How to Read The Bible

This is a starter video series that helps you read the Bible while understanding its unique design and literary devices.

While the Bible is one unified story, it cannot all be read in the same way.

The How to Read the Bible series walks through each literary style found in the Bible, and how each uniquely contributes to the overall whole. Each literary style lives by its own rules and structure. First, let's see what the bible actually is.

INTRODUCTION

How to read the Bible:
What is the Bible?

This is Episode 1 of an ongoing series that explores the origins, content, and purpose of the Bible. Here you'll be introduced to a condensed history of how the Bible came into existence, and the different forms of the Bible in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christian traditions.

How to read the Bible:
Biblical Story

Episode 2 summarizes the overall story of the Bible as a series of crossroad decisions. All humanity, followed by the Israelites, redefine good and evil and end up in Babylon. They are followed by Jesus, who takes a different path that opens up the way to a new creation.

How to read the Bible:
Literary Styles

Episode 3 shows how reading the Bible wisely requires that we learn about the ancient literary styles used by the biblical authors. These writers expressed their ideas and claims through a variety of different type of literature, and this video will explore why it's important to tell them apart so we can hear their message on their terms.

How to read the Bible:
Ancient Jewish Meditation Literature

Episode 4 explores the unique literary style of the Bible that is meant to draw its readers into a lifelong journey of reading and meditation. The Bible is designed as a multi-layered work, offering new levels of insight as you re-read it and allow each part to help you understanding every other part. The Bible is the original meditation literature.

One story, many styles.


The Bible can be broken into several categories of writing. Approximately 43% of the Bible is made up of narrative, from historical narrative to parables. Roughly 33% of the Bible is poetry, including songs; reflective poetry; and passionate, politically resistant poetry of the prophets. The remaining 24% of the Bible is prose discourse, including laws, sermons, letters, and even one essay.

The Bible is an ancient Jewish collection of sacred literature made up of many different literary styles. Each biblical book uses, to a varying degree, a combination of all the literary styles to make its unique contribution to the story of the Bible. First, let's take a look at the narrative style of storytelling.

NARRATIVE

How to read the Bible: Plot

Episode 5 - An important part of reading biblical narratives is learning how to understand the nature of "the plot," how stories are arranged into a pattern of conflict and resolution. In this video we'll see how ignoring the sequence of the plot can lead to distorted interpretation of biblical stories. We'll also explore how grasping the multi-layered nature of the narrative can help you see the unified story that leads to Jesus.

How to read the Bible:
Character

Episode 6 - Most of us think of characters in Bible as either sinners or saints, good or bad. At least that’s how Bible stories are presented to children. In this video, we’ll explore the ways biblical authors present characters as more complex and morally compromised than we usually imagine.

How to read the Bible: Setting

Episode 7 - Every story has to take place somewhere, and very often locations have a special meaning or significance evoked by events that already took place there. In this video, we explore how biblical authors use settings in the narrative to meet the reader's expectations or to mess with them. Paying attention to locations and timelines in biblical stories unlocks deeper layers of meaning.

How to read the Bible:
Patterns

Episode 8 - Design patterns are one of the key ways the biblical authors have unified the storyline of the Bible. Individual stories across the Old and New Testaments have been coordinated through repeated words and parallel themes. These patterns highlight core themes of the biblical story and show how it all leads to Jesus!

How to read the Bible:
The Gospel

Episode 9 - The New Testament contains four ancient biographies of Jesus of Nazareth, and altogether they are called “the Gospel.” Each one tells the story as an announcement of good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the true ruler of the nations. In this video we explore why these accounts were written and how you can read them with greater insight.

How to read the Bible:
The Parables of Jesus

Episode 10 - Jesus of Nazareth was a master storyteller, and many of his most well-known teachings were told as parables. But these stories were designed to do much more than simply "teach." Jesus said the parables were designed to both reveal and conceal his message about the arrival of God's Kingdom. In this video, we explore the main themes in Jesus' parables and ask why he used them as the primary vehicle for his message.

One-third of the Bible is...

Poetry!

POETRY

How to read the Bible: Poetry

Episode 11 - Did you know that a third of the Bible is ancient Israelite poetry? Poetry is a rich and artistic form of human communication, but often the most difficult to read. In this video we’ll explore the unique characteristics of biblical poetry, so you can discover its beauty and power for yourself.

How to read the Bible:
Metaphor in Biblical Poetry

Episode 12 - Understanding how metaphors are used in the Bible is an essential tool for reading biblical poetry. Anytime someone describes one thing to describe another thing, they are using metaphorical thinking whether they realize it or not. Metaphors are everywhere in the Bible and in our everyday speech. In this video, we’ll explore this crucial aspect of biblical language.

How to read the Bible:
The Book of Psalms

Episode 13 - The book of Psalms is the largest collection of poetry in the Bible. In this video we’ll explore the design shape and main themes of this marvelous book, which was crafted to be read from beginning to end. The Psalms are an invitation to a literary temple where you can meet with God and hear the entire biblical storyline retold in poetic form.

How to read the Bible:
The Prophets

Episode 14 - The books of the Old Testament prophets are packed with dense poetry and wild imagery. If you’ve tried to read them, odds are you were both intrigued and confused. In this video, we’ll learn how these books contribute to the storyline of the Bible and why it’s worth learning how to read them more attentively.

How to read the Bible: The Books of Solomon

Episode 15 - The wisest king of Israel, King Solomon, is associated with three books of the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Each book offers a unique perspective on how humans can rule with wisdom and the fear of the Lord. In this video, we briefly explore how the message of each book fits into the overall story of the Bible.

PROSE DISCOURSE

How to read the Bible:
The Law

Episode 16 - Have you ever wondered why there are so many ancient biblical laws in the first books of the Bible? What are modern readers supposed to do with them, and why are some of them so odd? In this video, we explore why the laws were given to ancient Israel and how they fit into the overall storyline of the Bible.

How to read the Bible:
Historical Context

Episode 17 - In the New Testament, there are 21 letters written by early Christian leaders to communities of Jesus' followers in the ancient Roman world. A wise reading of these letters involves learning about their historical context. Who were the letters written to, where did the recipients live, and what prompted sending the letter? In this video we explore the different layers of historical context with these letters, so that we can better understand the wisdom they still have to offer.

This series should help you understand what the Bible is, and the story it tells.

By the end of this series, you will be familiar with every part of the Bible and how it uses language to communicate who God is, who we are, and the big, redemptive story that we are all living.