Slideshow image

7. Don’t go it alone.

The Bible isn’t a novel, and it isn’t an inspirational book or a history book or any other thing you’d normally put into the category “book.” It wasn’t made with the goal of getting you curled up in a chair, coffee in hand — and actually, individual Bible reading is a pretty modern phenomenon. This collection of writing is meant to be shared, debated, and wrestled over with others.

So try to find somebody — ideally, a friend or few friends, a church or synagogue group, or perhaps an online community. But find a partner for the journey.

8. Read out loud.

For centuries, the Bible was almost always an auditory experience, and it remains a text that’s better heard than read silently. Much of it is more like music or poetry than, say, the newspaper. Hearing it read, even if you’re the one reading it, makes for a different, and better, experience of the Bible.

9. Compare the Jewish Bible (TaNaKh) to the Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments).

Christians call everything before the gospels the Old Testament, but for Jews those books are the whole Bible. Take a look at a Jewish Bible (aka “Hebrew Bible”) and you’ll see that the books are ordered differently — Christians reset the order to make the overall story point more naturally toward Jesus. Both versions have an internal logic, and it’s worth comparing one to the other.

The Bible is also organized differently for Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

10. Real reading means re-reading.

The stories will become more interesting with practice. The tenth time you read them, you may notice things that did not occur to you the first nine times. This is truer still if you spend some time learning about the Bible and its historical and theological background and legacies — Kristin Swenson’s Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time is one nice place to start.

Whatever you read in the Bible, read it more than once. It’s more fun that way, and way more worthwhile.