Many people ask me every day on my Instagram profile about how I read my Bible and what are the best ways to do it.
Well, I’m not a pastor, much less a theologian. But I think I can go over some things that make it a little easier for me.
Understanding the translations
This part sometimes goes unnoticed. Many first-time believers think that every Bible is the same. But there is a difference that can make it much easier to understand the Word.
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the early centuries the early Christians shared the manuscripts among themselves in order to copy them so that the scriptures would spread.
Years later, around 400 AD, a Christian biblist named Jerome decided to translate the Bible into Latin. You may have heard about the Latin Vulgate. One of the most important translations in the western world. It was the Bible used by the Catholic church for a few centuries.
Only around 1500 AD did the Bible begin to be translated into other languages. Luther made the first German version and with the help of the invention of the press, the Bible became more accessible.
Curiosity: The first to bring the original manuscripts to Portuguese was João Ferreira de Almeida, circa 1800. It gave rise to the most classic bibles we know in Portuguese and carry his last name. The Bible Offline has the name Biblia JFA in Portuguese name as a tribute and why it started years ago when we had only one version of Almeida, which was in the public domain.
Ways to translate
There are two ways to translate the Bible. They are the formal equivalence, where the texts are translated strictly, word for word, so that no term is lost. And dynamic equivalence, where only the central idea of the text is translated, for ease of understanding.
Within these two groups there are older and newer translations. I’ll name a few here and then leave my personal opinion.
Bibles translated into formal equivalence:
- King James Version (1611)
- American Standard Version (1901)
- Revised Standard Version (1952)
- New American Standard Bible (1971)
- New King James Version (1982)
- English Standard Version (2001)
- New International Version (2011)
Bibles translated into dynamic equivalence:
- The Living Bible (1971)
- The Message (2002)
Of all these, the most “classic” Bible with a more modern language is the NIV. Many churches use this translation because it is a “middle ground” between the oldest and youngest.
People who want more faithful texts tend to use the King James translations. Most theologians do not give up this version.
I particularly use the 1611 King James Version on paper, along with the NIV on the app. These are the translations I like the most. I am not so fond of dynamic equivalence bibles because I believe that many terms essential to understanding texts are lost.
Understanding the Bible
Many encounter some difficulties in this part. Not understanding very much how Bible composition works, some try to start with Genesis and often become frustrated and drop out.
First it is necessary to understand that the Bible is a spiritual book. There are 66 books written over a period of 1600 years, by 40 different authors, from different eras and cultures. And thinking that it is a spiritual book, it is impossible to have any understanding of the text without the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament is divided into:
- Pentateuch (books of the law) – Gn, Ex, Lv, Nm, Dt;
- Historical Books – Js, Jz, Ru, 1Sm, 2Sm, 1Rs, 2Rs, 1Cr, 2Cr, Ed, Ne, Et;
- Poetic Books – Job, Psalms, Pv, Ec, Ct;
- Major Prophets – Is, Jr, Lm, Ez, Dn;
- Minor Prophets – The, Jl, Am, Ob, Jn, Mq, Na, Hc, Sf, Ag, Zc, Ml.
The New Testament is divided into:
- Gospels of Jesus – Mt, Mc, Lk, Jo;
- Historical Book – At;
- Paul’s Letters – Rom, 1Co, 2Co, Gl, Eph, Fp, Cl, 1Ts, 2Ts, 1Tm, 2Tm, Tt, Fm;
- General Letters – Hb, Tg, 1Pe, 2Pe, 1Jo, 2Jo, 3Jo, Tg, Jd;
- Revelations – Rev.
My first advice is to take a moment each day to read. Try to do it in a quiet, peaceful place, and before you begin, never stop praying.
Prayer is essential before you start reading the Bible. Therefore, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word.
If you are starting now, I suggest you start with the Gospels of Jesus. I believe the first essential thing in Christianity is to understand who Jesus is and to know what his works were. Then Acts of the Apostles, which is where the gospel began to spread.
Paul’s letters and the General Letters teach conduct that churches should follow and explain some points about sin and salvation.
In the Old Testament, book division tells of the creation of the world, the laws God gave to his people, the origin and development of the people of Israel, and the prophets’ predictions of the coming of Jesus.
Poetics are books that can be read at any time without difficulty in understanding. Psalms are songs of praise to God, Proverbs are wise advice on and Ecclesiastes reflections on life.
One of the things that most helps in understanding Bible texts is always having a notebook next to you to take notes. Write down everything you understood, thoughts you had while reading, etc.
Another thing is that you always have questions with someone who has more understanding. It is not wrong to know less than others. Having humility and recognizing superiority in someone else’s understanding is worthy of a good Christian. Enlightenment is better than a misinterpretation of the sacred texts.
The last tip is to use a study Bible. There are numerous versions that are annotated and commented on by theologians. These bibles can be great helpers in biblical understanding.
For a more personal contact with me, find me at instagram by the name @zmbrandao. You can also follow @bibliajfa‘s profile!
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