On your journey to understand the Word of God (your Bible) you will have to obtain a basic understanding of literary works. What the definition of a literary translation is and what types of translations are available. You will also need to understand metaphors and how they are used. So basically, everything you would have learned in high school English. For some reason when people read the Bible they seem to think it is something to be deciphered, decoded or doesn’t mean what it says, or means EXACTLY what it says in a literal iron way even if that is not what the author is trying to say, keep in mind the Bible is a conglomerate of literary works written by individuals inspired by God but maintaining the style of that individual throughout. I can guarantee if you embrace this teaching and apply what you learn to your Bible reading the Lord will open up a whole new world of understanding to you. Not because of what I say but because you are seeking out the truth for yourself and the more truth about our God you desire and seek the more truth he will reveal to you.
The first thing you need to realize and drill into your mind through this is that the idea of chapter and verse was the WORST thing that EVER has happened to the Bible. You are probably thinking to yourself, well how could that be? Or wasn’t it written like that? This method has led to a litany of biblical errors throughout history. Just think back to all those sermons you hear where the pastor, bible teacher, friend, etc tells you one bible verse and starts to tell you about what it means and how it applies to our lives today. How many of you go and research what you were told? Was this what the author was talking about? Was it the situation the author was trying to convey? Like many, myself in the past included, I listened to what they had to say and believed it to be true. Do you read a single sentence from a letter a friend has sent you and determine what they tried to tell you without reading the whole letter? Of course not, so why would you do this with the most important aspect of your life, your relationship with your creator.
What Bible do you read? If you are like most you will say KJV or NKJV. I personally like the ESV as it is a word for word translation based on today’s grammar and spelling syntax. I know there are some of you out there that will crawl the walls about that, well it is missing one word in this paragraph or a misused name, etc and the EXACT same thing can be said about the KJV version hence the NKJV version. Newsflash people, God’s word is infallible, not scribe’s copy. I am not saying there are errors in the Word of God that exist to undermine any doctrine or authority. what I am merely saying is that if a friend writes you a letter and they misspell a word or put punctuation in the wrong spot this does not change the essence of what their letter says, you can still read it, understand it and apply it. This is why I am against the chapter and verse concept and it should ONLY be used as a bookmark to find a location in the Word of God.
A further note on the KJV for the purists out there. Keep in mind that the KJV was not the first English bible published and accepted by the general public. The Geneva bible printed in 1560 was widely accepted and deemed to be truest to its counterparts of Hebrew and Greek. The KJV was enlisted to quell the popularity of the Geneva Bible that was stepping on the toes of England thus the commissioning of the KJV was to counteract this spread and why it was stated by the king to be the ONLY authorized copy to be used by England.
Types of biblical translations: There are three basic types of Bible translations, word for word , thought for thought and paraphrase. Examples of word for word are KJV, ESV, NKJV these versions attempt to take the Hebrew or Greek words and translate them to the current english form. Examples of the thought for thought would be the NIV and NAB, these types of translations should not be used for study as it employs a way to express the original authors meaning to current era english. Although it may be good for new Christians to get the general ideas of the faith through this method as their walk with God continues they will have a natural increase in desire to seek out depth in their relationship. Examples of paraphrase versions are The Message and The Living Bible these, in most cases, should NOT be used for ANY type of research and I really do not believe they should be used for any Christian. I do feel that God does use these versions for his purposes, to bring people to him but they should be weaned off these as soon as possible. The real danger in paraphrase is that the author is allowed poetic license and can infuse their own beliefs in what they “feel” scripture says.
HOW TO READ THE WORD OF GOD
- Have at least 2 different versions of the Bible to own and study, your choice, in this respect. They both should be study Bibles though. Like I said previously, I personally like the ESV but I have about 6 different versions and a modest library of different commentaries, maps, languages, etc. Know what type of translation you are reading and apply the correct type of study according to the version!
- Rule of thumb: whatever verse you are looking up to make sure you get the context of what the author is trying to convey read 5 verses before and 5 verses after that verse, if you still do not get the full picture of the who, what, when and where apply the 5 verse rule once again, in other words make it 10 before and 10 after. This method ensures that you will make sure the verse is not being taken out of context and if it was what the true meaning behind the verse is. If you are sincerely seeking truth this is the most important thing you can do.
- Let scripture interpret scripture. What this means is that in order to find the meaning of a particular verse or passage that seems convoluted look for a correlating verse or passage in another book of your Bible. God is perfectly consistent and this consistency is shown through his word as well. If a situation or truth was interpreted a certain way in the past then this most likely will be applied the same way in the future.
- Learn to read the Bible in total disregard for chapters and verses, this takes a lot of practice but once mastered it will reveal a whole new world of understanding to you, most items in the past that seemed to not make much sense will all of a sudden seem simple. Another reason for ESV, they treat the verses as just place markers nothing more and they break it down into natural paragraphs as the original writers intended. Look at it this way, if you had a friend write you a letter and you only read one or two sentences of it you could completely misinterpret what the letter was meant to say, so why would you do the same to the Word of God?
- Learn and Practice Discernment Skills! Is the source I am listening to or reading trustworthy? Is what I am learning hold with the basic precepts of who God is? Would or has Jesus taught this? Ask yourself these basic questions to discern what is being told to you. we are taught throughout our lives to look out for a con but when it comes to God it seems like people want to believe anything they hear. The reason a lot of times for this though is that when most come to seek God they are at a low in their live and looking for any glimmer of hope. This unfortunately leaves individuals open to people who want to misuse the word for their own gain, don’t fall prey! Truth may sting at first but leads to healing for eternity!
- ASK SOMEONE! If all else fails ask someone you trust. If you have no one to ask, find someone BUT confirm, think and verify! Contact us, use our forums but seek.
This may seem like a large list to learn and apply and you would be right. It has always been said anything worth doing is worth doing well and this definitely applies to your eternal place in the end. Just take it one step at a time and keep practicing it, eventually it will become second nature and you will not even think about it anymore. I can guarantee you if you apply each of these points your walk with God will become more meaningful, easier to understand and fulfilling the way God intended it to be. God Bless.