When one reads the Bible, he is in danger of reading many things into the text that are not there. There are a number of ways this can happen. The primary reason is that when one reads the Bible, he reads it from vantage point of his own cultural view. One can quickly see how his own cultural norms could taint his understanding of ancient Israel or Egypt, if he studies these cultures without laying aside his own predefined cultural notions. This issue is often referred to as nurtured filters. When we read the Bible, we have to work overtime, to shed those filters.
Often times we might be listening to a sermon, or having a discussion where verses are being thrown out as part proof of point. Many times these verses may be accurate in their short form, but using the verse alone proves nothing without the context. The context, is actually the whole Bible previous to the verse, as well as post verse flashbacks. The Bible is a long story and many of the verses in the New Testament for example cannot be properly understood by one who has not read the old.
To properly understand the text may be simple, or maybe difficult, but there are tools to help us. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is one such tool. The concordance can be used to do word searches seeing everywhere it appears in the Bible. This allows us to see where a thought might have appeared before. This book also shows the Hebrew and Greek words for those that are inclined toward the original languages. On this site, we are going to assume the Bible translators knew what they were doing. I have done the research, and am very happy with the results. There is nothing wrong with learning these languages yourself and doing the research, but it is more than we need for the basic study here.
Another really dangerous mode of Bible study, is assuming everything in the text is immediately addressed to the reader. These readers may just try to shoe horn everything the Bible says into their lives as they read along. (It is OK to read the Bible visioning what the characters did, went through, and learn a lesson from it. That is what the Bible is for. We just can’t make every contract God made with his people binding upon our selves.) This will be more understandable as we do our daily study.
Lastly the blind reader. This guy, is the vast majority of Bible readers. The Blind reader accepts the verses thrown out in church, never attempts to understand ancient and world history, and pretty much takes everything at faces value. He gets in trouble in two ways, he has never read the Bible from cover to cover, so he is in danger of believing anything. Worse yet he may pray “Lord show me a verse that will help me today” then close his eyes and open his Bible and place his finger on a word or verse. God is very capable of answering this prayer, but mostly chooses not to. He is in danger of getting stuff like this as a result of his prayer (Or blind dart throwing): First, he closes his eyes and accidentally opens Mathew 27: 5 “5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Then he closes his eyes and opens Luke 10:37 – and his finger lands on “Go, and do thou likewise”. If he believes God was telling him what to do, he has trouble!
Knowing how to read your Bible, is as important as reading your Bible. If you are new to your Bible, the best way to get acquainted with it is to listen to an audio version of the Bible in your native language. I really liked this one, you can buy it using this link: Live It Now! Dramatized Audio Bible It helps to hear it, especially if you can listen for several hours at setting. This Bible helps setup the time and place, as well as keep the listener engaged. After you have listened to the entire text, you are in a much better position to start diving deeper. You will be better able to tell when a religious zealot, preacher, or an atheist is massacring the text for his own needs. You can also get the audio version free on the internet, but it is harder to listen to.
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This book is a great way to understand what the Scriptures meant at the time they were written and how that meaning applies to us today. The book focuses on the historical contexts, explains differences between the Old Testament narratives, the Epistles, Gospels, Parables, Psalms and more. This book is an absolute must for someone who wants a complete understanding of scripture.
We have listed our favorite books for Bible study here. Other than understanding history via historical texts and magazines of Biblical times, we do not see a need for most popular books that give you a better understanding of the Bible.
We feel a few study tools, the Bible, and a little research here and there are all that is needed. Even devotionals are not really great for a good sound theological basis. That is why we took the time to write about Bible study, discuss the tools that we believe will yield the most benefit for the time you spend in God’s word.