Recommended Bible and study aids
The first and the most important book we need is our Bible. I have read the King James in its entirety, (Took forever, Old English is not a quick read for me.) I read the New King James, but it still is low on the readability scale. Since I hear it every day contemporary English is more easily understood. Sarah my youngest child, loves the King James, Athena loves the NIV study Bible, I have read the NIV through a few times, but I still prefer an even simpler version. The New living works perfectly for my taste. I have laid all the mentioned versions out side by side and found only non-material differences. I have also laid out Greek and Hebrew Versions using tools that translates the older languages to English. In the end, we determined that the Bibles our family is using are accurate and worthy of reading and study. We believe that when a text is difficult to understand, it is useful to read the surrounding chapters, then read the text in several of the versions. The Bible you find the easiest to read, is the best version, any other version is just likely to gather dust. You can try several versions out at Bible Gateway free of charge. Just select the version you are interested in from the drop down box.
Getting the most from the scriptures
When one reads the Bible, he is in danger of reading many things into the text that are not there. There are a number of ways this can happen. The primary reason is that when one reads the Bible, he reads it from vantage point of his own cultural view. If you remember the front page of this site where we discuss common sense and how it is not consistent be between the micro cultures within the United States. One can see how his own cultural norms could taint his understanding of ancient Israel or Egypt, if he is not careful. This issue is often referred to as nurtured filters. When we read the Bible, we have to work overtime, to shed those filters.
Often times we might be listening to a sermon, or having a discussion where verses are being thrown out as part proof of point. Many times these verses may be accurate in their short form, but using the verse alone proves nothing without the context. The context, is actually the whole Bible previous to the verse. The Bible is a long story and many of the verses in the New Testament for example cannot be properly understood by one who has not read the old. To properly understand the text may be simple, or maybe difficult, but there are tools to help us. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is one such tool. The concordance can be used to do word searches seeing everywhere it appears in the Bible. This allows us to see where a thought might have appeared before. This book also shows the Hebrew and Greek words for those that are inclined toward the original languages. On this site, we are going to assume the Bible translators knew what they were doing. I have done the research, and am very happy with the results. There is nothing wrong with learning these languages yourself and doing the research, but it is more than we need for the basic study here.
Another really dangerous mode of Bible study, is assuming everything in the text is immediately addressed to the reader. These readers may just try to shoe horn everything the Bible says into their lives as they read along. (It is OK to read the Bible visioning what the characters did, went through, and learn a lesson from it. That is what the Bible is for. We just can’t make every contract God made with his people binding upon our selves.) This will be more understandable as we do our daily study.
Lastly the blind reader. This guy, is the vast majority of Bible readers. The Blind reader accepts the verses thrown out in church, never attempts to understand ancient and world history, and pretty much takes everything at faces value. He gets in trouble in two ways, he has never read the Bible from cover to cover, so he is in danger of believing anything. Worse yet he may pray “Lord show me a verse that will help me today” then close his eyes and open his Bible and place his finger on a word or verse. God is very capable of answering this prayer, but mostly chooses not to. He is in danger of getting stuff like this as a result of his prayer (Or blind dart throwing): First, he closes his eyes and accidentally opens Mathew 27: 5 “5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Then he closes his eyes and opens Luke 10:37 – and his finger lands on “Go, and do thou likewise”. If he believes God was telling him what to do, he has trouble!
Knowing how to read your Bible, is as important as reading your Bible. If you are new to your Bible, the best way I found to get acquainted with it was to listen to an audio Bible. I really liked this one, you can buy it using this link: Live It Now! Dramatized Audio Bible It helps to hear it, especially if you can listen for several hours at setting. This Bible helps setup the time and place, as well as keep the listener engaged. After you have listened to the entire text, you are in a much better position to start diving deeper. You will be better able to tell when a religious zealot, preacher, or an atheist is massacring the text for his own needs. You can also get the audio version free on the internet, but it is harder to listen to.
The last book I recommend is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This book is a great way to understand what the Scriptures meant at the time they were written and how that meaning applies to us today. The book focuses on the historical contexts, explains differences between the Old Testament narratives, the Epistles, Gospels, Parables, Psalms and more. This book is an absolute must for someone who wants a complete understanding of scripture.
We have listed our favorite books for Bible study here. Other than understanding history via historical texts and magazines of Biblical times, we do not see a need to popular books that give you a better understanding of the Bible. We feel a few study tools, the Bible, and a little research here and there are all that is needed. We do not need story books, novels, most fictional novels place one in danger of learning really bad theology. Even devotionals are not really great for a good sound theological base. Unless you’re reading your Bible for all that it is worth. That is why we took the time to write about Bible study, discuss the tools that we believe will yield the most benefit for the time you spend in God’s word.