Understanding The Bible
Understanding The Bible isn’t as hard as you think. The Bible is a very old book, the oldest ever compiled. Written by several God-inspired authors who contributed to the 66 Books of the Old Testament or the New Testament, the Bible was first translated into English in the 16th century and has been read countless generations since then.
The organization of the Bible is not that complex. The first five Books are adopted from the Jewish Torah and are called the Books of Law. These are followed by several historical accounts of God's chosen people, the Israelites, and their attempts to settle and maintain the Promised Land. However, after rejecting God as their daily authority and instituting a monarchy to rule over them, the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel were later lost to foreign invaders when the Israelites failed to follow God's commandments. The psalms of David and other musicians, the wisdom literature of Solomon, and prophetic books round out the combination of works included in the Old Testament.
The New Testament contains the four Gospels recording the earthly ministry of Jesus, followed by the Acts of the Apostles, particularly a Jew named Saul who was converted on the road to Damascus in his quest to persecute the new Christians. The Lord changed his name to Paul, and Paul wrote several epistles to churches that were subsequently established during his missionary journeys throughout the Near East as well as to his companions Timothy and Titus, and a believer named Philemon. Disciple writings by Peter, James, Jude, and John emphasize the importance of faith in Christ and revelations about the end times to come when believers will be raptured before the Tribulation on earth.
With that simplistic overview, you have a general idea of what you will find in the Bible. Here are some guidelines to help reinforce consistent study habits to help you understand the Bible for personal enrichment or to share with others.
- Start with a small passage.
Read one chapter at a time, or a small section of a Book, for example, Psalms 1 through 5, since they are short. Study it carefully to ensure you understand its meaning and any possible principle that might be gleaned. For example, the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, reveals a great deal about God's creation. Pour over each verse to fully understand and absorb its meaning.
- Take notes.
Keep a notebook handy in which you can write questions or comments to be shared with others. You may be able to clarify a point with your pastor or Bible study group. Hold on to your notes even when you have an answer, as your Biblical knowledge will continue to expand and inform earlier readings the further you go in the Bible. Highlight or make notes about verses that are particularly challenging.
- Use Bible study resources.
Look for an NIV application commentary or other commentaries along with study guides to help you focus on your Bible readings. A bible commentary offers insightful information about a passage's context or special meanings that the casual reader might otherwise miss. A workbook for a specific book of the Bible may be helpful as well, allowing you to respond to related prompts or questions that will encourage deeper thinking about the topic. Certain Bible-based videos may foster additional thinking about the Bible's meaning.
- Join a group.
Participate in a group that is studying the same material as you. Discussion provides an exciting way to exchange ideas and clarify interpretations.
- Take a Bible class.
Enroll in an online course or take one at a local church or college. You don't have to work toward a degree; in fact, you may be able to audit the course in lieu of earning a grade. An academic approach can render even more meaning from the Bible.
Whether using an NIV application commentary or basic notebook, use a hands-on approach to get more out of the Bible.