The Study of the Bible
Making Sense of an Ancient Book
Although it would seem like an easy task, study of the Bible is actually quite difficult. Even though the Bible is one book for retail purposes, it's actually a collection of books written over 1200 years! Making sense of these books from so many periods isn't easy. Consequently, studying it can often seem difficult.
The first thing to remember when we undertake the study of the Bible is that the Bible was written in a different culture, a different location, and in a different time. In other words, our study must be informed by the fact that we can't force modern understanding on the Bible. Thus, all study must include a look at the history, culture, and context of the ancient, biblical world.
Second, any study of the Bible must take into account the genre (or literary form) of a particular book or passage. A genre is simply a category of literature. The Bible contains many genres, and it's important not to confuse them. For example, we wouldn't take parables as history or we'd miss their point. Some genres in the Bible are history, prophecy, wisdom literature, gospel, apocalypse, myth, and etiologies.
Third, we must read the Bible in light of current scholarship. Our study should always consult the later discoveries in manuscript finds, archeology, biblical studies, etc. New information is coming to light in universities and seminaries around the world.
Lastly, the Bible is meant to be read with the Church. While individual study of the Bible is vital, we must come to understand the Bible's theological meaning by consulting with the wisdom of the ages from the people of God. This makes sure that our reading of the Bible does not lead to heresy or an incorrect understanding and teaching.
We've given our advice for your study of the Bible, but you may still be asking this: how do I do all this? Your study should consult Study Bibles, commentaries, study guides, dictionaries, and ancient sources. There are many excellent information sources online or in local libraries or Christian bookstores.