Monday, November 3, 2008

How To Read The Bible

I really don't want to confuse anyone. This can be tricky in explaining. I don't want to get into a cyclical nightmare of a rant where at the end of the post I even say..."What am I talking about". With the advances of technology and the internet, learning to correctly read the Bible is easier to do now.

I'm not going to tell you how to understand the Bible, because everyone is different. But learning to read it correctly is where it all starts out.

We must first understand a few things before I continue. Each version of the Bible is biased to a certain degree pertaining to the Religion that interprets that version. I would say all versions of the translated Bibles are about 85-95% accurate. We also must realize that there are several words and phrases that simply can't be translated and what you do see translated are guesses at best. They are assumptions on trying to tell us what the interpreters think the authors are trying to say.

It is of my opinion, that the closest to correct translation comes from the Johova Witness Bible: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. Until I learn and master the NT Greek Language, these babies get you real close. Yes, there are biases in this Bible just like any of the others. But this one gets you to around 95% accuracy, and the KIT gives you word for word translation without context variances.

Okay, we've got that out of the way. How are we supposed to read the Bible? Well, the Bible as you see it now, was constructed by men to make it easy to read. They constructed it like a book. That's how we've learned since childhood. But there is a problem with this in regards to the Bible. The Bible isn't a book in the way we interpret "books". Yes, it has stories in it. Yes it has themes, climaxes and plots. However, the main purpose of the Bible, is to go over "subjects". As many subjects as possible that pertain to our human existence. All the things we as humans will encounter, the Bible gives us examples of how others have felt what we've felt and how they dealt with it.

But the main purpose of the Bible is to teach us the story of Jesus Christ and what he taught.

The Bible is one big cross reference, and it should be read as such. With the internet available to us now, this makes a huge impact in our learning of how to read the Bible. Verses are connected to one another throughout. One subject has tons a verses connected to it, and these verses are not in the same spot. They are spread out through different books. Yes, some stories are to be read in whole, but for the most part, you should read verses. Read it verse by verse. Connect the verses associated with one another. Hey, it wasn't my idea to construct the Bible the way it's constructed now. Like I said, each of us has to do the leg work.

It is assumed that the Authors were Godly inspired in their writings. Even though various scriptures were constructed in different era's doesn't mean they're not connected. They are connected. They were inspired, but of course this is my belief.

Understanding what you're reading comes from the Holy Spirit that is within each of us. Without Him, you cannot understand. Taking the Bible as literal all the way is a mistake. Taking the meanings of the verses as literal is correct. That's the difference.

Any questions, feel free to ask. I'll do my best.


Harvey said...

As always, a thoughtful start to what one hopes will be an illuminating discussion.
I cannot read Greek, but I can read Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic (not as well) and Latin. I think that the biggest difficulty for most people trying to understand is the variability in translations, but the personal "take" of later writers because of the times in which they wrote, internecine Church politics, etc. seems to me to become even more troublesome, particularly with respect to the New Testament.
I am sure you are aware of the Talmud and other commentaries on the Torah. These writings have the advantage that the authors are generally identified and are historically confirmed as having made the comments attributed to them. Moreover, in almost every case, there are supporting and opposing opinions recorded in the same place so the student can read them and weigh them for himself.It is possible to follow the commentaries of a particular sage or Rabbi, so that the individual student can perhaps see where personal bias may color opinions.
I certainly agree with your point about trying to see the relationship between thoughts expressed about a single issue found in different parts of the Bible. When you look at it this way, the question of whether things should be taken "literally" drops out of the equation, but I doubt that many of our "Born again", fundamentalist brethren will be able to float free of their "literal, absolutely true, word for word" mindset.

Mark B said...

I noted that you cited the Jehovah Witness Bible in your list of literal translations. It has been a good 20 years since I spent time on the exegesis side of things, but as I recall, in reference to John 1:1, somebody slipped an "a" in front of God which opens the possibility of more than one God, which ties in nicely with JW theology.

As you stated, "Each version of the Bible is biased to a certain degree pertaining to the Religion that interprets that version".

As far as readability goes, my pick is the New International Version (NIV). I recall it is in the 90% range of accuracy. The Revised Standard Version has been a good translation for being close to the literal Greek. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is also fairly literal, but it took a back seat once the NIV came out.

Side note: Congratulations on Obama's victory. Though I don't agree with all of his policies, I do know that it is great for the African American community and a great step forward for our country to elect a person of race when even 20 - 30 years ago it would have been unthinkable.

Mark B said...

It took awhile before my memory was jogged, but KIT and NWT are in use by and condoned only by the Jehovah Witnesses, so I take it this is the narrow path you refer to.

While it is true that the Christian church of today has its problems and has gotten off message in certain respects, I do not feel that generations of Greek scholars are in error and trying to push a particular agenda in their translations of scripture, yet on the flip side, JW scholars suddenly figured out proper translation techniques and wha-la, after 2000 years, the narrow path is suddenly found.

You must ask yourself, did I start out with a premise and then seek evidence in scripture to back up that premise, or did you research scripture and then find your path. None of it is easy because emotions play with the mind, mine included.

Botts said...


Points well taken.

I wanted to be as less confusing as can be in my message, but when explaining the Bible, it can be and will be difficult.

I'm not a Jehova Witness and I think of them as a Cult as I do with all Religion ie: Baptist,Catholic, etc.. you name it.

My main point was on the translation. I didn't find the narrow path exclusively through the NWT or KIT. It's found in ALL versions of the Bible.

Follow the Two most important commandments. That IS the narrow path.

Everything else is just there for understanding and wisdom.

I appreciate the KIT especially. Takes a lot of patience, but with the Holy Spirit guiding the way, it becomes easier and easier.

Mark B said...

One can't help but be confused when a person uses JW references to assist them in clarifying scripture when the JW's have used these to come up with their own convenient translation and promote their own cult.

I agree that loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself is and should be the foundation of the Christian church, but there is aplenty that follows afterward.

I confess, I haven't stuck my nose in many JW references, but it seems to me that this approach can lead only to a dead end.

mac said...


I miss you man.

pboyfloyd said...

Hey Botts,

Where you at?

Come back!(with a new post about your adventures or something!)

Saint Brian the Godless said...

How To Read The Bible, By Saint Brian

1. Look at words on spine of the book.

2. Confirm that it says "The Holy Bible..."

3. Throw book in trash, firmly.

4. Go out and do something good for a stranger.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Hey Botts!

Hope to see you here blogging again soon...

Anyhow, if you happen to read this, I found another Christian that seems to think a bit like you do.

Check out this guys's blog. Say hi if you feel like it. I did. I think you have much in common.