2011 was the 400th birthday of the King James Version of the Bible. This was the first complete translation of the Bible into English that had widespread acclaim. Both those who love literature and those who have a Christian faith speak of the great joy that this book has given them.
The Bible is quoted and referred to in everything from Shakespeare to movies. It has influenced musicians, artists and writers as well as many historical figures and social reformers. The writing in the Bible covers the whole of human life – from the lowest depths to the highest heights. It describes recognisable emotions in the stories of real men and women. It reveals the nature of God. What more could you ask for in a book?
People who enjoy reading the Bible suggest these ideas to help those who are new to reading it:
First, appreciate how fortunate we are that it exists in a language we can understand. Only a few decades before the King James Version was written it had been against the law to read a Bible in English. Even today, owning a Bible is illegal or dangerous in parts of the world.
Second, recognise the benefits that come from reading the Bible. It has insights into how to live well, how to cope with difficulties, how to forgive and be forgiven. It can tell us about what God is like, what the human spirit is like, what it is like to be loved. And it tells rattling good stories!
Third, start with the parts that you connect with. The Bible contains a huge variety of writing – stories, legal documents, letters, poetry and songs. Some parts are more relevant than others at particular stages of life. Enjoyment comes from the familiarity of reading them again and again. Starting with a single, appealing verse might open up the desire to study the whole Bible.
Fourth, don’t just read it like a textbook, but engage your heart and mind in what you read. Try reading it as though it was written just for your benefit. As you read each chapter work out what the main subject is, how it might impact on your life, and what your favourite phrase is.
Fifth, find a version that is easy to understand. If you are a lover of beautiful words, enjoy the King James Version (sometimes called the Authorised Version). But then consider whether you might also enjoy a version which uses the language of today. These web pages use the New International Version, which is both reliable and readable. If you are looking for a Bible in a bookshop, other translations that use straightforward language are the Good News Bible or the Contemporary English version. You can try them out free at www.biblegateway.com.
Lastly, get help. Your enjoyment of the Bible will improve if you have something that will help you work out what the complicated parts mean. The Christian Enquiry Agency would be happy to send you a short list of resources that we recommend if you click ‘Find out more’ below and write that you would like help reading the Bible in the ‘I have a question’ box.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Where to find it:
About these words:
When he was looking for a way to describe Jesus, his biographer John chose ‘the Word’. It was full of meaning for his original readers because to them it meant the divine spark that brought everything into existence. It is full of meaning for us because words dominate our lives. Every one of the words of the Bible contains something that intrigues people about Jesus and helps understand him.
And they said…
Charles Dickens, 1812-1870, writer:
The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.
Evel Knievel, 1938-2007, stunt performer:
If you look at the Bible almost everything that was predicted, maybe everything, has come to pass.
Fulton Oursler, 1893-1952, journalist:
In this one book are the two most interesting personalities in the whole world – God and yourself. The Bible is the story of God and [humans], a love story in which you and I must write our own ending, our unfinished autobiography of the creature and the Creator.