Understanding the Bible
1. Some versions of the Bible are easier to understand than others. The King James Version is at grade 12 reading level. The New International Version is 7-8. The NIV is the most popular English version. The New Living Translation is grade 6 reading level. The NLT is the second most popular English version. Only Scripture you understand and apply will make you more like Jesus. I read the New International Version.
2. Consider purchasing a study Bible. It will help you digest a lot more soul food. I’ve used the Life Application Study Bible for more than 30 years. It’s the best-selling study Bible. It’s now in its third edition.
3. An online concordance deepens your study. You can search biblical words at BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages. For example, you can study every occurrence of “love” in the Bible. That helps you get a firmer grip on its meaning. A Bible dictionary provides historical and cultural backgrounds. It explains Bible people, places, things, books, and customs. You can access a free online version at Bible Dictionary - Online Dictionaries (biblestudytools.com).
4. Let the Bible explain itself. Matthew 7:7–8 doesn’t guarantee getting everything you ask from God. Other passages, such as James 4:3, describe conditions for answered prayer. Interpret a verse based on the whole Bible’s teaching about the topic.
5. Consider literary forms. Jesus is the door (John 10:9). But don’t expect a knob and hinges. A literary interpretation considers, for example, whether the verses are prose or poetry.
6. Look for only one meaning (the original intention of the author), but many applications.
7. Understanding the grammar of the original languages and historical background are two keys to understand the original intention of the author. Most of us have to depend on experts in biblical languages in those two areas.
8. Interpret unclear passages in the light of clear ones. Ephesians 2:8–10 describes how good deeds relate to salvation better than James 2:24 does.
9. Research what words meant to the biblical authors. Two resources to help: Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament by Merrill F. Unger and Williams White, Jr. and An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine - Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (studybible.info).
10. Proverbs expresses general principles, not moral absolutes. Proverbs 3:16 promises long life to the wise. But some wise people die young.
11. Parables teach one main point. Luke 15: 3–7 teaches that God cares about lost people. Don’t look for meaning in all the details.
12. Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth (John 14:17, 26).
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