Some tips for reading the New Testament

The scheme for reading the New Testament is arranged so that you are given a certain number of chapters – usually 5 or 6 – to read each week. It is up to you how to do that although sometimes the resources may suggest breaks which help you understand the structure.  For those who haven’t tried regular Bible reading or who are looking for different approaches there follow a few suggestions.

How to read – Some suggestions

  • Set aside time and place so that you are not too exhausted and likely to nod off and not too likely to be disturbed.
  • Don’t try to do it alongside other things as you will need to concentrate and to listen to God. If you want to use other resources to help you understand then don’t let them distract you from the Scriptures.
  • If you decide to read a chapter aloud or listen to an audio recording then, based on the recordings, the time varies between just over 1.5 minutes (Mk 16) and 12.5 minutes (Mt 26) with most taking between 4 and 6 minutes.
  • Take time to settle and focus on God.
  • Pray before you read (or listen), asking God to speak to your heart and mind by his Spirit through his word
  • Read (or listen) carefully to the passage but don’t feel you need to pick up every detail or understand everything that is being said – that could take a lifetime!
  • Spend time in silence meditating and reflecting on what you have read and asking God to speak from it and show you what He wants to say to you through it. There are various approaches you might like to use below.
  • Perhaps read some or all of the passage again if you have time.
  • If something has spoken strongly to you then you may want to try to commit the verse(s) to memory.
  • Pray in what you have heard from God or the questions you have.
  • Consider writing something down and perhaps sharing some of what you’ve learned or are struggling with from the reading, perhaps by commenting on the Fulcrum web page.

Some possible ways of reading

There are many, many ways of reading the Bible. The key is to listen and let God’s Word speak into your world. Here are just a few different approaches which you might like to use at some point, do add comments suggesting other methods:

  • As you read and reflect ask God to give you a word or phrase from the reading and meditate on that, asking what he is saying to you through it, perhaps looking at other biblical passages that come to mind.
  • Use the online resources in the page introducing the book or on Fulcrum to look up a commentary or some other material to help you understand what the passage is saying.
  • Read the passage in more than one translation (perhaps read a traditional one and listen to Tom Wright’s contemporary translation or read Eugene Peterson’s Message translation). What strikes you from these different translations?
  • Consider how this passage flows and how it relates to what you have read already in the gospel or letter, particularly in the previous chapter or in other writings by the same author.
  • If you are reading a gospel, see if another gospel tells the same story and consider the similarities and differences – what is God saying by giving us these multiple testimonies?
  • Ask yourself one or more of the following questions:
    • What does this passage tell me about God – His character, His mission in the world etc.?
    • What does this passage tell me about human beings and how we relate either well or badly to God and to one another?
    • What does this passage tell me about myself?
    • What does God want to do to make me more like Jesus and to empower me to share in His mission?
  • Imagine yourself into the reading e.g. as one of the characters in the story, as the author or recipient of the letter. Let the text shape your imagination as, in that role, you consider the impact of God’s Word on the person.
  • If the passage quotes from the Old Testament read the chapter the quoted text comes from and reflect on how God’s earlier words help you understand the New Testament and speak to you today.
  • Think about Then and Now and Next:
    • Then – what do you think this meant in its original context e.g. when Jesus said/did it?, when it was first read as part of this gospel?, when the apostle wrote to this church?
    • Now – how does it speak into my context today in the 21st century e.g. What is similar and what is different? What does it reveal about how our world works? What does it say about my relationships with others and with God?
    • Next – what am I going to do about it?
  • Reflect on your reactions to what you have read (e.g. What excites or encourages you? What confuses or upsets you?). Why does God’s Word here have that effect? What is God saying to you?
  • The Community Bible Experience suggests five questions to consider:
    • What’s something you noticed for the first time?
    • What questions did you have?
    • Was there anything that bothered you?
    • What did you learn about loving God?
    • What did you learn about loving others?
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