Broom's Bible Corner

Engage the Story

April 11, 2021

If you're new to studying the Bible, there is a lot to take in. The setting is unfamiliar, some of the words are strange, and there are stories you may have heard many times but never been sure what they actually mean. It can be overwhelming.

There are certain tools we can learn, and experts that we can read and learn from, but that doesn't mean that there aren't simple things that you can do yourself, starting today. Yes, there are topics in the Bible that are difficult to understand, but the majority of things -- and all of the essential things -- are areas that you can explore and learn from with no special training.

So what are some basic things that can help? I'll mention a couple here

Ask Questions

One of the biggest mistakes we make in reading is that we don't ask questions. Maybe it's because we have heard the story before, maybe we don't think we can, maybe we read it too quickly. So - what questions should we ask?

What things stand out? What is unexpected? What is "supposed" to happen? How do people react in the story? Is there a "twist" in the story?

Who do we ask? If you are part of a small discussion group, this is a great place to start. The discussion can be helpful even if you don't get a direct answer. In some cases, there may not even be an answer, but the discussion helps us deepen our understanding. If you don't have such a group, I'd encourage you to look for one. In the meantime, I find that writing in a journal helps me get questions out of my head and in a place I can think about them.

What was it like?

Another idea is to close your eyes and imagine what it would have been like to be there. What is going on? What would you hear? What would you see?

In stories with Jesus, who is he addressing? Is there a crowd? Is he talking to the disciples?


For the Gospels, in particular, remember that this isn't a news report written by someone following Jesus and writing down what was said. This is a larger narrative arranged around many individual encounters and teachings. I am not suggesting that these aren't accurate, just that the gospel writer is also trying to tell a story. We tend to just read section by section, or maybe chapter by chapter, and so we can miss the overall picture. What is the larger story Matthew is trying to tell, for example?

What stories does he highlight? What stories are connected? Are there messages that keep coming up? Why was this story chosen? What does this teach me about who God and Jesus are?

If an Old Testament passage is quoted, can you figure out what is going on in that passage? Why would it be quoted here?

Part of the story that is being told is that these stories are important for us to read. What are we meant to hear?

Written by Brian Broom who is learning how to study the Bible more effectively by understanding the culture and setting of its writing.