Reading the Bible can be intimidating and confusing.” What did the writers intend?” “Does my interpretation count?” “Is it literal or contextual?” Discover answers to these questions and get introduced to practical ways that you can incorporate the Bestseller of all time into your faith practice.
Since there is no single or right way to read the Bible, today’s presentation should focus on helping the men discover:
· Practical ways that they can begin incorporating scripture into their faith practice
· Steps and context to understanding what the writers intended. (see Included Resources #2)
· What reading plan fits their particular journey or comfort level.(see Included Resources #1)
· How to read the Bible in a year. (see Chronological Bible)
1. Matthew 7:7
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”.
1. Paragraph 129
Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.
2. Paragraphs 2654
The spiritual writers, paraphrasing Matthew 7:7, summarize in this way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer “Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.”
Small Group Questions
1. What has worked for you? Not worked?
2. What has kept you from reading the Bible?
3. How can scripture enrich your understanding of God’s will for you? Humanity?
4. Do you consider the act of reading it to be a prayer?
3. The One Year Chronological Bible
1. Find an accountability partner and agree to read the Bible in 1 year
2. This week in mass pay specific attention to the readings and listen to how the homily ties them together
3. Intimidated? Pick a book and commit to start
Since the Bible is not like most other books, simply starting at the beginning and trying to read all the way to the end (from Genesis to Revelation) is probably not the best way to proceed for most people. If you attempt this, you might find the books of Genesis and Exodus rather familiar and/or interesting, but you’ll probably get confused by Leviticus, may get bored plowing through Numbers, and might quit even before finishing Deuteronomy.
If you are a Christian, you might be tempted to skip the Old Testament and jump right into the Gospels. But this also is not the best approach, since you might be disturbed by the many discrepancies between the four Gospels, bewildered by the complex theology of Paul’s letters, confused by the imagery of Hebrews, and again quit before you get to the end of Revelation.
So how should you go about reading the Bible? No one plan is best for everyone, but different people might find various methods helpful, especially since each reader may have a vastly different goal (spiritual, academic, social, etc.) in reading the Bible. Thus, some people may choose to read short selections from the scriptures daily or weekly, following the Lectionary or liturgical cycle of their Church. Others might wish to follow a one-year plan (or a multi-year plan) for reading every book of the Old and New Testaments, but not necessarily in biblical order. Still others will want to read one biblical book at a time in depth, either on their own, or with the help of commentaries, or in a Bible Study group, or in an academic course.
By now there are many resources, both online and in print, which can help you read, pray, and/or study the Bible. This webpage is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely to provide some suggestions and resources, especially for your own spiritual nourishment or small prayer groups. Below is also an introduction to Lectio Divina, an ancient method of reading and praying with the scriptures that is being rediscovered today.
Plans for Choosing Which Biblical Texts to Read
1) Liturgical/Lectionary Approach:
· Many people find it good to read the short biblical selections that are used at daily and/or Sunday Mass, as found in the Lectionary for Mass.
o Readings for daily and Sunday Masses are available on the US Catholic Bishops’ website: http://www.usccb.org/bible/
· To help guide you, several Catholic publishers put out monthly and/or seasonal booklets with the liturgical readings, along with commentaries, prayers, and/or study aides:
o Living with Christ – available in US and Canadian editions, from Novalis Press
o Magnificat Magazine – available in English, Spanish, and other languages
o The Word Among Us – daily meditations based on the Mass readings
o Workbook for Lectors… – available in US and Canadian editions, from LTP
o Bible Alive – published in Great Britain
o God’s Word Today – ended publication in June 2010
· Many liturgically-related resources are online:
o Catholic Scripture Study – brief weekly studies on the current liturgical readings; various other resources and helpful links; by Vince Contreras
· The American Bible Society also produces an annual Daily Bible Reading Guide, suggesting one short reading per day (partly following the liturgical calendar, but not always).
