How to read the Bible

The Bible is a wonderful book full of wisdom, full of interesting historical facts, full of mysteries. The Bible has also been, for centuries, a source of the most diverse conflicts and misunderstandings. I hope that this very brief guide about the Bible will help you read this book in a less controversial way. It was not meant to be controversial, after all.

The basics

In order to read the Bible correctly, there are a few things you need to remember —or learn if you don't know them. The first is that the Bible is not just one book. It is a set of seventy-something books, written at different times in ancient history, which, in all, includes what believers acknowledge as the Word of God.

I write seventy-something books (instead of giving an exact figure) because there are translations that include a few extra books compared to others. This depends on each Church and its authorities. There are other books, which have been left out of the Bible because they are considered apocryphal. The debate about these books has been held for centuries, and it will likely to continue, so my advice is to read the translation your local Church invites you to read, stay away from the rest unless you are truly prepared to read them.

Each book in the Bible is divided into a number of chapters and verses. These chapters and verses are not part of the original text. They were added later to ease both the reading and the analysis of the Bible. Actually, if you just ignore them you can even notice that placing a given passage in its context can help you understand it in a different way. To avoid doubt, let me say this, millions of people have stopped believing in God just because they misunderstood a given passage of the Bible. When in doubt ask a priest (or the equivalent in your faith), I am sure he will be glad to help you.

Is the Bible the truth?

Yes, in general. Believers not only acknowledge or believe that everything on the Bible is true, but many of them state they can feel it as well. Yes, you can read the Bible knowing it is the true Word of God.

The only thing I think you need to consider is that many books in the Bible were written centuries ago, and many of the books were made in times in which there was no writing. Taking this into account, you can understand those particular books were not written in a logical or strictly historical way, like we would do today. They were written in a rather mythic language, stating some facts but also stating others in metaphors. Likewise, many books were written in times in which the early Church was being prosecuted, too.

That said, you can probably understand why the Bible is full of symbolisms.

So how to read the Bible?

I would recommend you to read the Bible lightly at first: just as you would read a tale or novel. Take in the spirit of the words. Don't try to stick to their literary meaning because though the Bible is the true Word of God, what you are reading is only a translation of the original books. It doesn't matter how carefully these translations were written or how carefully they were reviewed. Every translation is prone to mistakes, so this is why you shouldn't take the Bible literally.

In subsequent rereading, you can start taking passages of the Bible in greater detail. In some cases, you won't believe your eyes about how many things you can learn from the Bible.

If you are not sure whether you understand something properly, it is best to ask. Never invent your own answers to your questions.

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