Posts Tagged Bible Reading


by Roger Severino

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  1. What did this text mean to the original readers (as best I can discern)? The basis for trying to understand any text is to discern the author’s intent. It’s the courtesy we try to provide for anyone in communication. If you and I have a conversation, and I take your words out of context and interpret them in a way you did not intend, then I have not listened well as a hearer. The same goes with the Bible. What did the biblical author intend for his readers to understand? Now, this is not always easy. It requires some basic practices, knowledge and discernment. You want to read a passage in its context—what comes before it, what comes after it. At times, it is helpful to know the historical context and cultural context. It can be helpful to know what type of literature this is—is it poetry, narrative, or some other genre? Here is where Bible study tools can be helpful. A Study Bible can help with its introductions to the book and the commentary it provides. Commentaries, Bible Dictionaries, and other resources can also be useful. You can ask a trusted spiritual leader for helps with resources.
  2. What principle from this text can and should be applied across time, geography, and cultures? Once I have attempted to discern what the author wanted to communicate to his original audience, then I look for principles from this passage that transcend the circumstances of the author and reader. If I’m reading Leviticus and its various sacrifices, I consider the principle applied today. We know from the New Testament that Christ’s sacrifice is “once for all” and that there is no more need of animal sacrifices (see especially the Book of Hebrews). But, I may still understand that God has to deal with sin and that sin is serious enough and requires a payment. This principle may allow me to consider and reflect on the cross of Christ and gain new insights on what Jesus has done on my behalf. When looking for a principle, I should consider the whole story of the Bible and how a passage applies in light of being a part of the New Covenant in Christ.
  3. How does the truth of this passage relate and apply to me? Why can’t we simply start with this question and skip the first two? The danger of only asking “What does this text mean to me?” is that it can easily digress into rampant subjectivism and narcissism. That is, I am in danger of reading into the text whatever I want through the lenses of my life and circumstances. I may try to make the Bible say something that it never intended to say. I can make the Bible all about me, where I am the main point (hint: it’s not about you). But…once I have done the hard work of thinking about and praying through the first two questions, then it is important and necessary to ask this third question. Bible study should never simply be an academic exercise. Ultimately, studying the Bible should result in life transformation as I submit myself to the teachings of Scripture.

The first question grounds my interpretation in the historical meaning related to the author’s intent. The second question tries to discern which principles rightly apply to other contexts, bridging the text to the modern reader. The third question insures that I apply the Bible and its truths to my life, and do not make Bible study simply an academic exercise. Ultimately, I engage the Word of God because in these pages I believe I can encounter the God of the Word. This is an academic exercise, but never merely an intellectual routine. I wish to present myself as a worker approved by God, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).


by Roger Severino

If you have been around followers of Jesus or church life for any length of time, you probably know that Christians are encouraged to read the Bible. In the Scriptures, we encounter Christ and learn of what it means to be in right relationship with God and we receive instructions about how to live and grow spiritually. But how do we read the Bible? Where do we start? Do we simply open it up to a random spot and start reading?
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Here are five approaches I have taken to reading the Bible on a regular basis.

  1. Read the Bible through in a year. About every 5-10 years, I try to read the Bible from cover to cover. Usually I have some sort of reading plan that has me in different parts of the Bible. There are many “through the Bible in a year” Bibles that you can find at a Christian bookstore that has a reading plan built in. On January 1 (or Day 1), you may read Genesis 1-3, Matthew 1, and a Psalm and a few verses in Proverbs. Following this plan will get you through the entire Bible in 12 months. Or, there are Chronological Bibles that try to lay out the text in proper order of sequence (as best we know the timing of the actual writing or events). The benefit of this type of approach is that you are exposed to the entire Bible and get to see the big picture of all it contains within a year’s reading.
  1. Read the entire Old Testament once, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms twice in 2-4 years. My favorite Bible reading companion is D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume One and Volume Two). Each day includes four different passages of Scripture that gets you through the Old Testament, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms twice. Volume One offers comments from Dr. Carson on one of the first two readings, and Volume Two gives commentary on either the third or fourth reading. A two-year plan means that you are reading both the first two passages listed the first year, and the third and fourth passage listed the second year. A four-year plan means that you are reading only one of the passages listed per day. The wonder of this resource is that Dr. Carson has an amazing ability to offer insights on the text, place it within the framework of the storyline of the Bible, and also offer practical application for today. All this on a single page. The benefit of this approach is that it helps you read through the entire Bible in 2-4 years and gain insight from one of today’s top Bible scholars.
  1. Read the Bible with the aid of a Bible study resource or curriculum. Currently, I am using two Bible study aids to help me engage the text of scripture. I am working through our church’s Foundations Curriculum on Spiritual Practices and also through an InterVarsity Press small group guide on selected Psalms written by Eugene Peterson. Both of these resources help me engage the text and ask reflective questions which call me to respond in writing. There is something about reflecting on a Bible text and writing a response that engages me in a different way than simply reading it. Also, I am gaining insights and challenges from the author of the resource as we both engage the same text of Scripture.
  1. Study a book of the Bible. Often, I will read through a specific book of the Bible from beginning to end, usually going slow enough through it that I am reading either a section of a chapter, or no more than a full chapter at a time. I often do this with some type of inexpensive journal where I am writing reflections on the text, or at times simply copying the text I am reading (this may sound strange, but I think we process a text differently when we write it down). The advantage to this approach is that you can delve more deeply and really try to understand and apply a specific book of the Bible.
  1. Reading the Bible with the aid of a devotional. Our church provides a daily devotional we call JourneyOn Today. You can find it on our web site and we even have a mobile app for that. Most mornings, this is the first thing I read. Typically it includes a passage of Scripture followed by a devotional written by one of our members or staff. Usually, they come in series where there is a theme that will tie in the different days over a period of time. Of course, you can find various types of devotionals in a Christian bookstore or even on the web. It can be nice to read a text often within the framework of a theme and hear the reflections and thoughts of another brother or sister in Christ. Often, they will have an insight or application of the text that is appropriate but that I had not considered. It can be beneficial to read the reflections of others on a given text.
    Photo credit: Joe Hendricks
    Roger Severino, Adult Discipleship – Leadership Minister


As you can see, there are multiple approaches you can take to reading the Bible. Here are only five. The most important thing is that you find a way that is beneficial to you and that you will practice on a consistent basis. We read the Word of God because in these pages we encounter the God of the Word.