5 Ways to Read Your Bible
This is not a conversation on which type of Bible to read. Whether it's the NIV, ESV, KJV, CSB, or some other acronym, the best kind of Bible to read is the one you'll open and understand.
This IS a conversation about how you read that Bible. Unfortunately, most Christians I know can fall into the trap of only opening God's word in one particular fashion for most of their lives. So I want to give you five ways you can read your Bible with fresh eyes with some tips and tricks that might help you in each style.
This is how most people read their Bible. They open it up in the morning or whenever they read a chapter or section and pour over the words. Then, they'll spend some time praying over it, journaling about it, and re-reading it in different versions.
This is ideal for digging deeper into the word. It will give you a depth of knowledge about a passage you might otherwise miss. If you want to try studying a bit more, I would encourage you to read along with a commentary. Buy a reasonably general one from a trusted source, and read the chapter along with the commentary. Don't just have your voice in your devotional time; invite others that might add to your experience. I highly recommend the Warren Weirsbe Commentary. It's cheap, evangelical, and built for the average reader to understand the entire Bible.
I know what you're thinking. Duh! I read it every time I open it. I agree you read it every time you open it, but I would bet you aren't reading it correctly. The Bible is designed uniquely: There are no chapters or verses. There might be some numbers in your modern English Bible, but there were no chapters or verses in the original Hebrew and Greek. Instead, they were structured in sections. The BibleProject calls them "movements" like in an orchestra. For example, the scroll of Genesis has four movements within it. These movements were subsections of the greater story within that book of the Bible that would be learned and memorized by the people. Learn more about that HERE.
I would highly encourage you to read entire movements at one time. Whether it's a movement in the new testament like the Sermon on the Mount or the movement from Adam to Noah, read large sections of the Bible. Don't stop to meditate on things, and don't break up sections. In this way, you'll learn to see the larger story the Bible is telling and connect dots you never saw before because they had a chapter dividing them.
The Bible wasn't meant to be read. That's right. Even your New Testament wasn't designed to be read alone in your living room during the wee hours of the morning. It was built to be listened to. For centuries, the Jewish people were auditory. They would open up a particular scroll (book of the Bible), read it aloud during their time at the synagogue, and learn communally. There is an example of Jesus doing this practice in Luke 4. We hear things differently than we read them. In an article in the Journal of Education, researchers show that story-telling (or hearing the Bible aloud) is an emotional and psychological experience. It ties a human narrator to the story's emotions and mindset. It becomes a human experience rather than an object we take information from.
If you've never been an audio Bible person, become one. It likely won't have the same impact as studying the Bible or reading it in large chunks. But listening to it allows you to marinate in the word and feel it as something tangible. I also highly recommend not using the YouVersion audio bible. While it's a great Bible app to read, it's not great to listen to. Instead, download Dwell on your phone. It's a fantastic app that lets you switch voices, bible versions, and background music. Finally, try listening to the Bible on your way to work daily and see how it changes you.
In Grad School, one of my classes was called Spiritual Disciplines. It gave the biblical basis for how and why to do any spiritual act. Things like prayer and fasting were on the list of stuff we covered, but one that stood out to me was rewriting the Bible. To clarify, I DO NOT mean rewriting it in your own words and changing it. I mean, literally just copying what was written in the Bible into a notebook. For my class, I copied the book of James. It's a short book, but that experience was a game-changer for me. It opened my eyes to things I hadn't noticed because I had actually to slow down to write the words. Our brains often auto-complete Bible verses because we've read them many times. Writing stops that from happening.
Try it out once. Writing a whole book might be a bit much but find a meaningful chapter of the Bible you like and copy it down for your quiet time one day. Putting pen to paper helps ingrain things into our memory because it changes something we see into something we do.
If you've been a Christian for a while, you've probably heard the phrase "the Romans Road." It's a practice that Christians use to explain the gospel using only verses from the book of Romans. I often have the same question many people have asked, "Where do I start, and what purpose does this have?" So if you get stuck reading the Bible and feeling like it's stale, I would encourage you to think of something you would want answers to and build a Bible reading plan around it. Things like the Romans Road were designed to answer the question, "How can one be saved?"
So start with a question, read verses, and build your own road to the answer. How is there a triune God? Why do we need a savior? What is the character of God? What is the story of redemption?
Those are solid questions that should take you through the Bible in bits at a time.
So that's five ways you can read your Bible. Reading one style for too long is like lifting weights for only one muscle group. That might get you strong, but your whole body will be weak. So switch it up now and again. Try new things and rotate them around to what works best for you. If you find something you hate doing, I would encourage you to set aside time throughout the year to work at it and push yourself to grow in that area.
Five ways to read your Bible sounds good, but I had 6, so I'm adding this one as a bonus. Did you know your English Bible is not built chronologically? In fact, there are several places where a few chapters from different books are concurrent, meaning they run simultaneously. If you don't understand when things were written or to whom, find a Bible reading plan that will show you which chapters to read chronologically. This is especially helpful for understanding the prophets and the history books of the Old Testament.