Are You Sure You Understand Your Bible? (Pt 1)
Basics in Bible study and Pitfalls in Interpretation
For centuries, priests have been the only interpreters of the world's scriptures. The reasons are simple. These writings were often considered too 'holy' for the average person to understand on her own. Holiness was a full-time job...The average person worked from dawn to dusk and was too busy (and dirty) making a living to follow all the purification rules that holiness required...Also, few people could read.
Today, many people read, books are everywhere, people have more time and the average person believes he can trust himself to understand most things if given a chance. Yet for all this, the bible still remains one of the most unread books in many homes. This is sad because the bible is not a complicated book. Written by common everyday people for common everyday people, it has much to offer.
So here we are. Your friend has a bible that has been sitting on her bookshelf for way too long...During the major holidays, she has seen one TV bible movie after another. It all looks so hokey, but nevertheless her eyes start wandering towards the Family Bible. Then she picks up the bible and either she 'gets' it or doesn't. If she doesn't, she calls up her bible-reading friend -you- for advice in helping to read it. Okay, here is some advice that might help your friend:
Dear Beginning Bible Reader:
The first-time bible reader can tackle bible reading in many ways. But sooner or later, the reader will face certain hurdles. First, you have to tackle your prejudices and those parts of the bible that go against your emotional, sexual, religious, ethnic or modern sensibilities. This is not to say that the bible is old-fashioned. Only that -if you care to admit it- you believe it is.
The power of stories
You might ask for instance: 'Why did God tell us great spiritual truths in the form of stories? Why didn't He simply give us long lists of facts, warnings, truths, etc?' I can only answer that people have always loved stories. We often tell stories to illustrate a certain truth. Most cultures have told their religious truths through stories. This is how God made the human mind: Truth and the Way and Life are all intertwined.
Someone else might say, 'These bible stories are old-fashioned and just plain silly.' But, remember, if you haven't read the bible, how do you know these stories are silly? You are simply relying on second-hand opinions from ministers, television, and from the world at large. And what about those silly stories, like the Adam story? In churches and in bookstores across the country, there might be a good thousand sermons on Adam and Eve. Ministers will often use the story to talk about anything from Sin, Appetite, Creation, Evolution, Land Management, Heaven, Temptation, Shame, and countless other topics. A story is only silly if you can't find any meaningful substance in it.
This one story can yield a gold-mine of sermons. This shows the richness of the bible stories and the creative ability of the human spirit to see spiritual truths in Scripture.
Someone else might challenge, 'Okay, you say you're going to help me understand the bible. How do I know you aren't trying to indoctrinate me?' I can only answer, that mis-interpretations are always happening. More often than not, these mis-interpretations are not a matter of life and death. Sometimes, however, a bad interpretation of a bible verse can cause wars, social injustice, personal depression, spiritual crises or just plain confusion. Jesus once said 'if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch.' This statement means 'If our spiritual teachers are blind and we make the mistake of following their teaching, we will all end up in the wrong place spiritually.' How, then, do you know if I am blind or biased?
In my defense, I will ask you to consider any bible reading help you may receive from me or any other Christian as a journey in which the helper shows you the landscape and points out major landmarks. Christians will either try to lead you to their denomination or to Christ. If you read enough books by different Christian writers, you will be able to see the difference soon enough.
20th August 2013 Articles