Explore the Bible.

When picking up the Bible for the first time, it can be tricky knowing where to start.  Here are a few pointers just to help you get started.

First things first!

Firstly, although the Bible was written in 3 languages (Aramaic, Hebrew & Greek) by more than forty writers from all walks of life, living on three continents separated by over 1500 years, it’s message is a coherent one.  In 2 Timothy 3:16, God tells us that all Scripture is God breathed, and through the person of the Holy Spirit, the writers were inspired.  The Bible is one unfolding story.

Therefore, if the Holy Spirit gave understanding to the writers, then He must also give understanding to the readers too.  It is possible to sit and read the Bible like a piece of literature, but not see the truth revealed.  So then, before reading the Bible, always pray and ask God to reveal His word through the Holy Spirit.  It makes an amazing difference.

Get the Big Picture!

Secondly, the Bible does have a thread that runs through it and it’s important to try and see the big picture or meta-narrative.  Simply outlined, the Bible looks like this:

1. Creation – God made everything good.

2. Rebellion – Man wilfully rebelled against God and caused separation between us and God.

3. Redemption Pursued – God promised one who would come and redeem (pay the price) us from  our sin.  The Old Testament pursues this promise looking for the fulfilment.

4. Redemption Accomplished – Jesus is revealed in the New Testament as the one God promised and He accomplished the redemption.

5. Re-Creation – Jesus will return to restore all things to that which God intended.

The rest of the Bible fits into this ‘Big Picture’ and it’s good to have that in mind when reading the Bible.

So then, where to start?

Well there are some useful online resources and one we want to recommend to begin with is a 30 day session reading plan on the English Standard Version (ESV) web site which you can find here and download a pdf.

Be expectant!

Fourth, when you read the Bible, expect God to speak to you through His Word. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told this to one woman:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23,24

The reality is, if you are seeking to find God, then He was already seeking you first and is longing to speak to you through His Word.

Finally, we can recommend a couple of really good books to help you understand the Bible.


Some common questions

Which version should I use?

Q. Does it matter which version of the Bible I read?

A. All Bibles are translations and the work of translation committees.  Some Bible translations keep the words in English as close to those in the original lanuguages.  This is called formal equivalence.  Examples are the English Standard Version, the Legacy Standard Bible and the New American Standard version.  Other Bible translations opt to translate the meaning of the original texts and this is called dynamic equivelance.  We believe that Bible translations which are more to the formal equivalence hold more faithfully to the original version and are less likely to have translation bias,

There are some Bibles that are not translated from the original manuscripts, but are reinterpretations of English translations.  These include The Living Bible and The Message.  Although these are easy to read, they vary widely from the originals and can be widly inaccurate.

The Passion Translation, is not only, not a translation, it also goes beyond paraphrasing and inserts additional ideas not found in the Bible.  We recommend that it be avoided and you can read more about why in this article.


How much of the Bible is for me?

Q. Is all of the Bible written to and for us or only some parts?

A. Although there are some people who teach this, it is wrong to divide the Bible into parts that are for us and parts that are not.  This in itself is contrary to what the Bible teaches.

Do modern versions have verses missing?

Q. Some modern versions appear to have verses missing. Why is this?

A. On first appearance, this could appear to be the case.  However, when the first English versions were translated, they only had limited access to manuscripts.  There was also a Latin version widely used for over 1000 years which had been copied many times and varied from the original Greek with additional verses creeping in over time.  However, when the  there was great pressure brought to include these verses.  Over time, more manuscripts have been discovered that show some verses should never have been included.

So then, some modern versions have verses missing compared to earlier English versions, but not compared to the original Greek manuscripts.  Most versions still include these verses in the footnotes. 

Listen to part of the Bible.

Listen to John chapter 3 from the New Testament.  Jesus has a night-time meeting with the top Jewish teacher of his day, a man called Nicodemus.  Despite this, he has some real learning to do . . .