I was not a total total newbie to the Bible, but not even close to knowing it. My opening of the Bible was pretty much that. I remember opening and reading some of the King James verses and realizing I understood almost nothing, but what I did understand hit me as the truth, and this is when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.
Went to church a few times with a friend in High School and college. Received a Bible for my 20th birthday from my roommate, but don’t remember reading it much. So, had a familiarity with it, but I knew about it, like most people I believe today, we know about it, but don’t know it.
Regardless, let’s say you want to feel significantly less ignorant than you are now. There are a few ways to get there, and one of them of course is to read the Bible itself. The challenge I had is not in the reading of the Bible, but understanding the context of the characters, the story, and the meaning of them. There is so much more to the Bible than simply the words; how was I going to extract all of that by going to church one or two times a week? Oh, I could listen to sermons 24/7, but that did not seem realistic either, how?
I remembered the books for “Dummies”, how experts in a field were able to take all there knowledge and summarize it into a very easy, understandable read. To my great delight, there were lots of books for the Bible in the “Books for Dummies” collection. They were written by Ph.D. Theologians. They took all the knowledge that was in thousands of sermons and condensed it down into concise stories. It was fun and easy to read, I always was looking forward to what I was going to learn next.
I wanted to know three things about the Bible when I started my drink of knowledge. How it all started, how it was going to end and a testament to faith. I ended up buying four books of the Bible for Dummies collection. One was Bible for Dummies, which summarized the Bible overall. One was for the book of Genesis, One was for book of Revelation and the final one was on the book of JOB.
Why the book of JOB. Well, that is one of the stories of the Bible which brought shock and awe. A man who lived life to the fullest for God was the victim of a test between God and Satan. He had all that he had taken away, but was resilient and faithful to God’s love. To me, he is an example to follow, because in my scenario, I had lost everything and I needed to know what faith was. In comparison, my dilemma was nothing compared to JOB’s.
The books introduced me to many characters in the Bible, there stories, the meaning of the stories and how they can be reflected in my own life. Once I had read most of these, when I read the Bible, I did not feel like I was a foreigner in a strange land. I recognized the people in the Bible and the stories. What was great is if I ran into a story or a character I was not familiar with, I could go to my Bible for Dummies books and look them up.
One of the things that bothered me while in church was knowing: Firstly, where the book of the Bible the pastor was referencing was in the Bible and secondly, knowing it was a book in the Bible. So, I finally achieved my goal and memorized all the books in the Bible. I don’t know why, but I thought that this was a good step in making me even more familiar with the books. I then could reference context, characters and stories within each book. I then realized the Ten Commandments are often referenced, but I had not memorized them, so I did that too. I was surprised, they are a lot more wordy than I thought. They are most often referenced in condensed form, but that is not the way God wrote them. Oh, the first thing I memorized was the Lord’s prayer:
Matthew 6:5–15 (NIV)
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Bibles, so many people get stuck on Bible versions.
If you are new to the Bible and want something, like the Dummies books to give you a strong, but not perfect understanding of the Bible, I recommend the paraphrased Bibles. They are much quicker to read, much less interpretation by the reader, but less accurate than a word-for-word. Many folks have at least three versions today. One might be a simple to read version, another might be a thought-for-thought, such as the NIV and then there are word-for-word like the ESV. I often like to put these three right next to each other and read them. The paraphrased often gives me the background information I need, then the next two get more in word order and exact words, it helps me understand the verse, character or story even better.
Once I began to feel strong with regards to my understanding of the Bible, I began to challenge myself. There are website dedicated to trying to degrade the Bible, including a well know Professor at a well know Theology College.
Being able to defend against those things, proclaimed conflicts in the Bible, things that don’t make sense, and anything else is known as Apologetic. I have found that you have to do most of the apologetic learning on your own, you won’t find your pastor having a series on them.
If you have a resource which you have found to be awesome, share it in the comments, we are all looking to be stronger in our knowledge, faith, love and service to our Lord.