Reading the Bible


At St Mary’s we are fascinated by the Bible. We read it aloud in church in our services every day. Every week, the preachers seek to engage in a dialogue with the voices we hear in the pages of the Bible. As we listen to the readings day by day, we become aware of the stunning poetry, the compelling stories, the clamour of divergent voices and the ancient wisdom that makes up the various biblical books.

The Bible is our primary source for knowing about Jesus, about the communities which gathered in his name as the early church and about the Jewish contexts that they came from.

Copies of the Bible are available in church. The version that we use is the New Revised Standard Bible. The Provost recommends that every member of the congregation owns a Bible. For anyone buying their own, it is recommended that they get a copy of the NRSV with the Apocrypha. (The Apocrypha is a collection of Jewish texts which we sometimes use at St Mary’s and which some churches use and some do not). The NRSV is published in the US and the UK so it can be helpful to look for one described as having Anglicised text to ensure British spelling.

St Mary’s has various ways of teaching people how to read and use the Bible, including Contextual Bible Study, Sermon Discussion Group, and occasional study days on a particular topic.

The texts of the Bible were gathered together centuries ago and the order that they are printed in does not reflect the order in which they were written. The Bible is a collection of books, a spiritual library and is not meant to be read from beginning to end. Good places for people to begin reading the Bible include any of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) which bear witness to Jesus and also perhaps the book of Psalms. The Psalms are the songbook of the bible and contain poetry which reflects the whole range of life’s experiences.

The readings that are used in services are taken from various lectionaries – collections of readings set out over the course of a couple of years. The Sunday morning readings are the Scottish Episcopal Church’s version of the Revised Common Lectionary. By using this, we ensure that we are reading more or less the same readings that many churches use including many Church of Scotland parishes and the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. These readings follow a three year cycle. Matthew is read as the gospel on most Sundays in year A with Mark and Luke being used similarly in years B and C. The gospel of John is slotted in to the three years and is often used at festivals.