The pages of the Bible are open and acknowledged throughout various periods of life.
Comfort, praise, heartache, insight and emotions allure individuals to not merely read the word of God, but to study or dissect the meaning in order to apply it to a particular situation.
How does one go about studying the Bible with 93 books and 1,189 chapters?
“Because the Bible is so big, comes from cultures different than our own, but especially because it’s so diverse can be challenging,” says Marti Steussy MacAllister-Petticrew, professor of biblical interpretation at Christian Theological Seminary. “For some people the diversity is a problem, but to me it just says that God recognizes the different needs of various people and situations, and we’re misrepresenting God if we suggest that God only relates to us in one way.”
The biblical interpreter offers the following tips on how to study your Bible and grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.
Read out loud. In the ancient world, books were never read silently. Reading out loud will force you to notice what is actually there. Not just what you expect to be there, and having to choose a tone of voice will help you notice that the Bible has a variety of moods – cheerful, comforting, grieving, angry, humorous, satirical, wistful, impatient, patient, etc.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to trust your common sense. For instance, some of those awful stories in Judges are supposed to strike you as awful, so that you will understand why the people really needed a king. You’re just creating unnecessary confusion for yourself if you think you have to understand every single judge as a role model.
MacAllister-Petticrew said her dear friend and teacher Clark Williamson suggests a set of Bible-derived principles for interpreting the Bible, in his book Way of Blessing, Way of Life. Putting them in MacAllister-Petticrew’s own words, they are: (1) The Bible is working to understand this world as the creation of one God. (2) It speaks of God’s love for “us” and (3) reminds us that God loves “them” (even nonhuman creatures) too. (4) It says that God has a special concern for those at the bottom, the people society tramples, and (5) it shows God working through flawed and sinful people.
She especially emphasizes that last one. Instead of trying to treat a character such as David as a model of perfection, it gives us the option of saying, “this is a story about how God can work through a flawed, sinful person.” The ancient scholar Augustine had an even simpler rule: Be sure your interpretation serves the purposes of love.
Don’t forget to pray, and remember that you are praying to a living God who is not locked between the covers of a book and is bigger than all our words and theologies, MacAllister-Petticrew says.