Where do we go if we want to understand more about God's vision for our lives, our church, and our world? Often we pray and work together to discern what God has in store for us. As long as it has existed, though, the Church has looked to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to understand their witness to God's action and love in the world--and even God's plan for the church and the world today.
It's not about "proof-texting" or forcing the Bible to speak to our present circumstances, but about entering into the story that the Bible tells, and finding out how we fit into that story ourselves.
Reading the Bible Online
If you don't have your own Bible at home, there are plenty of online resources that'll help you read Scripture. One user-friendly and easily accessible online resource is Bible Gateway, linked here:
On this site you can read through the entire Bible, search and compare different translations, and customize the way it looks so you can read it most easily. There are also apps you can download so you can read and listen to the Bible on your phone.
Where do I start?
There's no wrong answer to this--but there are some options that might turn out easier than others. The important thing to keep in mind is that no matter where you start, what's important is that you do. And as you do, allow yourself to have questions, to make notes, even to write on the pages! While it's not a "choose your own adventure" book, the Bible is still a living text, one that we believe speaks to us today.
Begin with the Beginning, End with the End
You can start with Genesis and press on all the way through to Revelation. Move from the Garden of Eden to the City of the New Jerusalem and follow the story from beginning to end. Many people start out this way, but some often get "bogged down" once they hit the long lists of laws and genealogies, and through some of the more ... unseemly stories contained in the Bible. Some of the resources listed below may help you encounter these passages more fruitfully.
The Birth of Jesus to the Birth of the Church
Luke's Gospel is distinctive from the other three in that it comes with a "second volume": the Acts of the Apostles. After he recounts his own version of the story of Jesus, Luke records a story (many stories) about how Jesus's friends and apostles carried on his legacy and commission to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to the ends of the earth. Open Luke's Gospel, read of Jesus's ministry to sinners and outcasts, and then continue reading Acts to see how that ministry spread and created a new kind of community of love throughout the world.
Another Kind of Beginning: The Gospel
One way many people begin reading the Bible is with the stories of Jesus. Three out of the four Gospels in the New Testament even begin by recalling, in one way or another, the "beginning," signalling that in Jesus, God is creatively working at a new beginning for his people and for the world. You might want to start by opening up the Gospel of Mark and encountering the ways in which Jesus, made God's powerful presence known in the world--and turned the world upside-down.
Whatever Gets You to Read It!
The Bible is a book of books--and not all of them are strictly "books." The Old Testament is full of poetry, prayers, and even songs. Other books in the Old Testament are historical and legendary in nature, and make for a good read about God's presence in the life of God's people. The New Testament is full of letters aimed to help early Christians understand their new-found faith, and to encourage them to live that faith out in fruitful and honorable ways. Choose a book (or a letter, or whatever) that sounds interesting, or appealing, or even challenging to you. You'll be surprised by what you find.
The following are some resources I (Father Shane) would recommend if you're interested in learning more on your own or in a group of people about the Bible. Each of the books I recommend is available as an e-book.
Most important to remember, however, is that nothing replaces reading the Bible itself. And along with that: nothing replaces reading the Bible in community with others. Join us in reading the Bible together at Saint Peter's! We'll be holding a Bible Study during the Easter Season on 1 Peter. Stay tuned for details!
The Bible Project (YouTube)
The Bible Project is an online resource that introduces people to the Bible, and there are very few stones left unturned. They have introductions to each and every book of the Bible, as well as introductions to different ways people study the Bible. Below is a link to their homepage, as well as their short introduction, "What is the Bible?"
How To Read The Bible . . .
There are plenty of books out there that may help you learn more about the Bible. If you're looking to get started, try out the following:
- How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (2014).
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (4th ed., 2014).
Scripture as a Story?
It's been mentioned a couple times that Scripture tells a story. For an introduction to this--and a walk through the story itself, I (Father Shane) recommend:
- The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen (2nd ed., 2014)
Want to go even further?
If these interested you, you don't have to stop there. Below are a couple of other resources that will take you even further into the world of the Bible and the joy of reading it.
- What Christians Believe about the Bible: A Concise Guide for Students, by Don Thorsen and Keith H. Reeves (2012)
- The Art of Reading Scripture, edited by Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays (2003)