Making Sense of the Bible
Posted under The Rectory Bulletin
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)
Let’s be honest. The Bible is a big book, and it was written thousands of years ago. The names are often unpronounceable, and culture is alien to us. That said, though, the Bible is also the foundation of our faith and is the means by which God has revealed himself to us. We might look at Chaucer, shrug our shoulders, and then put the Canterbury Tales back on a dust shelf with no real consequences. We can’t have the same attitude to our Bibles.
So what is to be done? The first (and most important) thing is: don’t despair! Whilst there are some difficult bits in the Bible, the vast majority of it is straightforward. It has long been the assertion of the church that the Bible is clear in its essentials. Whilst the universities abound in degrees, and the shelves of the bookshops groan with resources, it simply remains that fact that you can pick up your Bible, open the page and start reading with real benefit.
But you could go further if you wish. Visiting a foreign land is an enriching thing to do, and finding out about different customs can be fascinating. When you think about learning something about the Bible’s geography and the world of Ancient Israel or Rome compare it to a holiday, not a school lesson! The more you find out about the Bible the richer it becomes. The more you learn, the deeper the message.
Over the past decades there has been an explosion in Atlases, Handbooks and Study Bibles. Of all of these, the Study Bible is normally the most useful as it puts maps, charts and plans alongside the text itself. You’ll also find footnotes helping with difficult verses, and short introductions to each book. Let me know if you'd like any recommendations.
We needn’t worry that the Bible will be a difficult book to understand. Modern translations and resources make light work of obscure passages, but above all the Spirit who inspired the authors is still active within us today. Pick up and read, and you’ll be astonished at what you might find.