The Bible – Are You Reading and Understanding It?

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts (66 books) given by divine inspiration as a record of the relationship between God and humans.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  ~ 2 Timothy 3:16,17

The Greek and Hebrew scriptures have been translated into 636 human languages, and there are a variety of translations in English.  The New Testament has been translated into 1442 of the world’s 6909 known languages. The Gutenberg Bible was the first was the first book printed with movable type. The King James Version (KJV) Bible was one of the first books published on floppy disk, CD-ROM, and on Internet web-sites.

Reading the Bible

Considered the best selling book of all time, with total sales of over 5 billion copies  — roughly 100 million Bibles are purchased or given as gifts each year.

How Do You Read the Bible?

Read it for its own sake. Read it receptively. Read it the way you would listen to a friend tell you a story. You listen because you want to hear, not because you think what he says is going to change your life, or teach you something you didn’t know before.”

Benjamin Shaw explains: “I read C. S. Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism and it got me thinking about how we read our Bibles. He makes a distinction between reading for use and reading to receive. Since he is dealing with literature, he’s really making the distinction between reading literature for the sake of the literature (reading to receive) and reading for some other purpose, such as learning truths about life, or learning a worldview (reading for use)… the Bible is literature. But I fear that most Christians never read it as such. They read it for use, to use Lewis’s category. They read it in bits and pieces. They read selected verses that they’ve drawn together with the help of a concordance so that they can do word studies, or investigate particular doctrines.”

Benefits to Reading Entire Books of the Bible in one Sitting

The Bible is God’s revelation to man. Its words are living, effective, and clear. Differing methods for reading, memorizing, and studying Scripture each have their own merits.  Dive deep into the Word and let yourself get immersed in the story.  

Bible Reading is a Big Deal

“Reading has always been at the core of human scholarly pursuits. Indeed, the ancient and long-standing view of a scholar has been one who has the ability to read (not necessarily speak) in multiple languages and synthesize this reading accurately. On more than one occasion Jesus criticized the official and unofficial leaders of God’s people for being poor readers… Jesus thinks reading is a big deal. After all, He wrote a book.”  ~ from an article by David P. Smith:  The Sufficiency of Scripture and Biblical Scholarship

Read the Bible in 90 Days

“In the past, I have struggled with daily Bible reading. It may seem counter-intuitive, but reading larger portions is helping my consistency. Getting the bigger picture makes the Bible that much more exciting. Rather than a compilation of nice and not-so-nice stories, verses, chapters, and books fit together to form God’s unfolding plan of redemption. So if you haven’t tried reading the Bible in 90 days, give it a try.”  ~ from an article by Persis LorentiReading The Bible in 90 Days – This is a great way to understand the Bible’s big picture.

Read the Bible in One Year

There are several Bible reading schedules that help you read through all the books in one year.

The Dangers and Advantages of a Daily Bible Reading Plan

Jason A. Van Bemmel  wrote: I have been following Robert Murray McCheyne’s Bible reading plan for the past couple of years. I have struggled at times with “keeping up” with the daily readings and at other times with feeling like I was just “going through the motions” of my daily spiritual check-list.  “I am not, by nature, a man of set routines. I don’t like doing the same things over-and-over again, day after day. I have a very hard time sticking with regular set patterns of life…”  How do we take advantage of the benefits without suffering the harm of the dangers?

How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth

 How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, the book by Gordon Fee and Douglas K. Stuart might be helpful.  (Now in it’s fourth edition) A Good Reads review says: “Understanding the Bible isn’t for the few, the gifted, the scholarly. The Bible is accessible. It’s meant to be read and comprehended by everyone from armchair readers to seminary students. A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your 21st-century life. More than half a million people have turned to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth to inform their reading of the Bible.”

Understanding What the Bible is All About

R. Scott Clark explains: “Scripture is not a random collection of ancient myths and aphorisms. It has a unifying message told in every genre, by every author, in every period of redemptive history. The unifying thread is not God’s plan to establish a glorious national people on the earth nor is the Bible about the reader. The Bible is about God the Son who became incarnate for us.”

