Is the Bible Hard to Understand?


Rembrandt’s Paul in Prison

For those who believe the Bible to be the Word of God, this is an extremely important question.

The Bible can be hard to understand:

1. The Bible is a printed book. Our culture has a shrinking preference for reading books, especially complex ones. We can get our information from things like blog posts, news summaries and video clips. These are informative, but they are brief. They do not require in-depth analysis or thoughtful reasoning.

2. The Bible can be complex. Its stories, poetry, letters and laws were written in ancient times and written in ancient languages. The assumptions and attitudes of the authors are not the same as ours. In many cases, interpreting the Bible requires our patience and work, which can sometimes be discouraging.

The Bible is not TOO hard to understand:

1. It’s original authors were writing for the common person, not the educated elite. The Old Testament law and New Testament epistles were read in their entirety to whole congregations. In another words, the Bible was intended to be understood by all of us. 

2. There are many tools and resources to help us understand and apply the Scriptures. There are pastors and teachers who are called to this ministry. Study Bibles, commentaries and reference guides are written for laity with no formal training.

Be encouraged. God does not communicate in a way we can’t understand. However, we must discipline ourselves to hear God, and study is an important way to do this. We can get discouraged from reading God’s Word not so much because it is hard to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it can be work.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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4 Responses to Is the Bible Hard to Understand?

  1. Zermain says:

    I don’t think the Bible is TOO hard to understand – – IF we don’t try to read between the lines. I understand all about being written in a different time, etc., but we still can read the Bible and absorb its stories and lessons for their face value – which is A LOT!! Truly God opens our eyes and ears when we take the time to commune through His Word.

  2. joan says:

    It is like a lot of literature, it takes time to read and absorb and challenge our thinking process. It takes dedication.

  3. Janice says:

    The more we stay focused, the easier it is to understand. My study Bible has helped me to understand the Bible better, in addition to Bible Studies. I will never understand it all but I won’t give up trying.

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