First, what exactly is the Bible?
Sometimes Christianity is described as a religion of the book, which in the case of Christianity is the Bible. The Bible is an important source-book of ideas, often expressed as stories. However Christian faith is not just about knowledge but also includes personal experiences and group and individual practices. An important measure of being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is how much a person lives a life expressing the ideals Jesus demonstrated in his life.
The Bible has two main sections, the Old Testament, originally written mainly in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament, originally written in Greek. The orginal books were hand-written by scribes on scrolls. For the first 1400 years of Western Christianity the Bible was only available in a Latin translation, the language of the Roman Empire, and so was inaccessible to the majority of the later Western populations. This all changed with a revolution in the Western Church known as the Reformation, when Bibles were first published, first in German, and later also in English and other languages. The distribution of these Bibles was facilitated by Caxton's new printing press.
At the present time, there are many translations into English available in book form, on the internet or via apps. Try out a few translations, to find a translation you find readable and are comfortable with.
The Bible is a difficult book to get to grips with. First it is not just one book, but a core collection of 66 books, the stories are often very concise, and it takes a while to get used to the context of texts written for audiences living two to three thousand years ago. There are two main sections, the Old Testament set in the times before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament for Jesus's life and the immediately following times.
To get started, here are some suggestions you might try
- pick out the short stories (parables) told by Jesus; you will find these in the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament
- if you have an inclination for poetry, try some of the psalms; there is a collection of 150 in the Old Testament
- try one of the many daily reading plans; some target the whole Bible in one or two years, others target only one part of the Bible, like the New Testament
- try some of the shorter books; some of the shortest can be read in one sitting
- if you have already heard of references to biblical stories from other sources, look them up, and see how they are presented
- find one of the many 'thought for the day' sources (book or internet) and start from there; below there are links to two such sites as starters;
- find a commentary to help with reading and understanding; there is a wide range of commentaries; often they are written in sets, with one book/ebook for each book in the Bible, and in content, they can range from academic verse by verse analysis to chapter by chapter summaries with application ideas;
Some resources you might check out
The New International Version (2011) Bible a readable modern English translation
The Message Bible a modern English translation explicitly attempting to reflect the emotional impact of the stories
The New Living Translation Bible for a looser translation into English, which might be more readable
The New Revised Standard Verstion (NRSV) for the bible used by theAnglican churches
The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) for the bible used by Roman Catholic churches; at this link, you will need to browse down the page a while to get the the text of the books of this bible; also, in this version of the Bible, some Old Testament books are included, which are not included in the versions linked to above;
Just1Word one of the many Bible apps available; checkout your favourite app store
For the Christian Healing Mission daily thought, based on a line in the Bible see daily thought
For ideas on how to read the Bible, see Oxford on Reading the Bible
For readings related to the Easter crucifixion (and some relevant poems), see Easter 2017 services
Amongst commentaries which look at a chapter at a time, you might try the New Testament commentaries of N.T.Wright (also talks and interviews on YouTube) or William Barclay (died 1978, books and some ebooks at St Andrew's Press.
The Bible Society who tramslate, produce and distribute Bibles around the world.
thegoodbook for reading ideas for the Bible and more; including a book publisher run by Christians of various backgrounds
Bible Reading Fellowship for various related materials
The Saint Johns Bible a recently completed 10 year project to use current artists and scribes to hand-write and illuminate a version of the Bible.
There are other resources at Where to start with Christianity?
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