The Basics of Bible Reading

I’m a woman of deep faith, not religious or doctrinal. I’m highly skeptical and a mindfully thinking person. Although notably unpopular in religious and faith-based sectors, I tend to question many things written in the Bible. The Bible is God-breathed. However, I see and refer to it as a tool to enhance my faith and not as God-incarnate or a divine book to worship or treat in utmost reverence.

The Bible is a redacted collection of specific stories, poems, and lyrics deemed critical by both the remnant exilic and conquered ancestors to pass on from generation to generation.

It is a collection of 66 books written by over 44 authors in three continents over a span of maybe two thousand years. All 66 books are to be read as a singular literary unit. The Bible is cohesively connected and unified by three literary essentials: 1. continuing narrative, 2. conflict and, the 3. central theme and conflict resolution.

As part of a continuing challenge to as objectively as possible get to the heart of all of its 66 books, I have to accept that while it is an essential source of historical records, the Bible is not comprehensive. Nor is the Bible written as a scientific tool to systematically describe the people and culture of ancient times.

And this is why I argue that in order to truly understand the Bible’s text, we must also study history, look at maps, and learn linguistics along with the many forms of literature by which the Bible go by. I have no intention of debating about individual or group beliefs on certain controversial topics. What I advocate for everyone to commit to is to go by the empirical way of studying the Bible (as a unified literary unit) —by engaging the text on its own terms rather than exploring personal or communal interpretations.

An In-Depth Look At How To Effectively Study The Bible—an avid learner’s take

Studying the Bible objectively entails digging into the history, geography, language, authorship, and the literary nature of it. Like I said before, to get to the fundamentals (understanding and applying the lessons and principles), we have to go by the basics first. For instance, you can’t go on preaching ”Love your neighbor” when the concept of love and neighbor are individualized and converted into doctrinal subsets. Before we can even arrive at the fundamental of love and neighbor, we have to get to the basics of reading the two in its right context.

In other words, it is both essential and urgent to teach the readers the basics of reading while also navigating through the complexity and simplicity of conveying Biblical life applications. The two go hand in hand. But first things first, cultivate the love and the discipline for reading.

I have included Prof Cynthia Chapman’s lectures on The World of Biblical Israel, as part of my continuing studies and in support of my Bible reading. You may purchase the lectures from the Great Courses or from Amazon Prime.

Here’s an excerpt to one of Professor Chapman’s lectures.

“The story of the Bible is not written as objective history. Rather, it is the recorded memory of a conquered and exiled people determined to remember their past and pass that memory down from generation to generation. By remembering their origins and their homeland, they asserted who they were meant to be and were striving to be again. When we turn to the Bible in order to understand life in ancient Israel, we need to consider each story from at least two vantage points: the period in which the story is set and the period during which the story was preserved.”

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