What Bible should I read and follow?
Bible reading tips
Bible Reading Tips: Discovering the Bible, asking the right questions, and overcoming difficulties in understanding.
A few tips for reading the Bible
Different texts require different reading attitudes. It makes a difference whether I read the newspaper, a novel, a personal letter or instructions for use, for example. Sometimes we want to absorb a lot of information as quickly as possible, sometimes we want to stimulate our imagination and let ourselves be carried away into another world. In some cases we can read inwardly distant and without any emotions, in others feelings and associations are addressed directly.
Therefore, there are a few principles that can be helpful in reading the Bible:
Reading the Bible means: discovering
The Bible is the great book of faith. In it, people from over two millennia report on their experiences with God. Today we cannot find ourselves in everything that comes up. Religious practices such as sacrificing or casting out demons have become alien to us, some ideas, e.g. the ancient worldview that stands behind the accounts of creation at the beginning of the Bible, are outdated. So it is important to discover where the message of the Bible meets me and my life today.
The core questions of faith are the same now as they were then: What can I really rely on? What gives my life meaning and stability? The Bible does not answer these questions in the form of factual information, but in the form of an invitation - as an invitation to live your own life trusting God and relying on him in all things. Only those who accept this invitation can discover the liberating and life-shaping effects of the biblical message.
Reading the Bible means: thinking and rethinking
"The Bible contains a lot of old stories that happen anew every day." (Ricarda Huch)
On the one hand, the Bible is full of stories and words from times that are long gone. Some places and places, many ways of life and customs, as people had back then, are long gone. On the other hand, the old stories contain very current truths.
An example: The story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37) no longer happens today as it did between Jerusalem and Jericho. Priests, Levites, robbers and a traveler on a donkey no longer determine the scenes of our cities. The fact that Jews and Samaritans were enemies at the time no longer matters today. But every day I face the challenge: Who do I make time for? How much does a person count for me in his need? Where are people exploited today, left behind? Where do surprises happen, does charity happen from people who weren't even trusted to do that? The Bible invites you to reflect on the old stories and rethink them for the time today, for the world and situation in which I live.
Reading the Bible means: distinguishing
The Bible is not a single book. Very different types of texts can be found in it: stories, lists of names, proverbs, prayers, poems, parables, reports, letters and much more. Every artist and craftsman knows that he needs different tools for different materials. It is no different with the texts. It is important to find the right access to the respective text.
The second part of the Acts of the Apostles, which describes Paul's missionary journeys, is quite similar to an account in the way it is presented. He reports the events chronologically. The Song of Songs, for example, is completely different. Not the communication of information, but the lyrical form characterize this text.
So it helps to think about the question as you read: What type of text do I have in front of me? Which instrument do I need to develop them? Is this time more about information or more about images that resonate in me, want to resonate? Do I have to work more with the marker pen or more with the inner eye?
Reading the Bible means: linger
The Bible wants to speak to me, to speak into my everyday life. The words want to trigger something, to transform me. They want to become images, arise in their own imagination and convey strength. For example, the word "spring" does not just mean a place where water is produced naturally. It is an image, a symbol for life, refreshment, inexhaustible energy that wants to resonate in me.
The Bible is a great picture book. God is often spoken of in pictures. God is called e.g. source, rock, shepherd. This expresses: God is inexhaustible like a spring, reliable like a rock on which I stand securely, prudent and caring like a shepherd. Wherever I get involved with these images and practice lingering with them, I feel their power over time.
Reading the Bible means asking the right questions
Martin Luther spoke of a "fourfold little wreath" of questions with which one should read the Bible: What is written? What do I have to thank for? Where should I turn back? What can I ask for? A fifth question can be added: What should I do?
Further possibilities for indexing a Bible text develop on the basis of key words and questions:
Follow the key words and questions below
- Perceiving: What am I reading? What do i understand What do I leave behind because I do not understand it at the moment?
- Accept: What happened from God? What is he giving me as a present? What is said about faith?
- Record: What does this text mean to me personally?
Or simply: What do I notice, what do I think of?
- Look at the contrasts from then and now: What is in the text - where am I?
- Find Matches: Where Do I Agree? Where do I feel the same way?
- Detecting points of friction: what is bothering me? Where do I feel challenged?
- Allowing ideas and associations: What do I see in pictures when I close my eyes? With this sentence I think of ... (e.g., people I call, visit people I can pray for).
A special approach: opening up images
For example in Psalm 36:10: “You yourself are the source that gives us life. Your love is the sun from which we live. «- What feelings, moods, experiences do the spring and the sun awaken in me? Where are they good for me?
The I-am-words of Jesus are particularly suitable for meditating and understanding the images.
Useful tips for practice
- "Reading with the pen" is simple but effective. Passages that are particularly appealing or challenging are marked in the text or commented on with a note. This means that all discoveries are preserved.
- Read along the context of a passage (for example, in a church service or in verses from the little password book), because the sections are often difficult to understand on their own.
- Look up and compare cross-references in the margin or at the bottom of the Bible text.
- In the case of New Testament texts, it is also advisable to read the quoted passages from the Old Testament in full. A good example is Psalm 22 in the passion story.
- Look for key words in different parts of the Bible, for example: What do the stories in which people climb a mountain (Moses, Elijah, Jesus ...) have in common.
- "Ruminate" texts: Read and memorize a Bible verse in the morning and think about it again and again throughout the day ... It changes - you will see!
Bible reading resources
There are a number of helpful "tools" available for Bible reading. Some of them are already included in Bible editions, others are available separately. These "tools" can help you find your way into the Bible more easily and better understand the biblical texts:
You don't have to buy an entire library to read the Bible, however. First use the help contained in the Bible editions and then, if necessary, access further literature.
Read the Bible with others
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