Reading The Bible

by jpserrano on November 9, 2012 · 0 comments

The Bible is the best selling book of all time and it is read by people on every continent.

Because it’s so widely read, many think that it can be parsed and understood solely in isolation.  But, the Bible was never meant to be read without a community who could help interpret it. This does’t mean that it shouldn’t be read alone, only that one needs a community of believers to read with regularly.

No doubt people persist in being lone rangers and search the web on how to read the Bible, so if you’re going to do that here are some basic things you should keep in mind.

1. You bring with you a set of assumptions, values, life experiences, and cultural views that are foreign to Biblical times.  No one can come to the Bible with a Tabula Rasa mindset.

With the baggage you bring, you will interpret the stories, parables, commandments differently than others.  The beauty of having a community to read with is they can help you learn what part of your baggage is helpful and unhelpful.  

2. The Bible is not a singular book.  It has a variety of literary genres, settings, authors, and purposes written over many centuries.

Therefore, you should mindful when reading each book.  Pay careful attention to the historical and cultural contexts in which the various authors lived and wrote, as well as to the purposes which each had in mind (Investigating the context, purpose and literary genre is essential to correctly understanding any portion of Scripture)

A good study Bible can help you with this.  I like the Oxford Study Bible or the NRSV Study Bible.

In general you should learn the emphasis of the Bible– its message of God’s work in the world, salvation and its instruction for living (not on its details of geography or science, though the Bible is reliable as a historical source book).

3.  The version of the Bible you read is a translation.

It was originally written in Greek and Hebrew with a smattering of some other languages.  Remember translations are interpretations.

4. Learn what the Bible is and develop an understanding of Scripture by hearing all that the Bible says.  

Many impose on the Bible an outside philosophical judgment of their own as to how God ought to have inspired the Word.
 
There are several key Scripture verses where the Bible defines itself.  Stick to what the Bible says about itself rather than imposing contemporary jargon to define the meaning of inspiration.

I think it is enough to say that Scripture is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16).

What are you mindful of when reading the Bible?

-jpserrano

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