For those of you who don't know Alan, he is one of the directors of our RCIA group at SJSP. He is a sweet, generous, scholar with a unique love for scripture. He's been a part of the leadership team of our scripture studies for years. He's got some great advice about how to use this time God has given us to delve into His word! Here's Alan:
While you're stuck at home and have a bit of free time, you're thinking this might be the opportunity to crack open that Bible on your bookshelf.
But if you've never read the Bible, the prospect of taking it on can be somewhat daunting.
So where to begin?
One of the challenges of reading and studying scripture is simply the matter of motivation.
Too often, people approach Scripture with an inappropriate attitude or intention.
Not inappropriate in terms of piety or holiness or anything like that.
Rather, inappropriate for the personality and learning style of the reader.
For example, many people think they might attempt the front-to-back, Genesis-to-Revelation approach.
They start with every good intention, and 99% of them don't get very far at all.
They fall short because they tried an approach that's not suited to them.
he next common mistake is to set an unrealistic goal: "I'll read a chapter every day!"
This can work, but it might not be an approach that inspires. It can even badly rebound.
Like when a person sets a daily goal for Lent, then falls behind.
It make one feel worse than if they'd never tried it in the first place.
Here are some tips and suggestions for Bible-reading neophytes.
The point is to start without any specific goals.
1. Just get familiar with the physical object. Lift your Bible, open it, flip through it.
Notice the page layouts, the columns, see where the footnotes are. Even smell it!
2. Browse the contents only. Does your Bible have articles in addition to the text? Introductions to the books? Maps? An index?
Look at the list of the books in the Old and New Testaments. How many of these names are not familiar?
If your contents lists abbreviations for the books, do they make sense to you?
Notice the abbreviations for 1 Corinthians vs. 1 Chronicles; for Philippians vs. Philemon.
Are any of the books not in the Testament you expected? Isn't it interesting that the book of Hebrews is not in the Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Scriptures)?
3. Notice that the books are divided into chapters, and the chapters into verses.
Which books are among the biggest? Smallest?
Can you find any books so small that they don't have chapters?
Try to look up something by its chapter and verse citation. For example, can you find John 3:16 ?
Or the more familiar Matthew 6:9-13 ?
These first three items don't involve any or much reading, but if you repeat them over the course of weeks they can have the effect of making your Bible a familiar thing. Then, when you're eager to delve into the text, you can move onto the next steps:
4. Try to find a familiar story or phrase in your Bible.
Can you locate the birth of Jesus? The Ten Commandments?
Can you find the quote, "Man shall not live by bread alone"?
You might have to use Google to help you locate these things, then look them up.
5. Finally, just start poking around. If you encounter an intimidating list of "begats," feel free to turn to something else!
Read a small passage, maybe a sentence or a paragraph.
Are there footnotes to help understand it?
Check out its cross reference to see how it is connected to another passage.
In conclusion, the whole idea here is to just get more comfortable with your Bible, without the burden of an assignment or a deadline.
Establish a friendship with your Bible, then... let yourself be taken away!