Whether as an unbeliever, new believer or old believer, at one point or the other while studying the Bible, we've all found some scriptures that we didn't understand and had no idea what it was saying. This post is by no means a formula for reading the Bible but just tips that have proven helpful to help one understand the Scripture better. Before diving into that, there are a couple of things one has to note :
- The Bible is not just any book, it’s not a random novel or a regular history book, the Bible is a Spiritual book, written by a spiritual being for Spiritual people. 1Cori 2:14a “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…”
The Bible was written by about 40 contributions but all from one source, the main author- God 2 Timothy 3:16a “Every Scripture has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God…” This understanding helps to solidify some facts such as there is no mistake in God’s word, neither is there any contradiction, it is also complete in itself.
The original wasn’t written in the English language, on the contrary it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic too. As a result, there are some words that we come across that have a totally different meaning in the original language it was written in.
The Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters and verses, it was later divided by translators to make it easier to read and comprehend. A good example is the epistles, they were not written as they are in the Bible now, they were simply Paul’s letters to the Churches.
Having said that, on to the main question, how do I understand the Scripture?
As mentioned earlier, the Bible was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so what better way to understand something than ask the author himself? Praying for wisdom,knowledge and guidance before reading God’s word is very important. Even taking lessons from Apostle Paul, while talking to his Church, he would mention of how he never ceases to pray for them to increase in the Knowledge of God, my favourite being Eph 1:17 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”The same pattern can be seen Phil 1:9, Col 1:9 To be candid, this is pretty much the major way to understand the scriptures, praying for understanding, even if it’s through a teaching from someone else, great Bible study teachers pray for the hearts of their listeners beforehand.
Now, what helpful habits can be incorporated into your Bible Study to make it better?
Compare different versions
There are mainly three different types of Bible translation and it’s super helpful to have one of each. First is the literal translation (word for word) like the popular Kings James Version,NKJV, Revised Standard Version. Then the meaning to meaning translation (this uses more modern language and are easier to understand), examples are Good News Bible, NIV, ESV. Third is the Paraphrased translation which uses more up to date language and can be used to grasp story flow but probably not the best to establish doctrines, examples are The Message, The Living Bible. (Source : United Church of God, Bible Answers)
What do you do when you’re confused about a verse? Look for other places in the Bible talking about the same thing. For example, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life”, if this verse proves to be challenging, then I’d have to find verses that talk about love, about God’s son and about the state of the world. Let Scripture interpret Scripture! The question you have from a particular verse is most likely to have been answered in another already so the key is to dig and search for it which is also where the prayer of guidance comes in.
Use a concordance
As mentioned earlier, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English so some words may have very different meaning in the original language than what we’d take it to mean. An instance like this is where the use of a concordance is advised, it gives the translation of the word in the original language it was written in a,=nd goes on to explain what it means and even highlights other places in the Bible where the same word can be found. A pretty good app for this is the “Bible with strongs” concordance.
Lastly,dedicate time to it
It doesn’t matter if it’s just one verse studied,to understand the scripture, one has to STUDY it, digging deep and this wouldn’t be possible if there isn’t time.
Thank you reading and hopefully this proves helpful. Have a fruitful Bible study henceforth and remember, you are never alone!