How to read the Gospels: Four books, four tips!

Intimidated by Scripture? Don’t worry. We used to be too.

Fortunately, the Gospels are an easy point of entry. But when it comes to Scripture, it’s not just what you read, it’s how you read it. 

Here are four things we wished someone had told us the FIRST time we tried to read the Gospels.

When you put these four tips into practice, you’ll get so much more out of your reading!

1. DON’T read one chapter at a time.

Your Bible conveniently lays out the Gospels chapter by chapter. As you read, it’s tempting to think you should get all the way to the end of each chapter. But usually before you get there, you’ll hit a verse that jumps out at you. 

When that happens, STOP.

And just stay there.

This is THE KEY to getting more out of the Bible. We’ve heard people say, “I try to read the Bible but I don’t feel like it speaks to me.” The problem is, they’re likely trying to read it like any other book. But the Bible, of course, isn’t like any other book. It’s the word of God, so we have to take it slowly. Spend a lot of time with a verse, or even just a word or a phrase.

2. Take it personally.

We’re supposed to see ourselves in the Gospel characters… in the good ways and the not-so-good ways. Everything Jesus says has two layers of meaning: one for the person or group He said it to in the moment, and one for you, reading it today.

So read with an open heart.

There’s a reason certain verses will stick with you. Ask yourself why. Does it give you hope? Does it make you uncomfortable? No matter how it makes you feel, or whatever it makes you think about, it’s an invitation to grow closer to God.

3. Pay attention to the details.

The Gospels are all about the most important person who ever lived: Jesus Christ. So when you think about it, it’s funny how much information got left out.

But what IS there is more important than what’s NOT there. Because whatever details are there, the Gospel writer included them for a reason.

As you read, notice the details the author included. What light do they shed on Jesus’ words? How do they make the stories more meaningful for you?

4. Put yourself in the scene. 

The stories in the Gospel really happened. That means they looked, sounded and even smelled a certain way. So dive below the surface of the text and explore that.

Use your imagination. Picture the glare of the sun, the sweat on foreheads, the stomach-lurching dips and the spray of a storm at sea. All the human expressions of the disciples and other characters. Smell the smells: straw and animals around the manger, raw fish in nets. Hear the sounds: the murmur of a crowd, the emotions of joy, anger or sadness behind spoken words.

Read with your imagination, and the Gospels will come alive! 

P.S. Bonus tip! Bring in a guide.

Sometimes the Bible is hard to understand. (“Yeah, no kidding,” we hear you sigh.) 

But here’s the good news. Tons of smart, spiritual people have read the Bible before you and written great books about its deeper meaning, historical context and more. 

The team has gotten you started with a trusty Catholic Study Bible guide for the Gospel of John. We also recommend “You Can Read the Bible” by Peter Kreeft. Solid resources like these will help you do all four tips listed above.

Have a blessed April, and see you next month!

-Your team

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