Bible Basics

The Bible was recorded by several different people over hundreds of years. It is the divinely inspired Word of God. Because of the Bible, we do not have to guess about the nature and will of God. As Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

As you study the Bible, here are a few things that might be helpful to know.

Bible Structure

Did you know that the Bible is not organized chronologically?

The 39 books of the Old Testament are arranged by type:

To learn more about Old Testament structure, we recommend you check out the Our Daily Bread Christian University's Old Testament Basics course. By establishing an account, you'll be able to enroll in a free version of this course.

The New Testament is made up of 27 books. It begins with the gospels, which bring the good news of Jesus Christ. They are followed by the book of Acts, which brings the story of the early Christians after Christ ascended into Heaven. These are followed by the letters of Paul, for the most part organized from longest to shortest and with letters to the same city grouped together. Then come letters from other people, following a similar structure as the Pauline letters. The New Testament ends, fittingly, with Revelation, which is a prophetic letter that gives us a glimpse of things to come.

Many folks read the Bible from front to back or read a little of the Old Testament and New Testment each day, again moving front to back within each testament. Reading it chronologically can help provide new context. But no matter how you approach your reading, the important thing is to read it!

Translations of the Bible

The Bible is available in English in so many forms that it’s sometimes difficult to decide which version to read.Some versions are more difficult to read than others--and some hold more closely to the original text than others.

Translations verus Paraphrases

When deciding which version or versions you want to rely on on a daily basis, one thing to consider is that some versions are translations and some are paraphrases of the original language of the Bible.

A translation tries to hold as true as possible to the meaning of the original language of the Bible. This is not always a one-to-one match, however. Sometimes English does not have an exact match for the original word. Sometimes the original language has a few ways it can be interpretted. However, in general, you should be using a translation as your primary Bible.

A paraphrase of the Bible does not try to hold exactly to the meaning of the original language of the Bible, though it tries to represent the ideas in simple-to-understand ways. An example would be The Message, which puts a contemporary spin on the English of the Bible. Paraphrases can provide some interesting insight into meaning but should not be relied on as a primary Biblical source.

Pastor Ken uses a variety of translations in our worship services, including:

If you have read the Bible in one translation, reading it in another translation can help you to read it with new eyes.

Studying the Bible

Often, folks begin the year with a resolution to read the Bible in full over the course of the year. This is a great goal, as it is important to read the whole book! However, with this reading plan, you may find yourself just reading the words without really understanding them in an attempt to reach a quota. If this is the case, it may be better to slow down the reading plan--perhaps plan to read the entire Bible in two years rather than one. Or you may want to break up your reading time by reading part of your daily reading in the morning and part of it in the evening.

Here are some additional considerations for meaningful study: