How to Read the Bible

We’re entering into a series on how we should handle that thick book many of us have or that app on our phones. The Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus–but if you’ve ever tried to sit down and read it from beginning to end, don’t be ashamed if you quickly became overwhelmed. Maybe it didn’t seem very unified. Maybe it was hard to see Jesus in a lot of the Old Testament. You’re not alone.

The Bible is a sophisticated compilation of literature with different styles and objectives. To make it even more difficult: it was written to completely different cultures in completely different languages. We have an uphill battle when trying to read and interpret the Scripture from a modern, English-speaking context. We also have to remember that while the books and letters in the Bible were written for us, they were not written to us. That alone should change how we approach the texts.

The New Testament can be difficult enough, but the Old Testament can feel even more foreign to many of us. Sandra Richter in her book “The Epic of Eden” compares the Old Testament to a messy closet–a jumble of stories that we are somewhat familiar with, but no organization in our minds and no idea what’s on the top shelf or deep in the corners.

Often the discussion arises about whether we should read the Bible literally or not. Or maybe parts of it should be taken literally and parts figuratively? What does reading the Bible “literally” even mean? John Walton (the author of The Lost World of Genesis One, and other “lost world” books) discusses the importance of reading each text in the way that the author intended. In that sense, the whole Bible should be read literally; meaning we discover the original intent of the author. That can be a very complex thing, especially for us reading it from a completely different culture and in a completely different language. Many of the intricate literary devices just don’t translate well. Many of the metaphors are lost. Just the translation process itself involves an “interpretation” that may or may not be what that author intended.

Thankfully we have the Spirit to guide us through. Without him, we couldn’t hope to digest the powerful words that make up the Scriptures. It can be tempting to rely on ourselves and our own understanding at times, and perhaps we even rely too much on the printed <English> words on a page that have been translated and interpreted by men over hundreds and hundreds of years…

The Bible Project has put together a great video series that they call “How to Read the Bible.” We’ll go through each part of this series and hopefully be strengthened in our faith and encouraged to read and digest the Word even more. Each week will have 3-6 short videos and some readings to go along with them. Join in!

  • Bible Project – What is the Bible?
  • Exodus 19:5-6 – A purpose for Israel
  • John 1:1-5 – The Word was with God and the Word was God
  • Mark 1:14-15 – The Kingdom of God is at hand
  • Luke 24:44-49 – The mission launches from Jerusalem to all the nations
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 – A purpose for us
  • Bible Project – The Story of the Bible
  • Genesis 1:1-2, 26-28 – In the beginning
  • Genesis 11:6-9 – Tower of Babel
  • Genesis 12:1-3 – The promise to Abraham for all
  • Matthew 7:13-14 – The wide gate and the narrow gate
  • Acts 1:6-8 – The mission is given, be fruitful and multiply
  • Acts 2:1-13 – The multiple languages of Babel is reversed! Reunification under Christ
  • Rev 21:3-8 – God dwells with man again