Helps for Reading the Bible

Sigrid Fowler

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​The Bible can be challenging, but it sells. Daniel Radosh, in his 2006 piece “The Good Book Business” for The New Yorker, says: “The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: theBible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the United States is a virtually impossible task, but a conservative estimate is that in 2005 Americans purchased some twenty-five million Bibles—twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars.”

​The Bible comes to us from the distant past and deals with people whose names can be strange andunpronounceable, but the interactions between God and humans–the wisdom, gripping stories, poetry, and sections of history and prophecy–are compelling. In a word, it’s about Jesus, Old and New Testaments. Open it anywhere, something will grab you. There are many ways to get into the Bible. I’m listing some aids below.

​To listen, try The Bible in a Year (with Father Mike Schmitz) at or check out This site offers the biblical text in many languages, with audio for some. Trreading the Bible in another language. Unless you’re fluent, you’ll be translatingwhat you read—that is, reading slowly. You won’t skim (as you might while reading a familiar passage) and you’ll see amazing things you would have missed. Also, reading in alanguage you’re sure you don’t remember–from high school or college, say–will bring the language back.

​My son likes, a resource providing the biblical text and many helps. I use, which also offers the Bible in many languages, with maps and commentaries. 

Print commentaries are numerous. Helps of all kinds are to be found in many Bibles, front and back, My copy of the New Revised Standard Version (Oxford Annotated), used by many pastors, seminaries, and Bible students, has articlessuch as “Modern Approaches to Biblical Study,” “Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry,” “English Versions of the Bible,” and “Survey of the Geography, History, and Archaeology of the Bible Lands.” Many editions includescholarly footnotes and explanations.

​There are numerous recordings of the Bible. My Texas son sometimes turns on such a recording when he goes to bed. Of what use is this to a sleeping person? Maybe little, but if you toss and turn over some problem or decision, a Bible in the background may not be a bad thing. Recordings of the Bible are great for travel. I recommend Max McLean, who has a great voice. He gives no commentary, just reads the biblical text.

​The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer includes the Daily Office Lectionary, a guide for reading every day. It is organized by selections from the Psalms, the Old Testament, the New Testament Letters, and the Gospels—in that order. The passages are short and listed in guides for morning and evening. Another resource is, which describes itself this way: “Bible Gateway is a searchable online Bible in more than 200 versions and 70 languages that you can freely read, research, and reference anywhere. With a library of audio Bibles, a mobile app, devotionals, email newsletters, and other free resources, Bible Gateway equips you not only to read the Bible, but to understand it.”

​The main thing is to get into it– read or listen, whatever approach to the Bible suits you best. Though there are many translations and versions bringing the language up to date, nothing has changed the fact that this is God’s book. People who have wanted to know God have turned to the Bible for millennia. Western civilization is colored by biblical influence, the arts in particular. Biblical names are common. In one list, thirty-seven of the hundred most popular male first names,1921-2021, are biblical. Jesus’ beloved disciple was named John (Hebrew Yochanan, “God is gracious”). The name has many forms–more than sixty according to one source—and is used around the world. 

​Read the Bible. Its impact on culture, human history, and the world is undeniable.