Read the Bible 101

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Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow offers ideas for getting started reading the Bible.

Reading the Bible isn’t optional for Christians – it is part of what makes us who we are. However, there’s no doubt that some people find it daunting and don’t know where to start.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend starting at the beginning and working through to the end. It starts OK with some interesting and apparently familiar stories about creation and a load of stories about Abraham but soon veers off into purity codes and punishments and what can seem like interminable records of who gave birth to whom.

Better to begin somewhere else.

Holdsworth recommends:

I’d suggest starting with one of the gospel books – that means one of the following books – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. (By the way, I recommend the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Get one of the ones with the Apocrypha…).

After reading one of the gospels, I’d suggest that someone heads over into the Psalms and starts to dip in and out. All human life is there. These are spiritual songs which form a collection of spiritual writing which goes from anger to joy, from despair to compassion.

Maybe now it is time for Genesis and a bit of Job …

A bit of prophecy now – Isaiah but start in the middle …

Read some tricky stuff …But don’t miss the best bits of Paul

Oh heavens, right in the middle of all that stuff about women you get one of the best bits of St Paul’s writings – 1 Corinthians 13. It is such a fabulous celebration of love that it still gets read frequently (and often very badly) at weddings.

Love is patient and love is kind, but if you want something a bit erotic you need to dip back into the Hebrew scriptures and read the sexy Song of Songs

Read all his suggestions here. What is your Bible reading plan – or do you read it at all? Why or why not?

Bishops Bible Elizabeth I 1569” by Unknown – Scanned from Susan Doran, editor. Elizabeth:The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. 2003, London, Chatto & Windus/National Maritime Museum, ISBN 0701174765 (Doran 2003a). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Bob McCloskey
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Bob McCloskey

Thank you, Paul! For many/most folk reading the Bible in community on a regular/daily basis is not an option. In this rural farming region it is an impossibility in retirement - even if I subscribed to the community theory, which I don't. Far cry from our GTS days.

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Paul Woodrum
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Paul Woodrum

One of the great blessings of being an Episcopalian is that we get started hearing so much of the Bible read in the context of community and worship, constantly reminding us that Jesus is the Word to which scripture witnesses. However, that shouldn't be the ending, but a path into personal reading, learning and inwardly digesting the Bible itself.

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John D
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John D

I strongly believe that the Bible should be read in community. Mine has been EFM, first as a student, now as a long-term mentor. The task is often far too hard for an individual, even in a context such as following the daily Office, or even the Sunday lectionary.The above suggestions rarely work.

john donnelly

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John D
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John D

I strongly believe that the Bible should be read in community. Mine has been EFM, first as a student, now as a long-term mentor. The task is often far too hard for an individual, even in a context such as following the daily Office, or even the Sunday lectionary.The above suggestions rarely work.

john donnelly

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