Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Understanding the Bible Part 3 - Content

Although the Bible is one volume, it contains sixty six individual books written over a period of around fifteen centuries, and containing a number of different types of literature. Broadly speaking, it has historical accounts, it has poetic books, it has instructional letters and also great swathes of prophetic writings. Therefore we have to  understand what kind of literature we are reading at the outset, in order to able to appreciate, understand and correctly apply it.

For example, books such as Psalms and Isaiah will often use metaphoric and poetic language and therefore are not to be interpreted literally. When Isaiah says that the "mountains and hills will burst into song" and "the trees of the field will clap their hands," (Isaiah 55:12) he is not literally meaning that mountains will develop mouths and vocal chords, he is painting a picture of joy in creation. In other words there is a broader meaning to what is actually being said.

On the other hand, when Jesus, Paul or Peter gave a specific teaching or instruction in the New Testament gospels and letters, we usually don't need to look for some hidden meaning, rather we just need to obey. "Anyone who is stealing must steal no longer" (Ephesians 4:28) does not require in-depth analysis to work out what is being said here. Too many Christians miss what is clear and obvious, or come up up with weird and wonderful ideas and doctrines, by failing to apply this basic principle.

The second thing that needs to said on the subject of content is...What does the verse actually say? So many times we hear the Bible misquoted to suit personal opinions and justify wrong teaching. My favourite misquote must be "Well you know brother, money is the root of all evil." When what the verse actually says is that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." Two very different interpretations I am sure you would agree. Try reading the Bible without preconceptions, or denominational spectacles and you will find new clarity and revelation from God as you do.

I would recommend for further reading Hendricks "Living by the Book," as an excellent aid to deeper study of Gods word.. It has been an invaluable help to me for many years. Happy reading.


  1. Great job Dave! Any blog that encorages people to get their spiritual teeth into the Word is always a good thing!