With school back in full swing, it is a good time to remember how to read our Bibles. The Bible is 66 books long and contains several different types of literature. Some of the Bible is very devotional, some is instructive, some is narrative, and some is apocalyptic (those strange images in Revelation). So, what are some general guidelines for reading the Bible?
First, understand the easily understood first. Most of the Bible is pretty easy to understand. What God expects of us is simple to grasp from his word. When we come across a more complex passage, we must allow the simple passages to “take the lead.” When we understand the simple passages, we can better grapple with the more complex.
We must also read the passage with its type of literature in mind. Narrative, parables, and those crazy images in Revelation generally have a main message for the reader. Not every point is an allegory. Rather, we should look for one main point in each of these types of literature. The poetic sections shouldn’t be read with a strict literalness. Rather, we should again look for the message expressed through poetic language.
Direct commands should also be carefully examined. Who was commanded? (All people ?or just an individual?). Accounts of action are to be examined as well. Is God recording what happened? Or is God recording what happened and expecting all of us to follow that example? Those accounts of action which are truly examples for us have underlying commands from God. We must also remember to ask when we are reading? Is it from the Patriarchal age? Mosiac age? or is it for the Christian age? We are bound to the Christian age now (Hebrews 8).
We must read the passage “in context.” If we lift a passage from its context, we can make it mean about anything we choose. However, if we leave the passage in its original setting, then the context will help us to understand the meaning and application which God intended.
Finally, we must read the passage with an appropriate heart. We can read the Bible to excuse ourselves. We can read the Bible to defend ourselves. We should read the Bible to examine ourselves. Open your Bibles and open your hearts to the will of God.