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When I was younger I struggled with reading. In elementary school, I remember going to reading labs where I would receive specialized instruction to assist me with reading. Despite my teacher’s care and effort, my reading did not improve much. As a result, I just did not like to read when I was growing up. How was I to know that later I would marry an elementary school teacher who specialized in reading and assisting students who struggled with reading? After spending some time with me, she unofficially diagnosed me with dyslexia. The more I have learned about dyslexia, I am fairly confident that she is right!
Reading the Bible was always a struggle. Today it is still a struggle. I have to take my time and read fairly slowly if I want anything to make sense after I am done reading. However, unlike when I was younger, reading the Bible for me today is something I look forward to. It’s something I greatly enjoy and I hope you do as well.
I believe for many of us reading the Bible is challenging--even if the act of reading comes easily to you. The Bible is a large book. A quick Google search reveals the King James Version of the Bible contains 783,137 words. Add to this, the Bible contains different forms of literature that require different styles of reading and comprehension. Suddenly reading the Scriptures can become quite complex. However, as Christians, we should not let the size or even the complexities of the Bible discourage us from reading the Bible. God has revealed Himself through the Spirit (ref. 1 Cor. 2:10). If we desire to know God, we will need to read and study His Word as given by the Spirit (ref. 2 Peter 1: 20, 21). Knowing the Word of God is important. His Word contains all things that pertain to life and godliness (ref. 2 Peter 1:3). In God’s Word, we are made complete and His Word equips us (ref. 2 Timothy 3:17). Where else can we go for truth? As Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17).
It could be argued that we have more accessibility to the Bible and more resources available to us for studying God’s Word than the generations before us. Are we taking full advantage of the wealth of resources available to us today?
I am a little peculiar in that I enjoy reading Bible commentaries, sermons from preachers of generations past, and books on Bible theology. One of the things I am often amazed at is the depth of understanding, the knowledge of God’s Word, and the insight recorded in the words of these books. How is it that these preachers and Biblical scholars gained their insight and understanding? Realizing their libraries more than likely contained fewer books than the books I have on my bookshelves. Their access to Biblical resources and literature was far less than the access I have on my phone, yet they found wisdom and an understanding of God’s Word. I am left with the conclusion that they diligently applied themselves to the reading and study of God’s Word. This is something I fear we are lacking in my generation.
If you are new to reading the Bible or just trying to get the most out of your Bible reading and study, where do you start? Let me offer a few tips that have helped me and perhaps they may help you as well.
A Good Translation
A trip to the Bible bookstore or a search online to purchase a Bible can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. There are various opinions as to which Bible translations are the best. Christians hold the Scriptures in high regard. Because we hold such a high view of God’s Word, this can lead to debates over various translations. The intent of this article is not to debate translations, but to assist you if you are new to reading God’s Word. My recommendation is to have a Bible that is comfortable for you to read. It can be very discouraging, if you are new to reading the Bible, to have a copy of the Scriptures written in a language that is difficult to understand. The King James Version of the Bible is a very reliable translation and there are many good reasons you may want to read and study from this translation. However, if you are new to reading the Bible, this translation may present challenges due to the older style of writing. As a new reader of the Bible, I would suggest an easier translation to begin reading from. You may consider something like the New King James Version. Bibles vary depending on the intent of the translation. The New American Standard Bible is an excellent translation. However, this translation is more of a “word for word” or literal translation of the Bible into the English language. This type of translation is not as easy to read but is very beneficial in understanding the meaning of specific words and phrases. The New International Version is more of a “thought for thought” translation. The intent is not so much a literal translation of each word, it is to help in understanding the thought of a passage allowing for easier reading to modern readers.
A very helpful tool to assist us in reading and studying the Bible is a Bible Dictionary. There are of course many different Bible dictionaries available to us today and you could spend about as much money as you desire to spend on one. The one I have used for years was purchased for me by my mother when I was about fourteen years old and it is the New Compact Bible Dictionary by Zondervan. Amazon has an updated version available for purchase and you may want to review it for yourself. Compact Bible Dictionary
Often I do like to look at older definitions of words as used in the Bible. An excellent resource available online is the American Dictionary of the English Language: Webster’s Dictionary of 1828. What is nice about this dictionary is that with many of the word definitions, Scripture will be cited with hyperlinks to passages and verses.
No matter if you choose a hardcopy book that you can actually hold in your hands or an online dictionary, a Bible dictionary is a handy tool for study and reading.
Many years ago another excellent resource recommended to me for Bible study was The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Many of the Bibles available for purchase today contain cross-references. If your budget allows you to purchase a Bible with cross-references, I would recommend you do so. However, due to size, the cross-references available in most Bibles are limited. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge I have contains over 500,000 Scripture references and parallel passages. Again this is a great resource for the study of God’s Word. I also noticed Amazon has this available in Kindle, something I will need to look at purchasing! If you would like to consider purchasing this resource, here is the link to it on Amazon, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.
I hope you will consider the importance of reading and studying God’s Word for yourself. The God of all creation has revealed Himself to us through His Word and His desire is for you to know Him. He has not kept Himself hidden from us and we can know Him as He has revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible.