Reading the Bible

Photo credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash

When I’m regularly reading the Bible there are many times that I struggle with some of the deeper understanding of it. I feel like I am unaware of the important cultural and historical context of certain passages, or even whole books. Understanding these subtleties are often a crucial part of the reading, and if I’m not careful I can completely miss, or misinterpret, those subtleties. Of course in the past I did not realize that I was missing these things. But after several experiences of listening to a talk or sermon on a reading I had done I realized how ignorant I was, and honestly, still am.

To address my ignorance, I started to turn to resources to help me with a deeper understanding of the Bible. There are two main aids that I move toward when going through a study. The first is the Bible Project. I have often wished I could have a Bible scholar sitting at my kitchen table with me as I was reading through a book of the Bible to help set the scene and the context of the passages I was reading. The Bible Project is the next best thing. They have made short (~10 min) videos for every book of the Bible explaining the background and literary techniques that are involved in that specific book. It is led by Tim Mackie, whose knowledge and presentation of the Bible is in the top tier of anyone I have ever heard.

The second resource I move toward is a good Bible commentary. I have been consistently impressed by commentaries by NT Wright. This will come as no surprise for those in Christian world. His commentaries are approachable and well written and I cannot say enough good things about them. On many occasions when I was using his commentary I’ve been sitting there reading and then thinking “Ohh, that’s what’s going on here.” Reading through a commentary slows me down when I’m reading, but the loss of time is worth the deeper understanding.

For me personally, I ebb and flow getting into the Bible over time. One of my most successful tactics for regularly reading it has been to make a morning habit out of it. I’ve also found being in a study with a small group helps me read it more consistently. The pressure of getting the reading done so I can participate in a meaningful way during the discussion motivates me to complete it. This reading momentum also typically continues after the study has finished.

When I regularly get into the Bible, I find that I have a deeper store of patience and a better perspective on my life overall. My relationships are stronger and my spiritual life is healthier. And I don’t believe these things are coincidences. This is a habit worth pursuing and one that we as Christ-followers should push toward.