So many Bible study books, with long chapters and multiplied “principles,” imply you need to master some specific content before you can feel confident that you could actually read the Bible. It’s not that there aren’t principles to be learned, but too often the approach taken is too intimidating to someone who already isn’t reading the Bible.
It’s as if the authors are saying, “Before you can learn to read and understand the Bible, you have to master the contents of this book.” I’m not discounting the good intentions of the authors of such works; I’m only suggesting that such an approach can be overwhelming. For someone already discouraged by his or her own Bible study habits that is an obstacle that may seem much too high.
Such an approach doesn’t let the person interested in learning to read and study the Bible begin where he or she is. It says to the Christian he or she needs to get somewhere else, arrive someplace else in their habit of studying, before beginning to read and truly appreciate the Bible.
Think for a minute about how you first learned to read. You simply began where you were. You started with what you had, and built from there. You learned to read, whatever you read, by beginning with what you could do. I think good Bible study should start there, too. You may end up learning grammar and the like (How about it? Do you know what a gerund is? How about a first class conditional sentence? Temporal modifiers? These are words that are sometimes used in teaching people to read the Bible!), but that is not the place to begin.
You need to hear that you already have the basic tools you need to read the Bible—after all, you’re reading this blog!
Don’t forget that when Moses spoke the words that became the book of Deuteronomy, he spoke to the children of Israel who had been brought out of Egypt. Former slaves, moms and dads and children—they weren’t Bible college graduates. And Moses anticipated that they would be able to understand what he said.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he penned words that he believed would be understood by the Christian community in Rome. Shopkeepers and slaves, Roman soldiers and foreign transplants, one-time pagans and Jewish believers in Jesus—they weren’t seminary students. And Paul expected that they would be able to understand what he wrote.
The Bible, inspired by the Spirit and written by men like Moses and Paul, was written for people like you and me. And that is why it makes sense to insist that you could read it and understand it. So, why not just read it?