In the previous post, I wrote about the “Why?” of Bible study. I feel it is imperative to get that correct in order to glean the most from your study. In this post, we’ll look at some of the tools, guidelines and suggestions for getting started. In the next post, we dig into the fun stuff.
Guidelines, Suggestions, Tools
If you’re new to Bible study, or if this is your first time to be really serious about it, I’d suggest you jump in with both feet and make a plan to read the Bible through in a year’s time. The reason for this is that you might get a good, overall grasp of the Word of God and have a sense of the history. The writers in the New Testament quote frequently from the Old Testament, for instance, and if you don’t know the Old Testament at all, you won’t recognize it when you read those parts. I’m not saying that you’ll remember everything that you read, but you will have a sense of context.
Don’t be overwhelmed at the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. It’s really not that difficult (averages about four chapters a day). I know people that have done it every year for years and years. Also, don’t be legalistic about it. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up and throw in the towel. Just keep plodding along. The rewards will be great. The important thing is not in completing it in a year’s time but in just getting it done. So if it takes you 13 months or 18 months rather than 12, just major on “the main thing.”
I liken reading the Bible all the way through the first time to building a ‘running base.’ If someone wants to run a marathon (something I have never done) or a half-marathon (something I have done), they first need to build a strong running base. This means that for at least six months, they have run at least three days a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. This is the wise way to move into training for a half or a full marathon. You can rush the process and start training sooner than that, but those who do that are more prone to injury and/or burnout, and once the event is over, they often leave the sport for good.
The months invested in building a running base are not dead time. You learn all kinds of things: what pace is natural for you, what to eat and not to eat before you run, whether you do best running in silence or while listening to music or books, what style of shoes feel best, what to wear in all kinds of weather, etc. And most of all, you learn why you run—for increased energy, for decreased stress, weight loss, and just the sheer joy of being in the fresh air.
The same principles can apply to Bible study. Reading the Bible through is going to be a rich experience. It’s not as if you are reading it through so you can “get to the good stuff.” Reading it through is the good stuff! God will speak to you through His word even as you are building up your “study base.” So choose a plan and get started right away (not necessary to wait till the first of next year ).
Types of Plans
We are living in such a wonderful age of information. Back in the “old days” before internet, the only reading plans I ever saw were either printed in the back pages of a Bible or in the January issue of Christian magazines. If you weren’t on the bandwagon in January, you were on your own till the next year (or at least that was my experience)!
Now, however, there are a variety of reading plans that are at the touch of your fingertips. I found the following list of reading plans at eword today:
—Beginning to End: Read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation.
—Chronological: Read the Bible as its events occurred in real time.
- For example, Job lived sometime after the beginning of creation (Genesis 1) but before Abraham was born (Genesis 12). As a result, in a chronological plan, the Book of Job is integrated into the Book of Genesis.
—Historical: Read the books of the Bible as they were written historically, according to the estimated date of their writing.
—New then Old: Read through the New Testament first, then read through the Old Testament.
—Old and New: Each day includes a passage from both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Not only does eword today break down each of the above reading plans into daily ‘assignments,’ but it also makes numerous different translations available to you! It also sets the reading plans up to begin on the 1st or 15th of any month (which makes today a perfect time to get into one of these plans!), so if you are tracking with one of the specific plans, you always know what you’re supposed to read on any given day of the year.
The plan I am partial to and which I use when I choose to read the Bible through breaks it up a little differently than the plans above. It has you reading through the entire Old Testament in a year, the New Testament twice within a year, the book of Psalms two times within the year, and the book of Proverbs twelve times within the year (in other words, a chapter a day repeatedly; Proverbs has 31 chapters). I can tell you from experience that this makes for rich reading. And if you’re wondering if the book of Proverbs gets old, the answer is an absolute NO!
I found a couple of plans that are similar to the one I just described at One Year Bible Online and Blessed Mommy. The first link (One Year Bible Online) has more online perks, but it is not quite as ambitious as the second one. It has you reading a few verses in Proverbs each day, for instance, rather than the entire chapter. If I were going to use one of these plans, I would print out the schedule in the second plan, and fold it up to make a bookmark out of it. But that’s just me.
As I stated earlier, the best plan is the one you will use and stay with. If you’re planning on starting a read-through-in-a-year journey, I’d love to hear which plan you have chosen and why. Please leave me a comment.
Versions, Translations, Paraphrases
Before I conclude this post, I would like to give simple summary about versions, translations and paraphrases. In some circles, this is a point of great controversy (I used to run in those circles—but I’ve been delivered!). This is not meant to be a deep, nor thorough exploration of the subject, just a quick overview.
The Old Testament was originally written in Aramaic and Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek. The Bible was first translated from these languages into English in 1611; thus, the King James Bible was born. Since then, men have sought to update the Bible into more modern language (as opposed to the English of 1611) both in the form of translations and paraphrases.
Simply put, a translation is the same as the KJV Bible in that the translators go back to the original languages and translate from there. A paraphrase pays much less attention to the original languages and often wanders off into personal interpretation, religious bias, and opinion or personality rather than staying true to the original meaning.
There are numerous versions of the Bible—for example, the King James Version (KJV), the New James Version (NKJV), the New International Version (NLT), the New Living Translations (NLT), etc. The simplest way I can explain a version to you is it’s like a “brand.” It’s all a matter of preference which “brand” you choose to read.
So which Bible should you use to study from?
For serious study, choose a translation. Paraphrases can be good for a “casual” reading and to get a different “take” on Scripture; just always remember that they can be skewed by the paraphraser’s opinions or personalities. A good example of a paraphrase is The Message.
My personal go-to translation of choice is the New International Version. I made the leap from the KJV in the early ‘80’s (amidst a little persecution, I might add), and I’ve never looked back. However, in my studying, I reference lots of other translations and paraphrases to get the widest possible understanding on a given passage. It greatly enhances my study.
Which version do you use? Have you ever experimented with different versions? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.