Taking a page out of Mortimer Adler’s book How To Read A Book, I’d like to take a few blog posts to explain how to read the Bible. These are meant to be general thoughts, not exhaustive; good ideas, not iron-clad rules. Hopefully, they will help you in your reading of God’s Word, the Book of books.
The first way to read any text or document, including the Bible, is superficially. Reading in this way means that we look through the contents in order to get an overall view or flavor. It’s a bird’s-eye view, if you will. The point of superficial reading is not to read every single word, but to get the basic idea and format.
How it’s done:
- Read the Table of Contents.
- Thumb through the individual books, looking to see the number of chapters and divisions.
- Look for the different literary genres.
- If your Bible has short introductions for each book, read them.
- Take a good look at the maps in the back of your Bible.
- Read some selected passages, like Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Exodus 20, Psalm 1, Isaiah 53, John 3, Romans 8, Revelation 21-22.
Even though I’ve called this type of Bible reading “superficial,” I’m convinced that most people have never done any of the things I listed. (I find it especially galling that skeptics of the Bible-and who will quote it repeatedly-don’t even have a superficial knowledge of it in most cases.) If you have a superficial knowledge of the Bible (which I think everyone should), your level of knowledge will be greater than most people.
Having a superficial knowledge of the Bible is a good thing. But it’s a starting point, not a destination. The two other levels of reading depend upon it.
As St. Augustine heard in his garden so many years ago, “Tolle Lege!” Take up and read!