“How to Understand the Bible”

1. “Do You Understand What You Are Reading?
Our title is the question that Philip asked the Ethiopian government official as he heard him reading from the Book of Isaiah (Acts 8). This study marks the beginning of a new Sunday evening series on How to Understand the Bible. To be introduced to this study, click the blue button.

2. “Our Attitude Toward God’s Word
In many areas of life, attitude has a great effect on outcome. This is true when we study the Bible. Tonight we will discuss several aspects of our mindset which will allow us to receive the greatest benefit from our Bible study.

3. “The Bible and the Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 is probably the best known speech in American history. I doubt anyone would seriously question its authenticity or the accuracy of the account we have of it today. But there are some important lessons we can learn both about the speech and the Bible.

4. “Using Reference Books in Bible Study
When we read and study the Bible, we recognize that we are reading documents created at a different time in history, to people of a different culture and language and worldview than our own. But God chose to reveal Himself through these writings. So, how do we get over this “grand canyon” of differences that separate us from the message as originally delivered? We do it through the use of reference works designed to supply the knowledge we might otherwise be missing – Bible dictionaries, atlases, lexicons and other background books.

5. “Doing a Bible Background Study
Last week we spoke of the many different reference works which are available to the Bible student. These books allow us to delve into the language, history, culture, geography, and worldview of the people and writings which make up the Bible. Tonight we will do a rather simple study as an example of doing background research. This lesson is on “Money in the World of Jesus.” You will some of the stories: Jesus is sold for 30 pieces of silver; Jesus commends the poor widow for giving two small coins; and Peter catches a fish with a coin in its mouth.

6. “Doing Bible Study Is Not Brain Surgery
Some areas of life are best left to the experts – surgery, flying the Space Shuttle, climbing Mt. Everest. But studying and learning what the Bible says is not one of those areas! In fact, God blessed all of us with easy access to His Words so we would read and study them. Tonight we begin a sample study showing how to research a Biblical subject and learn more about it. That subject will be, “The Temple in Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus.”

7. “How to Read the Stories in the Bible
More than 40% of the Bible is made up of stories. In fact, some entire books consist of story after story. These stories are rooted in the history of the Jewish people and Christian church. But they are not simply history lessons; each story contributes its part to the “big story” of the Bible. Join us in learning how to read this part of your Bible with more understanding.

8. “How to Read the Prophets in the Bible
The prophetic books are the second largest section of writings in the Bible. However, most folks associate “prophet” with doom and gloom and end-time predictions. In this lesson we see that the prophets and their writings are so much more than that caricature.

9. “How to Read the Epistles in the Bible
In the New Testament we have 21 documents we call epistles, or letters. Beginning with Romans and ending with Jude, they comprise correspondence from Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude to churches and individuals of their day. Reading them is sometimes like hearing only one side of a conversation since we cannot know what questions, problems or situations prompted some of the writers’ responses. We also sometimes struggle to know what instructions in these letters are universally applicable – that is, what should be followed by Christians today.

10. “How to Read a Book (of the Bible)
Most of us have never consciously been taught how to read a book! We just began in 1st or 2nd grade to struggle through “Dick and Jane” or some other primer. Almost by default, we gradually discovered that books had introductions and conclusions, and a flow to the story or subject which connected the two ends. That is unfortunate, because reading the individual documents (often called books) of the Bible can be very rewarding… if we know how to read a book!

11. “Figurative Language in the Bible,” Part I
Now we begin looking at the use of words and expressions in the Bible in non-literal ways. We usually hear and speak figuratively in our daily communication without even thinking about it. However, the Bible is for us an English translation of ancient Hebrew and Greek languages. Those languages were both different from English and from each other. And their figurative language may not be as evident to us without a conscious effort to see it.

12. “Figurative Language in the Bible,” Part II
Metaphors, similes, parables, allegories, hyperbole – it may sound like an English class, but these are words we need to understand as we study the figurative language in the Bible. The biblical writers used a wide variety of language tools to more effectively communicate their message. If God’s Spirit guided them in their writings, then we would not want to miss what they were saying!

This Series on “How to Understand the Bible” was taught during the first quarter of 2008 at the Tanglewood Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas.

Image attribution: Book photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com