The Bible is an enigma to many people so I thought I would clear the air on what the Bible actually is, so you may be inspired to look at it in a different light (perhaps in the light!) and start reading it for what it is – the History of the World – His-Story – (history) – Where we came from, where we are now, and what our ultimate destination is going to be.
The Bible is Easy to Read
The Bible is written in basic English (or Spanish, or Inuit, or whatever other language you have available). It is the most translated work of literature, having been translated in full in at least 554 languages and in part in close to three thousand languages
The Bible is Easy To Understand (Essentially)
Though not a children’s book, its stories and messages are easy to comprehend. There are lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). There are kings and princes, nomads and wise men, and of course, the king of kings, the savior of the world. There are stories of great deeds, of murder and intrigue, great battles and quiet mountaintop meditations. Nothing too difficult that would lead anyone to say “I’m not smart enough to read the Bible.”
I heard a great quote: “Studying the Bible is not hard. Studying the Bible, however, requires work.”
Admittedly, there are things that get “lost in translation.” We do not live in an agrarian society. We do not intuitively understand the customs of the day in the life if an ancient Israelite or a first century Jew. So yes, we can understand the basic messages of the Bible but to realize its richness, its depth, its amazing character, historical influence, vivid symbolism, and literary quality, we need to get additional understanding from several outside sources such as commentaries, study Bibles, and teachers.
The Bible Invites You to Dig Deep and Ask Questions
If, when you read the Bible, you try to understand it when something doesn’t jive right, like “Why did they call those people dogs? I like dogs…” you can easily look it up. There may even be times when you get on tangent after tangent after tangent like a session on Wikipedia, and 90 minutes later you are lucky to have gotten through a couple paragraphs.
Once you understand what the message is saying, not only are you going to be digging deep into the text but deep into your own heart and soul. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
so your personal righteousness will be challenged the more and more your read it. The question is always, will I conform to it (so I may be equipped for every good work) or will I rebel against it, and be as good (i.e. worthless) as chaff in the wind?
Structure of the 66
The Bible is not a single book – hence the name… Biblia, coming from the greek, means “books” (that’s plural) or library. There are sixty-six books, letters, and collections in what is collectively known as The Bible.
The Bible can be divided into five major sections:
- The Pentateuch (or five (penta) books) spanning Genesis to Deuteronomy
- The History of Israel spanning Joshua through Esther
- The Wisdom Literature spanning Job through Song of Solomon
- The Gospels, of course, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and finally,
- The Letters, or Epistles starting with Acts and finishing with The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps in a future post I will flesh these sections out. Since this is blog post and not a book… let’s keep it short for now, shall we?
Different language styles in the Bible
Different books of the Bible are written in different forms. The book of Psalms, for example, is a songbook. Other books like Genesis, Kings, and Acts are historical narrative. Books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs are wisdom literature.
So, when someone asks you if you take the Bible literally you basically can answer… well… it’s a piece of literature… um, how else am I supposed to take it? When I read Jesus’s words where he says “I am the Good Shepherd” I know he is using a literal device called a metaphor. I can assume that Jesus, growing up, was a carpenter like his adoptive father, Joseph, and he was not a literal shepherd, but like a shepherd, he calls his followers his sheep (another metaphor). So yes, unless you want to have some awkward misunderstandings about what the Bible says at your next dinner party, please do take the Bible literally.
Think of the Big Picture
Finally, one of the evidences that the Bible truly is the Word of God and not a simple document authored by men is that there is a single, consistent, cohesive thread or storyline throughout all of the books. This is known as a meta-narrative – a ‘master idea’ that flows from beginning to end. This idea in the Bible is that God, despite the sinful and rebellious habits of humanity, will save, or rescue, a group of people for himself – his elect to enjoy his blessings throughout eternity.
To avoid making this particular post any longer that it is, I will refer you to Tim Chaffee who explains this concept very well:
Give it a go…
If you haven’t read the Bible yet, I encourage you to consider it, now that you have a basic idea how it is structured. Definitely have a set of “helps” by your side whether is a study Bible or a learned friend who is willing to discuss it with you.
Did you learn anything new by reading this article? Do you have any other questions? Go ahead and leave comment… I’d love to hear from you!