How to Read the Bible

Get to know the Bible better

 You know you should read the Bible more, right? And you really want to. But, honestly, it’s so overwhelming; it’s hard to know where to begin. Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place.

 The Bible is a rich, complex text, open to all.

If you’ve ever thought the Bible is too intimidating to tackle, relax! God’s word for God’s people is multifaceted and we all have questions about it. With a little digging, you’ll find this ancient, divinely-inspired text is accessible and relevant to your life today.

Ways to Explore the Bible Right Now

The “Bible” is more of a library than a book, since it is really a collection of separate books bound together. “Scripture” is the text inside.

 Grab a Bible off your shelf or download one for free online. Here are several options:

How to Read the Bible

United Methodists believe scripture is “the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine.” (UMC Book of Discipline). The biblical authors were human beings living in their particular historical and cultural context and divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to inform readers about God, the birth, life and death of Jesus, and God’s work in creation and throughout human history. At its heart, the biblical text is a love story brimming with evidence of God’s love for God’s children (that’s you and me!).

Scripture is the primary way to know God and it is to be viewed through the lenses of tradition, reason, and experience. This way of approaching the Bible is called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”

 Tradition is the lens that examines scripture through the rituals, creeds, preaching, teachings, and writings of the church past, present, and future and how it has, does, and will respond to God’s word.

 Reason is our understanding that we cannot unplug our brains out when approaching scripture – God gave us brains for a reason. Methodism founder John Wesley and his cohorts at Oxford reasoned a new method for living out a Christian life based on scripture.

 “Through this faithful reading of scripture, we may come to know the truth of the biblical message in its bearing on our own lives and the life of the world.”

In his sermon “The Scripture Way to Salvation,” Wesley paints a clear image of the importance of study that applies to us today.

The Language of the Bible

 The original written language of the Older Testament (OT) is Hebrew.

 The original written language of the Newer Testament (NT) is Koine Greek, or “common Greek.”

 Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek have similarities and differences with their modern-day counterparts.

 “Bible” means “books” and it contains 66 of them – 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT.

Choosing a Translation

There are dozens of well-loved and well-respected translations of the Bible in hundreds of languages. Choosing the right one for you can be a rewarding experience.

The New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible represents the best in modern-day scholarship. The Message represents a solid example of a paraphrase that captures the spirit, if not all the words, of the original text.

In the end, the best Bible is the one you will read!

A Study Bible Helps

The Bible is how God reveals God’s nature to us and God’s plan for each of us. Reading and studying God’s word is vital, but everyone needs help. Look for a study bible that has these features:

    • background info on each chapter
    • timelines
    • information on who wrote the book, the intended audience, and why it was written
    • maps
    • glossary
    • individual profiles
    • commentary that explains scripture text

Context, Context, Context!

As you read and study keep these questions in mind:

    • What did it mean to the original hearers?
    • What does it mean for me today?
    • How does this text transform my life?

Have Questions?

Ask a pastor. They love that sort of thing!

Bible Study

Contact Anita Ford, GUMC director of Christian Education, for up-to-date information on study opportunities for learners of all ages.