In this blog, I will address the following points:

  • A Missing Piece

  • The Central Question

  • What Divides Christians

  • Reading it Wrongly

  • Conflicting Lists

A Missing Piece

I realized that in my Bible teaching series, I had come to a place where I needed to rely on Bible study techniques to deal with unruly class members, and I had not yet provided anything at all on that subject. So now I offer the first of what could be a rather lengthy series. As we might anticipate, Jesus asks the single most important question about Bible study, and like many of his sayings, appears simple on the surface but possesses great depth.

The Central Question

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

Often in Scripture the most profound principles are expressed in the simplest phrases and sentences. This fascinating episode has much to teach us, but for now I want to focus on the four words of Jesus question: “How do you read it?”

What Divides Christians

And as it happens, very few things divide Christians as deeply as how to understand what they believed to be God’s word. How we read Scripture is precisely what separates those who believe the Bible promotes slavery and other evils from those who do not. It is what separates those who believe Scripture forbids the ordination of women, and those who believe it supports women being ordained. It is what separates those who believe Scripture is the product of ancient cultures which have little to say to today, and those who believe that the Bible contains God’s letters to humanity. How we read the Bible divides Christians from Jews; divides Catholics from Protestants; splits denominations, even congregations.In short, everything depends on how we read.

Much of the debate over the various translations of the Bible has little to do with the different words which may be used in certain passages, and far more to do with how each individual reads those words. We’llll get back to this in some detail later.

Reading it Wrongly

I must confess that most of my life I have read the Bible, if not wrongly, then certainly very poorly. In fact, that is the way I was taught to read it. By taught, I don’t mean that someone gave me a course in a series of instructions on how to go about reading the Bible, but that through example they demonstrated ways which were not helpful, as I discovered later in life. In my late adolescence, I attended a Bible marking class, where we would attempt to make connections between verses in disparate parts of the Bible. I had no doubt that this was the correct way to study the Bible, because I was first presented with the proof text, Isaiah 28:10, which says, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” Who could argue with that?

Conflicting Lists

And so we proceeded, connecting this verse in this book with another verse and another book, until we had a chain of references which established a doctrine without question. But did they? In my early 20’s, I purchased a Bible which featured “chain-link references.” After studying it for a while, I was distressed to see that many of these chains of verses appeared to support doctrines contrary to my existing beliefs. That cast some doubt on my own set of linked references. If two students could come up with radically different answers to the same questions by linking versus in the Bible, how could anyone know the truth of anything that the Scriptures taught?

Learning how to read the Bible took me nearly forty years to discover–but it was worth it!



*I apologize for my long absence. First there was travel, and then there were technical problems.