Over the next 13 weeks, we will be going over steps to form a better understanding of the Bible, the central text of the Christian faith. The first step, while it may seem obvious, is the foundation upon which all the other steps lie: Recognize your role as a reader. After the thirteen weeks is up I will be making all the necessary adjustments to turn my work into a book.
Here are my goals…
1. I want to introduce the average blue collar type person (like me) to what it means to read the Bible “literarally” (as in literature) in order to find the literal meaning.
2. I want the average blue collar type person to understand the difference between literal interpretation and interpreting via literalism.
3. I want it to be an easy read without compromising substance.
4. I want it to have some humor.
5. I want it to have discussion questions.
6. I want to people to read thier Bibles well.
7. I want the book to be small in size.
8. I want the book to be under or around 100 pages.
9. I want some of the big and intemidating literary concepts (for some) that Gordon Fee, and Ryken use in thier books to be in a more common vernacular. Someone with an 8th grade education should be capable of completley understanding how essential understanding the literary nature of Scripture is to understanding it’s intended meaning.
10. I want common folks to understand that greek is cool but not essential to understanding the meaning of a text today.
Finding the plain meaning of something we are interpreting can be tough. The meaning can be right in front of us, but we cannot see it. We cant really blame what it is that we are trying to percieve because most of the time our limited understanding is the problem. I can’t tell you how many times I have misread a map for example. I would love to say that most of the time the map was wrong, but that is not the case. Most of the time my assumptions cause me to misinterpret the map. The assumptions I bring to a map can destroy great communication. Did you know that we read the Bible in the same way?
The text of the Bible is not usually the problem, but rather the problem is what we want the text to be. We all open our Bibles with certain preconceived ideas or notions about what it is, what it means, who we are and who God is. No one is in neutral, so to speak, when they open the Bible; we are all in gear with our own agendas and beliefs. Oftentimes, if we are not careful we will wind up finding exactly what we are looking for from a passage of scripture and completely miss what it is actually saying and in doing so “miss our turn” on the map. It is so important to remember your role as a reader of God’s word hinges on these six very important truths.
Our interpretations of the Bible can be wrong, but that doesn’t make the Bible wrong:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT).
Just because God’s word is inspired or “breathed out” in a reliably perfect and infallible sense that doesn’t mean that my interpretation of it is perfect. The perfect message can be lost in our interpretations or translations. This is what makes Bible reading a rewarding lifelong discipline or practice.
The written word (Bible) bears the same nature as the living Word (Jesus): Both are 100 percent human and 100 percent divine:
The Bible did not come to us falling from the clouds riding on a golden sunbeam from heaven. Its divine message came to us through real human authors, people like you and I, with their own unique styles, experiences, personalities, languages, needs and cultures all within the confines of real human history.
All Scripture is always for me, but not always to me:
The Bible is not about me. So when the Apostle Paul says to Timothy: “When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers” (2 Timothy 4:13), I should not go around for the rest of my life searching for Paul’s coat, books and papers. We need to read the Bible through the eyes of whom it was originally intended for in order to understand how its message pertains to us.
All Scripture has a historical context of “there and then”:
It is truly a wonderful and rewarding exercise to take a trip back in time when we read our Bibles to visit the “there and then” or the ways and days of Paul, Moses or David. I love Rudyard Kipling’s poem:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
This is truly our first step when we approach the pages of Scripture. We must bring Kipling’s six honest men What, Why, When, How, Where and Who to the process of reading in order to gain understanding. The IVP Bible Background Commentary is a wonderful and affordable resource for referencing the “there and then” context of Scripture.
All Scripture has an intended meaning or literary context:
The Bible is not simply a “How To” manual or “Chilton’s Auto Repair Manual”. In this series I want to explore the different kinds of writing style contexts in Scripture. These will help you to discern the intended meaning of a Scripture passage. In other words, we don’t want to read the book of Romans the same way we would read Job or Proverbs. There are roughly 10 important types of writing in the Bible with certain important characteristics and rules for interpreting. We will be examining the nature of Epistles (Letters), Old Testament Narratives, The Book of Acts, The Gospels, The Parables, The Law books, Prophets, Psalms, Wisdom writings and Revelation.
All Scripture has a present Jesus context for the audience of the “here and now”:
It’s not good enough to read the Bible with “there and then” in mind without taking it into the “here and now”. If we find out what it meant for Israel, it is of no use to us if we can’t understand what it means for us now in light of Jesus. Scripture, like an arrow shot from a bow, has a trajectory or an intended destination. While Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders he said “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39, NLT). Finding the intended trajectory of a 2,000-to-3,000-year-old passage always has something to do with Jesus and it is our job as readers to find out how it is about Jesus here and now in our days and our ways.
So stick with me as we go through this series together. It will be fun and I promise you that your Bible reading will never be the same!