Reflective Reading

They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it and imparting insight. Thus the people gained understanding from what was read. (Nehemiah 8:8 NET Bible)

Reading is the foundation of Bible Study. Close reading is perhaps the simplest and most effective way to understand the meaning of a given Biblical text. Of course external material can help us understand the historical background and other useful details, but our primary tool is good reading. When we talk about reading, we’re talking about active and engaged reading. Casual reading done in a hurry, or without paying attention to the message, is not helpful. A slow and careful reading will allow you to not just read the words on the page, but to absorb them and understand them. Here are some recommendations for good reading:

  1. Read slowly. It might seem efficient to read something through as quickly as possible, just to tick it off the list, but you won’t actually benefit from such reading. Reading slowly gives you time to digest and absorb the message. (Psalm 119:11)
  2. Read carefully. Pay attention to literary devices and techniques. Read a sentence, absorb its point, before you move on to the next sentence. At the end of a paragraph, look at its opening and closing sentences to reiterate to yourself what the main point was. Make sure you have understood the current sentence or paragraph before you tackle the next one. Every detail is important (Matthew 5:18-19)
  3. Read prayerfully. Engage in prayer before you read. Seek God’s guidance on your reading. If anyone can help you to understand a book, the book’s author can! (Matthew 7:7; 1 John 5:14-15)
  4. Read repeatedly. It is important to read regularly. This helps you to develop and hone the skill. If “we are what we eat”, we also “are what we read”. The Bible emphasizes the need for constant meditation on God’s Word in a number of places so that we can be changed by it (Nehemiah 8:18; Psalm 1:2; 1 Timothy 4:13-16; James 1:21-27)

Here’s an example that highlights how easy it is to miss little details when we read. Who wrote the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians? How many epistles did Timothy write? It’s easy to gloss over the introductions to the epistles: we are told quite plainly that Paul co-wrote most of his epistles, and Timothy was his main co-author. With this in mind, do you notice a difference in tone or focus in any of Paul’s ‘co-written’ epistles. Do the ones that Timothy contributes to have distinctive characteristics or emphases? This is a small detail that has some thought-provoking implications. Keep your eyes open when you read.

Epistle Authorship
Romans Paul
1 Corinthians Paul and Sosthenes
2 Corinthians Paul and Timothy
Galatians Paul
Ephesians Paul
Philippians Paul and Timothy
Colossians Paul and Timothy
1 Thessalonians Paul, Silvanus and Timothy
2 Thessalonians Paul, Silvanus and Timothy
1 Timothy Paul
2 Timothy Paul
Titus Paul
Philemon Paul and Timothy