Let’s face it, for many of us the Bible is a total mystery and we may have never actually read it or tried once, and found it challenging.
We can be forgiven for finding it hard but reading the Bible is absolutely essential to the diet of healthy growing Christians. It’s understandable why it’s difficult …….but….it is an utterly transformative book….
So let’s start taking a look. First of all, it was written a long time ago, over a span of hundreds of years, and written in three ancient languages that most of don’t know and won’t ever know. It was written in cultures vastly different from ours, by people whose thought patterns, values and understanding of the world were quite different from ours.
Adding to the confusion, unlike most books we know, the Bible does not read in a straight line from the beginning to the end. Nor is its subject matter neatly arranged in carefully sequenced chapters.
Take the Bible in your hands……first thing you need to know is that this is not a single book; it is a collection of books, written at different times, by different people, for different reasons and in different places. This explains why it is often frustrating to read the Bible in a straight line, from first page to last. We don’t usually enter a library and simply choose the first book inside the door and then continue reading through every book….we are much more selective than that….a library contains many different kinds of books. So does the Bible.
The Bible contains 66 books, written over a long period of time—more than 1000 years.—written by at least 40 different authors and from a variety of different cultural and historical situations. —all different types of literature…..history, poetry, erotic poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, legal codes, correspondence. And how we understand what is being written depends on us knowing which kind of document it is.
Again, this is the source of many debates about the Bible – when people read all the books of the Bible like a poem with figurative language, they miss the history, biography and social structures that are there. When others read the whole Bible like a book of laws and rules, they miss the beautiful poetry and musical imagery that are really there.
It’s important to read each book according to its genre! As you read it, ask yourself, what kind of a book did I pull off the library shelf? Does this sound like a book of history, or poetry? Does this sound like a hymn, or a law? Let the Bible tell you how to read its own material.
There are two main divisions to notice in this library.
Imagine this library has two floors.
The Old Testament is the story of God’s overwhelming love for us, and God’s unending concern for our wellbeing. In the Bible we learn about our creation—we then discover that we have been invited into a special relationship with God and entrusted with the awesome responsibility of caring for all of God’s creation.
The New Testament was written in Greek and tells the story of Jesus and the growth of the early church……
BUT THE BIG story of the Bible is that God loves us and long to be relationship with us. This bigger story also then tells of our insistence on claiming our independence from God and moving God out of the center of our lives. It tells of God’s relentless, loving pursuit of us, calling us back in order to save us from ourselves and rescue us from the destructive lies of the world. It tells of the gracious invitation we are offered to come home and to enjoy the life with God for which we were created.
Question: Have you been biased toward the Old or New Testament by past experiences? Why?