Updated: Jul 12, 2022
The Bible is deep. In the Christian Bible, there are 66 documents inspired by the One true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This collection of documents was written by around 40 different human authors, over the course of more than 1,500 years, in three different languages and on three different continents. Although you can’t take every verse in the Bible literally, every verse in the Bible is conveying a literal truth. Given the Bible’s divine inspiration, you are hearing the voice of your Heavenly Father when you read.
The Bible is also beautiful. As far as types of literature, the Bible contains theology, history, law, poetry, prophecy, parables, stories, songs, letters and genealogies. In all of this language, history and culture, we get wisdom, teaching, instruction and insight about God, who we are, why we’re here, what’s right and wrong and what happens when we die. Additionally, The Bible has a thread of good news running through all this language, history and culture which gives us the ultimate answer to the problem of evil, pain and suffering: The gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.
One of the biggest challenges to Christianity today is that the Bible itself is becoming more and more of a stumbling block to the faith. Skeptics are encouraging people to simply read the Bible to challenge the truth of the gospel. Personally, I can see why this is working because nothing has both challenged and strengthened my faith more than simply reading the Bible cover to cover.
As far as depth, the Bible is shallow enough a child can wade in it and deep enough an elephant can swim in it. Like in a body of water, when we’re getting into the Bible with children, it’s often better to stay in the shallow end of the water. We do this for the child's protection because we know they could drown if they wander into the deep end and don’t know how to swim! That said, the Bible is not a children’s book. As we mature physically and spiritually as Christians, we need to dive in, swim with the elephants and explore the richness and depth of God’s Word.
The very first thing you need to know before diving into any body of water is what’s below the surface. Further, you need to have an idea of how deep the water is. Not being sure of either can lead to serious injury! If you’re at the local public swimming pool, the water is (hopefully) clear and there are depth indicators, so we often do little more than stick our foot in the water to check the temperature. However, what’s below the surface of the Bible isn’t as clear as the water in the local public swimming pool. Again, just below the surface in between the covers of the Christian Bible, are 66 documents inspired by the One true God. These 66 documents were written by around 40 different authors, over the course of more than 1,500 years, in three different languages and on three different continents. As far as literature, the Bible contains, theology, history, law, poetry, prophecy, parables, stories, songs, letters and genealogies.
Something else we need to clearly see before diving into the Bible is that it is thoroughly Jewish. The Bible was written by Jews, to Jews, in a Jewish culture about the Jewish Messiah. The central good news of the Bible, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the good news of the Jews. The gospel is a Jewish story. The God we love, praise and worship is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel.
Crucial to diving, competitive or otherwise, is how you enter the water. You want to smoothly enter the water at just the right angle. In terms of diving into the Bible, the right angle is reading the Bible in context.
Merriam Webster describes context as, “The parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning; the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.” When we enter the waters of the Word of God, we need to read around a verse or passage to more fully understand the meaning. Further, we need to understand the interrelated conditions. There are three crucial interrelated conditions to reading the Bible in context:
Language - the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
History - although not all of the Bible can be taken literally, the pages of Scripture are conveying literal truths.
Culture - the Bible was written by Jews, in Jewish places about the Jewish Messiah.
A contextual reading of the entire Bible, with an eye on language, history and culture, is the best way to enter the waters of God’s Word. You might be thinking: How can I read the Bible in context? First and foremost, you've got to commit to getting wet. You've got to actually pick up a Bible and start reading regularly! Additionally, I highly recommend you take notes as you read whether that's in the Bible itself or in a journal. Jot down your thoughts and questions. Further, if whatever translation of the Bible you choose has a Preface or Introduction, read it before you start reading the book of Genesis. Lastly, if your Bible has some maps in the back of the book, take a look and note where these stories took place.
Get started and start at the beginning like you would with any other book. Doing a Bible study is good, but studying the Bible yourself is better. Dive in!