There are a few things that are a significant help to reading the bible. As we begin a journey through the scriptures in 2018, these are a few that I want to mention.
- A GOOD TRANSLATION - Every modern translation has strengths and weaknesses in their philosophy of translation. All of the translations are developed by thoughtful and very knowledgeable scholars. Read any of them and you will surely benefit. While I use the ESV with the church for study as a good, rather literal but still very literate version, I use a different translation each year for a diversity of experience in reading. Each one speaks in a fresh way. The past few years, I've read the NIV and the Message. This year, I'll be reading the New Living Translation. Some days I'll find in my hands something else, but this will be the version I work with this year. Ultimately, this is all you need - the text of scripture. This is the core of what we're doing this year - just read. It all starts here.
- A STUDY BIBLE - This is a good source to begin a conversation with knowledgeable scholars about the text. It is important to remember that the notes are someone's offering - not the authoritative text of Scripture itself. Still, it can be very helpful to both provide us historical or literary context or some thoughts as well as an opportunity for us to think closer and deeper. Each study bible has a different focus on how they want to illumine the text, and all can help. There seems to be new ones coming out each week, but some good ones include the ESV Study Bible, the NIV Study Bible, and I very much enjoyed using the NIV Zondervan Study Bible last year.
- SURVEYS AND COMMENTARIES - This year I'm not going to use a study bible for my primary text, but will be using two sister resources that provide background and support to reading scripture. Both are by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. They are How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and How to Read the Bible Book By Book. I've taught often from the former, and will be readily using the later as a resource both for my reading and blogging this year. Surveys provide more background especially to the historical background, and commentaries look deeper into the text. They can be simple sermons all the way to the most technical books you can imagine. There are commentaries on scripture for everyone.
- CONVERSATIONS WITH EACH OTHER ABOUT SCRIPTURE - I've found that nothing takes Scripture deeper into the heart than talking to someone else about it. We need each other. All the other resources tend to look back at what scripture meant to the original hearers, and that is vital. Conversations with each other help us in our own context. We need each other to keep scripture speaking right into our own lives - helping each other see the story of scripture in our world. It is the story of God's good creation, of our fall, and of God's work of redemption among us and in us. We need each other to help us see the now through the eyes of scripture. I encourage you to participate in those conversations anywhere you can. Many take place informally as the people of God meet each other throughout our lives. But a significant part of the ministry of the church is to help provide these sorts of opportunities. For our part at Fourth, among other things, we strongly encourage you to be coming to Worship services on Sundays at 11:00am, to Sunday School at 9:30am, and to various Bible studies and prayer meetings through the week. I'm hoping and praying this blog can become a good venue for our scripture conversations through the week. I strongly encourage you to post comments, and feel free to provide posts of devotions, testimonies and thoughts of how God is using scripture in your life. Send them to me and I'll be happy to post them on the blog. We need each other to understand scripture's impact in our lives.
I'll be posting regularly, starting tomorrow with some thoughts on Genesis, on Mark, and on the reading as we begin this journey.
Take a look at the reading plan if you don't already have it (link through the previous blog post). And let's get going! Happy New Year!