A LITTLE GUIDE TO
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BIBLE

COMMON QUESTIONS

What kind of Bible should I read?

These writers wrote in their native languages, Hebrew and Greek. Over the years, many different scholars have translated these texts so we could read them. As with any foreign language, the exact words and order of words must be rearranged so that it makes sense in English. Some Bible translations are more literal -- the translators try to use as much of the original words and phrasing as possible, making it more “accurate”, but harder to read. In other translations, however, the translators use words and phrases that make more sense in our language and culture. The meaning is the same as the original, and it is much easier to read. Sometimes this difference is refered to as “word-for-word” translation and “thought-for-thought” translation.

So what translation is best for you? Most people who are unfamiliar with the Bible benefit from reading a “thought-for-thought” translation to begin with. As the Bible becomes more familiar and as they begin to more serious study what it says, they may find they prefer the phrasing and precision of a word-for-word translation.

Once you’ve picked a translation, there are many “types” of Bibles to choose from. You might select a basic Bible, or choose from a wide variety of Bibles that provide specialized information that may be helpful for you: study Bibles, men’s or women’s Bibles, youth Bibles, recovery Bibles, etc. The “type” of Bible is generally less important than the version or translation.

For more info on many popular translations see: www.zondervanbibles.com/translations.htm


What do all the numbers mean?

You may have heard someone refer to a passage in the Bible as, “John Three Sixteen”, or seen the written form, John 3:16. This is a reference to the 16th verse in the 3rd chapter of the book of John (Book Chapter:Verse). Many years after the Bible was established people likely found that referring to “that one verse in the book of John, kind of earlier in the book, that talks about God loving the whole world” just wasn’t specific enough. They came up with this reference system to make it easier on everyone. There is no spiritual or grammatical significance to where the chapters and verses are broken up.

How did we get our Bible?

If God didn’t drop the Bible from heaven, or provide a checklist of what to include in it, how did it come to exist?

The Old Testament is the Jewish “religious text”. The stories and other writings were recorded over many years by the men God chose. Eventually these writings were collected and those that were clearly from God were established as holy and authoritative by Jewish leaders. For the New Testament, many books circulated among early churches and eventually church leaders had to decide which of these were holy and had authority for God’s people.

Even though people played a part in establishing what makes up our Bible today, it’s important to recognize God’s role in the process. He chose to use godly people do His work, and allowed the formation of what we today call our Bible.

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M. Schmidt © 2005