If we as Christians need to read the word of God daily, then we also need to know how to read the Bible. You’d think that we’d know how to but the sad reality is that as Christians we often don’t.
The reason for this isn’t because the Bible is some magical book that needs a magical way of reading it. The reason is because in our ignorance, arrogance, sin, and believing what the world has told us, we read the Bible in how we want to read it.
To read the Bible is simple, but we have over-complicated it. To read the Bible is easy, but we make it into something other than it should be.
So how can we begin to learn to read the Bible?
The first step in reading the Bible is know what the Bible is and isn’t.
The Bible is a book written by multiple authors in multiple periods of time in multiple places. This should be obvious but it isn’t. I believe the Bible to be the word of God, but I also know the Bible, as the word of God, was written by over 60 authors, spanning a few thousand years, in different cultures.
To know this means we don’t read this book like you do every other book. Most books you may read today are probably written by people in your country, within the past fifty years. Since these books you read are closer to you in time and culture you have less work to do in trying to understand what the author was saying. When it comes to the Bible we are separated by a few thousand years, thousands of miles, and thousands of cultural changes.
Each of these factors becomes an obstacle in understanding the Bible. However, this doesn’t mean you need to be a scholar who reads all sorts of historical information about the time period to understand what is going on in the text of Scripture. While I argue it would be a good thing to do and one every Christians ought to do, it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of hours to study the culture and context Moses was in so you can understand the command “Do not steal.”
So what am I saying? What I’m saying is being aware of these facts will help you come up with questions that will help you in reading the Bible. Knowing this will get you to pause and reflect and ask questions like, “Who was the original audience of this book?” “What were they like?” “How would they understand these things?”
When you begin asking those questions, you will begin to see much more of the Bible open up to you. You will notice things you hadn’t before. And much more of the Bible will begin to make sense. Why? Because you will be asking the right questions and you will remove the veil that your current context brings to see more of the glory of God’s word.
What it isn’t
So now that you know what the Bible is in it’s most basic and tangible form: multiple books written by multiple authors over the course of multiple centuries and cultures, all orchestrated and designed by God to communicate what he desires of his people to know about him and about how they ought to live; let’s look at what the Bible isn’t.
I’m not going to give a full explanation of each of these, but they should be rather obvious:
- The Bible is not your personal handbook to living life
- The Bible is not the “road map of life”
- The Bible is not a how to book
- The Bible is not a horoscope, Ouija board, or any sort of magical book that gives you direct answers to what you should do right now like buy this car or marry that person.
- The Bible is not a book that we should flippantly read: Understanding it leads to life, misunderstanding means death.