Having been brought up to go to Sunday school and later to Church, I was used to The Bible, or better still The Holy Bible, being regarded as a sacred text. As a student I noticed a book on a library shelf. It was entitled The Bible to be Read as Literature.
Quite honestly, I was horrified!
I felt that this was an attempt to undermine the respect with which earlier generations had viewed the Bible. The linguistic root of literature is surely anything consisting of letters. We use it in the title of examinations such as English Literature. We also use it about information from showrooms about various products.
Nowadays, considering the trend towards secularism, I’d be glad to find someone reading The Bible to be Read as Literature. Even in a different form it surely still has the power of the original to turn the hearts and minds of people towards God. (I have to admit that I never touched this book, let alone looked inside it to see how it was presented.)
I wonder how much it contributed to the rise of secularism. The title still seems disrespectful. Perhaps it was just a symptom of a trend which had already begun.
So, how should the Bible be read?
There are lots of books and dated (i.e. with a date on, not old-fashioned) helps for Bible reading. Most people, who read it regularly, would agree that a beginner should not start at the beginning in the hope of working their way to the end. Not many get to the end of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament.
Joining a study group is a good way of staying motivated to read the Bible regularly. There are a number of courses, which are designed to help.
I have no formal qualifications in Bible study. Religious Education (RE) was not offered as an exam subject at the school I attended. However, I began using Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) notes as a child. I didn’t find that they provided enough depth. When a teacher of RE sold some of us Scripture Union notes, I found those more helpful.
|The BRF notes mentioned here|
I haven’t always made Bible reading a daily habit. There have been long spells in my life, when I haven’t attempted this. However for the last twenty-odd years it has been a habit. I have tried other notes such as Every Day with Jesus, but I have come full circle and use BRF notes. Currently I use two different publications, New Daylight and The Upper Room, which focuses on prayer and is written by its readers. (Two occasional contributors are members of both ACW and the writing group I attend.)
In my view the Bible should be read prayerfully, thoughtfully and regularly. Reading it out loud can also help both the understanding and the memory. I have some personal preferences about translations, but I just long for people to be exposed to the scriptures in whatever translation speaks to them best.
How do you read the Bible?