6 Tips for Better Bible Literacy
After interviewing the former Hollywood director who made the excellent documentary “Roadmap Genesis,” it was startling to see his man-on-the-street segment in which the low Bible literacy of the public was on full display.
Here are six tips to help nudge us all (including myself) toward a deeper Bible literacy.
1. Know when Scripture is quoted out of context.
Christian culture, and human nature in general, loves finding bite-sized tidbits. We like things in brief, easy-to-quickly-consume forms. For this reason, verses are often presented in isolation. It makes it easier to stick them on bumper stickers, posters, websites, and book covers.
Always examine a single verse in the context of the paragraph that surrounds it. Then look at the paragraph in the context of the book of the Bible. And then look at the book of the Bible in the context of when it was written and the style of writing.
2. Utilize your church library (or even public library).
Though some may not believe this claim, the Internet does not have everything. Libraries — yep, those buildings that require your in-person physical presence before you can view their information — have some golden treasures. You might found an out-of-print book that has rich revelation and commentary that opens your eyes to more of the Bible’s treasure.
3. Understand the different types of literature and historical writing represented.
GotQuestions.org sums it up well with this list (quoted in excerpts to limit length):
Law: …The purpose of law is to express God’s sovereign will concerning government, priestly duties, social responsibilities, etc. Knowledge of Hebrew manners and customs of the time, as well as a knowledge of the covenants, will complement a reading of this material.
History: Stories and epics from the Bible are included in this genre. Almost every book in the Bible contains some history, but Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Acts are predominately history. Knowledge of secular history is crucial, as it dovetails perfectly with biblical history and makes interpretation much more robust.
Wisdom: This is the genre of aphorisms that teach the meaning of life and how to live. Some of the language used in wisdom literature is metaphorical and poetic, and this should be taken into account during analysis. Included are the books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.
Poetry: These include books of rhythmic prose, parallelism, and metaphor, such as Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Psalms…
Narrative: This genre includes the Gospels, which are biographical narratives about Jesus, and the books of Ruth, Esther, and Jonah. A reader may find bits of other genres within the Gospels, such as parable (Luke 8:1-15) and discourse (Matthew 24)…
Epistles: An epistle is a letter, usually in a formal style. There are 21 letters in the New Testament from the apostles to various churches or individuals…
Prophecy and Apocalyptic Literature: The Prophetic writings are the Old Testament books of Isaiah through Malachi, and the New Testament book of Revelation. They include predictions of future events, warnings of coming judgment, and an overview of God’s plan for Israel. Apocalyptic literature is a specific form of prophecy, largely involving symbols and imagery and predicting disaster and destruction. We find this type of language in Daniel (the beasts of chapter 7), Ezekiel (the scroll of chapter 3), Zechariah (the golden lampstand of chapter 4), and Revelation (the four horsemen of chapter 6)…
My personal favorite is the Bible App form YouVersion and their fantastic reading plans that can take you through the Bible in a variety of ways based on topic or approach.
5. Read a different version each year.
There is certainly nothing wrong with finding a translation you enjoy and sticking with it, but reading different translations, while certainly never changing the fundamental meaning (if it’s a reputable translation) will add depth to your understanding of the nuances of the Biblical language.
6. Ignore the Old Testament and you’re missing the point.
Christ, through the commands of His Heavenly Father, relied on the Old Testament — i.e. the Hebrew Scriptures. Everything Jesus did was explained through the prism of the Old Testament. No early Christians had the New Testament — though some did hear and read the accounts of the Gospels and the letters of the apostles. But, for the most part, the Old Testament provides the authoritative foundation for everything that Jesus did and said in His earthly ministry. To ignore or neglect the Old Testament is a great tragedy.