great word study download for E-Sword is Vines Expository
Dictionary. The cost is only $15 or you can get it from Amazon for
about $26 (850 pages covers more than 6,000 words). Vines is arranged by topics or words in English and the Hebrew,
Aramaic or Greek words are listed with detailed definitions, Strong's
numbers, and a list of major occurrences and often all occurrences.
I have used the Logos PC
program for years and I love it (they now have a MAC version). It is a
very robust program and the most basic version will work fine for the beginner
($112 at Amazon). For those who want to get into Hebrew and Greek language
studies there are countless searchable resources available through logos, and as
always you will save by ordering through Amazon.
A Concordance can be used for topical studies. There are also other
resources like Naves Topical Index (free E-Sword download). You look up a
topic and it gives you Bible chapters and verses and related sub-topics as
well. It's a great way to learn more about what God has to say on a given
topic...as long as you consider the entire context of each passage.
I also like the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (free E-Sword
download; TSK Tab is installed). You can look up any verse in the Bible
and it will give additional verses related to various words within a given
text. For example, what other Bible verses talk about the beginning of
time before God created the heavens and the earth. Look under Gen 1:1,
beginning and you will see 6 verses listed. Hover over the verses and they
appear before your very eyes. Bible study has never been so
efficient. It is efficient, but we still have to do the work of thinking,
praying and applying it to our lives.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Let me know if you have any questions about these resources.
Equipping for Eternity, Ray Maurer Ray@NewLifeWithGod.com.