Sunday, 30 September 2012

How to study the Bible

David Nilsen has a great post here. When I first became a Christian, I was told, like so many people, that the Bible is the Word of God and all that. I don't like the term, though it's better than calling the sermon the Word, because the Bible actually calls Jesus the Logos. He's the revelation, the Bible is the witness to that, and preachers come a very poor third. I should know, I'm a preacher myself. Let's not get them confused!

My response at the time was (and still is) that if we want to call the Bible a holy book, however that's phrased, we ought to take it extremely seriously, and know what's in it. My pastor decided to promote one of these guides to reading the Bible in a year, so I got a copy, and started reading. My immediate reaction was that I was being fed some very strange ideas. I never believed, for instance, that Ezekiel 28 was about the fall of Satan, though it took a few years before I worked out what it's really about. Much of what I read seemed as dull as ditchwater, especially the genalogies and all those regulations in Leviticus, and the pastor admitted to being bored as well. After that, I was determined never to let anyone tell me what the Bible 'meant' again.

So I started reading through it consecutively, over a year. This was a bit better; I read through it twice, and at least got some idea of how books fitted together. I didn't get much more than that, though, and wanted to look at individual passages more deeply. What, for instance, was that wretched stuff in Ezekiel actually meant to communicate?

So I started collecting commentaries. A quarter of a century later, I'm still collecting them, and I have more questions about the text every year. It never ends.


  1. I am ashamed to say that I don't often pick up the bible. I find it easier to read the daily commentary books that provide a biblical phrase together with an interpretation of it.

  2. They provide an interpretation, but they're rarely based on any real study of the text. I've never, for instance, found one which seriously considers texts in their historical context. Biblical Studies is what really interests me, so I love delving as deep as I can go.