“The hit TV show Seinfeld has been called a show about nothing. One of the most pernicious falsehoods about the Bible is that it, too, is a book about nothing, that it is a random collection of ancient myths and moral aphorisms. Strangely, some Christians seem to regard Scripture this way. Others find unity in Scripture around God’s plan for national Israel and/or a time of millennial glory. Still others treat the Bible as if it is about the reader, as if there is no such thing as a “text” or authorial intent but only the reader’s experience of the text. Even more crassly, the Bible is read as if the reader (and his or her prosperity and happiness) is at the center of the story.”  ~ from an article by R. Scott Clark, entitled What the Bible is All About

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  ~ Acts 8

Reading the Bible as a Coherent Story

“It is important to read the Bible as a coherent story – but not too much. We must allow its continuities and its discontinuities to press themselves into those parts of our understanding where we are immature, where we are easily deceived, and where we have cultural and sinful blind spots.” ~ Phil Henry

“Growing up as a new Christian, I learned a lot in a short period of time. Most of which I learned from reading the Bible. Seriously. Just reading it… Today, I have read through the Bible more times than I can count. Because I had the habit early on of reading through the Bible in a year (Old Testament once, New Testament twice) I know the story pretty well. In spite of this, however, I make a point to consult the ancient commentaries when I preach or teach on almost any passage of the Bible, as a discipline and a check against modern tendencies to arrogance and pride (and my own spiritual myopia).” – from an article by Phil HenryReading the Bible as a Coherent Story

Reading and Understanding The Bible

Irenaeus (the second century church father) taught that Scripture means what it says — that is, Scripture is clear in its articulation of the fundamental points of Christian theology

“Irenaeus also recognized  that Scripture contains some passages that aren’t so easy to decipher. Thus he complemented his basic thesis about Scripture’s clarity with guidelines for navigating the more difficult texts. He encouraged his readers to read and interpret those more tricky passages through lenses provided both by the clear texts and the teaching of Scripture as a whole, which teaching can be summarized in creedal form. He also reminded his readers that “the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ” — that is, that one’s understanding of a biblical text, difficult or otherwise, should conform and lead to Christ, whose person and work stands at the very center of God’s Word to us through the prophets and apostles.”

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” ~ WCF 1.6

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” ~ WCF 1.7

Do You Read the Bible Like an Unbeliever?

Over the years in my pastoral ministry, many people have complained to me that they do not have motivation to read the Bible. They have a sense of duty that they should, but the desire is not there. It is remarkable how many of those people feel that the absence of the desire is the last nail in the coffin of joyful meditation on God’s word. The most basic prayer we can pray about reading the Bible is that God would give us the desire to read this book. That is what the apostle Peter said we should have: “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). Similarly, the psalmist said that the righteous person delights in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2). And why wouldn’t we, since God’s words are “more to be desired than gold” and “sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10)? Why wouldn’t we? Because our hearts tend to become cold and dull and hard and blind.  – from an article by John Piper: Do You Read the Bible Like an Unbeliever?

Is Belief in the Bible Circular Reasoning?

The Bible is true! Why do you believe that? Because the Bible tells me so! The Christian begins with a belief that God exists and that he has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.  So, is this circular reasoning? Isn’t this just a big loop? Couldn’t anyone from any religion make the same claim about their sacred writings? Yes and yes. Does this mean religious people are crazy? Read the article by Dan DeWitt: Is Belief in the Bible Circular Reasoning?

4 Tips for Defending Your Trust in the Bible

Why Do You Trust the Bible?  Can you explain to someone why you believe the Holy Scriptures? I don’t mean explain it to your Sunday School class, your small group, or your Christian mom. Could you explain to someone who is a total skeptic — doesn’t believe in God, Jesus, Jonah, or the big fish — why you think that everything the Bible says is true? Read the article by Greg Gilbert: Four Tips for Defending Your Trust in the Bible

“The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.” ~ WCF 1.4

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” ~ WCF 1.9

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” ~ James 1:22-25