I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending; the first and the last, the bright and morning star. – Revelation 22:13 and 16

*   *   *

So how does one begin? I would suggest tackling a single book of the Bible – any one, really; I see no overriding reason for reading from front cover to back, except for the sense of developing awareness that unfolds. Instead, for your introduction, read through the book you’ve picked, looking first for the Big Picture. What’s the plot? Who are the characters? Why are they doing this? For this overview, choose an easy-to-read modern translation; Good News Bible, New International Version, New Jerusalem will do fine.

Then read the particular book again, this time closely, in bits, taking frequent pauses for reflection, questioning, and fleshing out the scenes; look into the shadows, cracks, and corners for what would normally be overlooked. This time, for added perspective, use another translation. In close readings, it helps to have a concordance and a Bible dictionary at hand, allowing you to cross-reference themes or quickly determine exactly what term X means, anyway.

(“Reconciliation” is a good example of finding the richer meanings beyond what we assume to be the case. Also, many Bible names have meanings of their own, and their translations offer added insight into the story: many are puns or deviously humorous. Abigail’s first husband, for example, was a “surly and mean” character named Nabal – “fool.” Jacob means “heel,” in slang terms as well.)

*   *   *

Of course we get to that point the German Baptist Brethren (“Dunkers,” or these days, mostly Church of the Brethren) would insist, “Bible words for Bible thoughts” – sin, repentance, grace, mercy, justice, and so on.

Even so, we’ll do the best we can to avoid jargon.

Now, though, instead of focusing on a single book, as I’ve suggested, we’re going to dance through the entire volume. Here we go.

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