Want to read the Bible, but don’t know where to start or how to read the Bible? Don’t be intimidated. (I know – easier said than done!) The Bible is the written word of God. This is how God presents himself to us so that we can know him better. You can think of it as a love letter from God to you.
God has a long history with mankind. From the creation of Adam and Eve to the call of Abraham to the birth of Jesus and the work of the apostles, God was with his people. He wants us to meet him. He gave us the Bible, his inspired word, so that we could learn more about him.
However, when we read the Bible, we also learn about ourselves and how God wants us to live.
So where or how do we start? How Can I Start Reading the Bible?
The American Bishops’ Conference has published an article by Mary Elizabeth Sperry on Understanding the Bible that you may find helpful.
1. Find a good Catholic Bible
Yes, there is a difference between a Catholic Bible and a non-Catholic Bible. The Catholic Bible will contain all the books that the early Church recognized as being divinely inspired and belonging to the Bible. After a split in the Church, those who are no longer Catholics withdrew certain books from the Bible.
How can you be sure you own or buy a Catholic Bible? Make sure the Bible is approved by the Holy See (Rome). See the Introduction to the Bible for more information on the release of that particular Bible.
It must contain the words “Imprimatur” in the first pages and possibly the words “Nihil Obstat” followed by the name. This means that the Bible has been classified as free from doctrinal or moral error by the designated bishop and has been published for publication.
2. Pray before you read the Bible.
What is your goal in reading the Bible? Do you want to know more about God? Would you like to better understand Jesus’ sacrifice for us? You may want to know how to live well, as Jesus told us. You may want to learn more about the Early Church or the sacraments.
As you read your Bible, realize what you want to know. Before reading, ask God to help you understand this as you read. Ask Him to enlighten you with His Word, to let you know and understand what He wants you to know and understand as you read this.
It can be helpful to keep a notebook next to your Bible so that you can jot down any thoughts, ideas, or inspirations that you want to remember as you read.
3. Read the introduction to each book and the footnotes.
Many Bible translations include an introduction at the beginning of each Bible book and footnotes throughout the Bible that explain various terms or situations.
The introduction is helpful because it tells who wrote this Bible book, why it was written, and for whom or for whom it was written. For example, 1 Corinthians was written by Paul to the Christian people of Corinth. St. Paul wanted to help and encourage them in their faith. The Book of Exodus tells the story of the flight of the Jewish people from Egypt after hundreds of years of captivity.
Footnotes are useful for learning more about terms and uses that you may not be familiar with. They will help you get a more complete picture of what is going on in the passage you are reading.
Each book of the Bible was written for a specific people and for a specific reason. Knowing it will help you better understand what you read.
4. Try different ways of thinking while reading.
As you read your Bible in prayer, try to read it in different ways.
Put yourself in the shoes of an observer.
As you read this passage, watch what happens as if you were there.
How was the crowd around Lazarus’ tomb when Jesus arrived? What are people mumbling around you? How do you feel? What do you think?
Imagine that you were at the Last Supper when Jesus celebrated the First Mass and offered his body and blood to the Apostles for the first time. Did Jesus get the apostles’ full attention? What did the apostles think?
What ideas do you learn when you step on stage?
Think about what happened in history back then.
Why is this passage important? What is the purpose of this passage? How important is it in relation to the time of its creation?