The History Channel’s recent series, The Bible, was an instant success. Its spin-off, the epic movie, The Son of God, hit the box offices big time. People clearly take an interest in the Bible. So what is important when reading the sixty-six books of the Bible? Here are some tips to keep in mind when reading:
An Unfolding Story
The Bible consists of two main parts – The Old Testament and the New Testament. The content of these parts reveal the grand story of God’s interactions with people and people’s interactions with God. The story steadily progresses and must be read in forward motion. The book reveals an overarching narrative of God seeking a relationship with people.
Varied Types of Literature
The Bible is more diverse in styles than Redbox offerings on a good evening. It contains ancient letters, historical books, ancient biographies, poetry, prophetic books, Law books, sermons, apocalyptic, wisdom writings, etc. Much like one does not view a Sci-Fi thriller the same way as a romantic comedy movie, one cannot read all parts of the Bible with a singular approach.
The books of the Bible were written at different times by people in different settings. None of it relates directly to 21st-century, western culture. View it as an exotic vacation adventure. It requires a travel guide – commentaries and other tools.
Google Translator on Steroids
The Bible was written in three languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and some Aramaic, and the New Testament in Greek. Whereas those were common languages, it is hard to translate everything appropriately. So keep in mind that the text is understood best by people who know those languages rather than using Google Translator. And, yes, you can find such people or you can study those languages yourself.
Kick in “DVR Mode”
When reading parts of the Bible, such as single verses, it is important to read them in their surrounding framework. Much like using your DVR, you would want to back up and forward so as to get a feel for the context. Check the immediate surroundings and the overall context of the entire book.
Prescription or Description?
When reading the Bible with application in mind, one has to decide if sections were meant as strict rules for all times and all places (like following a prescription) or if they were meant to describe historical events and then draw principles from them that bridge time. You simply always make a choice. Digging into this is called hermeneutics.
Relevant for Today
The content resonates with today’s concerns. People still long for love, fight injustice, seek hope, need reconciliation, and seek One greater than themselves. The people of the Bible celebrated love and mourned loss. They struggled with depression and anxiety, and found hope for a new day in the person of Jesus. They sound like . . . you and me.Christian Studies may fit you well. We’d like to invite you to stop by for a visit to see if UMHB is right for you.