Is it possible to read the Bible incorrectly? Well, the short answer is yes. How is that possible though?
Our Bible is written by many different authors, in many different locations, at varying times in history. The message conveyed by these authors in their various books is all the same, but each is written with a different context. If we don’t understand this context, much of the message is lost to us. Below you will find many tips and misconceptions to be aware of when reading your Bible. We will be leaning heavily on these for future posts.
1. There Was No New Testament During the New Testament
You may never have thought about this one before, but there wasn’t a New Testament when the New Testament was being written. The Scriptures consisted of ONLY the Old Testament. That’s it. So, when the Bereans were searching through the Scriptures to prove to themselves that Jesus was the Messiah, they weren’t looking through the book of Matthew, they were looking in the Old Testament. Jesus came to bring full meaning to the Old Testament. Everything that is in the Old Testament points to the New Testament. Everything in the New Testament is the culmination of the shadows that were shown in the Old Testament. If all we read is the Old Testament we will not see result of the things talked about. If all we read is the New Testament, we will miss out on the full meaning of what is being presented to us.
2. Our God, YHWH, Never Changes and is Perfect
You know what makes Judaism/Christianity so special? Our God, YHWH, never changes. He is consistent from creation to the end. Everything that he created is perfect. This includes the Bible. Many Christians would agree with that statement, but they do not realize that they have made our God imperfect with some of the things they have taken away. In the same way, Jews would agree with that statement, even though they have added to the instructions that God gave us. If everything that he creates is perfect, including his Law, why would He need to add to or take away from it? Wouldn’t that mean he messed up? Wouldn’t that mean he changed his mind? If he changed his mind with that, couldn’t he just as easily change his mind about giving us eternal life? Do you really want to believe in a God that changes his mind? The issue lies with US. WE are the ones who first sinned in the garden to mess up his perfect creation. WE are the ones who disobeyed our God time and time again until he had to kick us out of the promised land. WE are the ones who added to His Law to make it seem impossible to keep. WE are the ones who misinterpret the New Testament to do away with His Law, because it seems too “Jewish”.
3. Paul Wrote Letters
In order to take books such as Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Galatians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, and Timothy in context, you need to understand that they were written as letters. When we read letters from loved ones, do we read it from beginning to end, or do we pick and choose which sentences we want to read? Imagine reading a break-up letter in high school. What if that letter began with “I love you so much”, but went on to explain why things weren’t working out. What if you didn’t read the whole thing? That next day of school would probably be extremely awkward. When we are reading any letter from Paul, we need to read the whole thing, not just the parts we want to hear.
4. Paul’s Letters Were Written to Different People
The next issue that we need to clear up about Paul’s letters is the fact that each one was written to a different group of people. Each one was written to the believers in a different city. Each one was dealing with different issues. Some were dealing with pagans, some were dealing with Pharisees. Some were even written addressing believers trying to lead others astray. The letter to the Romans would not necessarily help the people of Galatians. Likewise, the letter to the Galatians would not necessarily help the people of Romans. In order to understand what Paul was addressing in his letter to each group of people, we need to understand the context in which it is being written.
5. Paul Can Be Hard to Understand
By now, you might suspect a theme: Paul is one of the most misunderstood people in the Bible. The reason for this is because Paul was as Hebrew as they come, and many times we are coming at the Bible from a Greek perspective. Before Paul’s encounter with Jesus, he was a Pharisee who studied under Gamliel. This meant that he had to have the entire Torah memorized word-for-word by the time he was a teenger. We struggle memorizing entire verses of the Bible, imagine memorizing the first 5 books of our entire Bible!
6. It’s All About Israel
If we stop caring about who Israel is once we get to the New Testament, then we forget who we are. The Old Testament is all about Israel being chosen as God’s people, and them subsequently squandering that blessing by turning their backs on God. The New Testament is all about Jesus making atonement for that sin and allowing The House of Israel back into covenant with him. In modern Christianity, we have described the Church as replacing Israel instead of being a continuation of Israel. If we don’t grasp this understanding, then we will not get very much out of the Old Testament, because it’s all about Israel. If you haven’t watched this video yet, please do to get the full meaning of what I’m trying to say:
These 6 tips will help you get the most out of your Bible. They will be foundational for where my future blog posts will take us. From here we will dive into some specific misconceptions that we have learned in Christianity. We will start with Jesus and his view on Torah and work our way through the New Testament. As we do this, I will start writing blog posts on Old Testament passages, showing how they point to our Messiah. My hope is to make your faith bulletproof, unable to be shaken by any outside force.
Till Next Time,
Joel The Berean