The words of the Bible are intended for everyone. If you approach the Good Book with an open mind and heart, you can experience how alive the text feels, all these centuries after it was first recorded.
One way to start your biblical study is to choose one book from either the Old or New Testament and read it all the way through, slowly, a few times, over the course of a month or so. Write down the passages that really speak to you, or those that seem confusing. Look up unfamiliar words. Try to find recurring patterns, images, themes and messages. This method is called close reading, and it allows you to discover the way the Bible works as a text. Once you feel you have a solid grasp of that one book, give yourself a year or two in which to read the entire Bible.
A Bible dictionary will deepen your understanding as you read. This companion reference gives you words’ etymologies, or histories, and a better sense of how those words are used within the context of the Bible.
Indeed, context is important when studying the Bible. To get the most out of scriptural readings, a person must understand what each book is meant to accomplish. For instance, the Ten Commandments, as revealed to Moses in the Book of Exodus, are God’s law; they are rules that Christians are expected to follow. The instructions that are sprinkled throughout the Book of Proverbs, however, are not God’s law per se. Rather, they are instructions that, if followed, will lead a Christian on the right path – the path to a holier, happier and more productive life. In order to best understand the various books of the Bible within their correct contexts, it makes sense to obtain a high-quality Bible study companion. Such a book makes clearer the aims of biblical passages and chapters; in particular, it identifies which parts should be taken literally and which are figurative.
In addition, as you read through the entire Bible, copy passages that provide specific instructions, instructions you may apply to your day-to-day routines. Doing so helps you better obey God and appreciate His works, which are all around you. It also makes your reading of the Bible more personal. If you want to analyze your responses more fully, you could try keeping a journal. In this notebook, or on your computer, reflect on your understandings of different parts of the Bible: how they make you feel, how they pertain to your life.
To aid your biblical study, be sure to set aside a certain amount of time each day for this purpose, and stick to that schedule faithfully, unless an emergency arises. The best place for this study is probably someplace quiet, free of distractions, someplace where you can be alone with your thoughts.
You can always enhance your solitary scriptural studies by gathering regularly with friends, family members or fellow churchgoers for group Bible study sessions. Whenever this group meets, everyone can take turns reading the Bible aloud. These readers should pause every now and then so that each member can share interpretations and ask questions.