2) Canonical Approach:
· Some people want to read the whole Bible from beginning to end (from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation).
o Such plans require reading thirty or more minutes each day, or one or more chapters each day, throughout the year.
· This is probably not the best method for beginners, since the Old Testament (OT) is so long and many parts of it are quite difficult;
o but it could be a good practice for people who are already familiar with much of the Bible, and wish to see how it all fits together.
· Various plans for reading the whole Bible in one or more years are available in print or online:
o Daily Scripture and Catechism Devotional – a downloadable brochure of a one-year plan that anyone can begin at any time, with four readings suggested for each day: two selections from the OT, one from the NT, and one from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; by the “Coming Home Network”
o How to Read the Bible Every Day: A Guide for Catholics – contains 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plans; by Carmen Rojas (only in print, not online)
· Most other online reading plans and printed “One-Year Bibles” are based on Protestant editions of the Bible, which do not include the Deuterocanonical books considered canonical by Catholics and Orthodox Christians (for explanation of the differences, see my Comparative Chart of Various Editions of the Bible).
o The One-Year Bible OnLine – four readings suggested for each day: one each from the OT, the NT, the Psalsms, and the Proverbs (from Tyndale House Publishers)
o Zondervan Bible Reading Plan – suggests a variety of different “reading plans” for beginning, intermediate, and advanced readers of the Bible; see esp. their “Three-Track Plan”: Track 1 provides a brief introduction to the Bible; Track 2 covers a sample 186 chapters of the Bible; Track 3 is a three-year plan for reading the entire Bible (again, the Protestant OT, not including the Deuterocanonical books); some of this material is also online at ChristianBook.com
3) Christo-centric Approach:
· One could also read one biblical book at a time, but focusing on Jesus and seeing the relation of all the books to Jesus.
o Begin with one of the Gospels, for the basic story about Jesus (start with Mark, the oldest & shortest Gospel).
o Then read some NT letters, followed by another Gospel; then the Acts of the Apostles, and more NT letters; then also some OT books, to learn about the history, culture, and theology of the Jewish people.
· You may want to read OT or NT books around the time when they occur in the Lectionary for Mass (see above).
· There are many good published commentaries on each book or section of the Bible, to help guide your study and reflection:
o New Testament Message: A Biblical-Theological Commentary – older series, also by The Liturgical Press.
· There are also some good resources available online:
o St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology – free online courses and resources for studying the Bible
o Catholic Scripture Study International – provides several 30-week in-depth online courses, focusing on one biblical book at a time.
4) Thematic/Theological Approach:
· Reading portions of the Bible that are related to some theological, ethical, spiritual, liturgical, or other theme.
o For example, reading texts related to Jesus’ resurrection, or to an issue of social justice, or to Mary, etc.
· Various booklets and guides for finding biblical texts related to certain themes are available in print or online.
o Threshold Bible Study – thematic studies presented in short workbooks; from Twenty-third Publications.
o Scripture from Scratch – four-page flyers published 1993-2005; still available from St. Anthony Messenger Press.
o Interfaces – a series of short commentaries on certain biblical characters; from The Liturgical Press.
There are 4 basic levels of scripture to understand: The literal sense, the allegorical sense, the moral sense, and the anagogical sense.
· The literal sense is what most people stop at when they read the bible. The literal sense when one reads about a temple in the bible is a big building where everyone went to worship. This is what the Pharisee thought that Jesus was talking about in John 2 when Jesus said “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in 3 days.”
· However, Jesus was talking about the allegorical sense (how the text refers to Jesus) and the fact that His Body is the new Temple.
· The moral sense of scripture is how the verse applies to us and our personal morality. Since the bible says that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 6, then we should not spend one second desecrating our temple by getting drunk, watching impure movies, having an abortion, cursing, etc. The desecration of the temple is what started the whole Maccabean revolt in 1 Maccabees.
· The last method, the anagogical sense, refers to the heavenly sense. We know that after the second coming there will be a new heavenly temple (Revelation 21), and the old earth and all of its churches and temples will pass away.