8 ways to read the Bible

It happened again last week. Someone said, “I know I should spend more time in my Bible.” After scolding him for yelling at himself rather than celebrating the fact that he is spending time with a small group of people talking about the Bible, I realized that lots of people share that same feeling.

I could scold you, too, for thinking that reading the Bible is something you ought to do (rather than thinking it is a way to meet someone). I’ll save that scold. For now, here are some ways to approach reading.

1. Open the book. Read whatever is where your eyes fall on the page. Sometimes, you get surprised by what you see. It can break up routine reading.

2. Turn to Psalms. Read 80-85. If you read 5 psalms every day, you can read the whole book through in a month.

3. Read Proverbs 16. If you read one chapter a day, you can read most or all of the book in a month.

4. Start reading Mark. Wherever you go today, read more. Decide that you will read the whole book in the next two days.  Print out the pages from Biblegateway.com so it looks like a blog post instead of a Bible.

5. Turn to Philemon. Read it out loud. It’s a letter, written by Paul to a friend whose slave had run away and ended up with Paul. Find the emotion that one friend might use in talking to another friend. Pretend that you are one of those narrators in a Ken Burns documentary.

6. Read Hosea. Imagine buying your wife back from a pimp. Really.

7. Decide to memorize Matthew 5-7. You’ve memorized Jabberwocky and the lineup of the 2001 Mets. Why not a famous speech by Jesus?

8. Write a blog translating Bible passages into life. It makes you think. but 300wordsaday.com is taken.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

8 thoughts on “8 ways to read the Bible

  1. I seem incapable of #1-6. My mind wanders, and at the end I can’t recall what I read because I was thinking about the weather or the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.

    I like #7 but I’m not sure which version to memorize. Didn’t Jesus always speak in King James English?

    #8 is cool, and it’s what works for me. But if I had to write exactly 300 words per day, I’d end up thinking about the 1957 Braves to avoid the stress.

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    1. stress? What stress? Exactly 300 words keeps me from writing. or 2.

      Part of the reason for identifying 8 ways is that one might work. They are all different entry points and reflect different learning styles and ways of thinking about the story.

      And your comment on #7 tells me that I need to write about that. For now, use the aramaic version and you can’t go wrong.

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  2. Great post and thanks to @amybhole for sharing it off Google Reader.

    My #9 is read the Gospel of John. The more “spiritual” of the Gospels, I find that people who are seeking to fill a spiritual void identify with it more easily than the other more linear Gospels.

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  3. I’d add buy a Kindle. Or if you can afford it, an iPad. Like how reading a big words edition of the Bible has transformed your reading of it, so a new “toy” might help make it more interesting to some.

    I had an advantage on this one – a friend gave me a Kindle. I bought the NLT for it as my first book (not because I’m super-spiritual – but because the Bible is indispensable to me).

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  4. I have a “beater upper” Bible in which I underline verses. Every passage that I read, I make it a point to underline at least one verse that captures my imagination. It doesn’t have to be something deep or evangelical, it can be delightful, confusing, repetitive, poetic, descriptive…just something I can carry with me.

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