The Importance of Biblical Literacy (Intro to the Story of the Bible)
“All human books grow stale after a time–but with the Word of God the desire to study it increases, while the more you know of it the less you think you know. The Book grows upon you: as you dive into its depths you have a fuller perception of the infinity which remains to be explored. You are still sighing to enjoy more of that which it is your bliss to taste.”
It is more important than ever in the 21st century to know your Bible. We are being bombarded with various worldviews and belief systems through the intensity of media today that, if we are not careful, will only lead Christians to a conglomeration of worldviews within themselves that is only partly Christian but part-many other things.
The Bible has stood the test of time for 2,000 years. And Redeemer Fellowship is deeply committed to training up their churches to be biblically literate. This can be a challenge in the modern era. Reading among Americans is at an all-time low. Movie and Television watching has been slowly but steadily increasing over time. All to say, we have shifted from a letter-based culture to an image based culture in the past 100 years. And when we, as Christians, have at the center of our faith a book that:
1) has around 750,000+ words that clocks in at over 70 hours of reading time
2) Was written in three ancient, dead languages in the ancient near east (Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic)
3) Was written many thousands of years ago by dozens of various authors living in various parts of the ancient near east
You have a book that can be easily misunderstood and not read in it's entirety without some work to understand it. Maybe you are reading this, and you are nodding your head, as you find yourself in this camp. And that is OK!
But you must keep in mind: the Bible is no ordinary book. It is God's revelation to us, whose words are fully true and infallible in their original languges. For God to speak to us, we must read his words. It is big and long, but it is our very lifetime in our Christian life if we are to find ourselves communing with God. Therefore, this conversation of understanding your Bible is of upmost importance.
So where do we begin?
PROCESS OF INTERPRETING YOUR BIBLE
There are multiple ways to begin this process. Indeed, it is a lifelong process. I've had the opportunity to study the Bible both in undergraduate and graduate environments in college, and there is one method generally taught there:
A) Understand the historical background of each book. When it was written, where was it written and who was it's author?
B) Understading the audience of the book: who was the original author writing to?
C) Understanding the purpose of his writing: What was the occassion for his writing?
D) Understanding the primary themes and principles of the book and it's messages
E) Building a "bridge" by connecting all we have learned in the above four steps to our modern-day era, seeking to apply it to our lives today.
This is a very basic summary of what we call "hermeneutics," the science of the intepretation of the Bible. It is also generally called the "Grammatical-Historical Method" of interpreting your Bible. Nothing is wrong with this, and all Christians would greatly benefit from learning how to engage this method. In our modern-era, there are a multitude of resources available for you that aide you to do just that. Soon I will gather up such resources and pass them along to you.
UNDERSTANDING THE STORY OF THE BIBLE
But, there is an often neglected way to also approach your Bible, a way that has been garnering much attention in the past few decades due to the writings of men such as Graeme Goldsworthy and Geehard Vos and Vaughn Roberts (and many more): Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology focuses on the actual story of Scripture.
Yes, all of the Scripture is one large story. And by understanding the story, you will become familair with the chronology of Scripture, how it is all connected to each other, and how it all points towards one person: Jesus Christ. You will understand and see how the Garden of Eden, in a way, is the "bookends" of the Bible. Where the Bible starts, the Bible ends. It has a circular nature to it.
Generally, it is one long answer to a question proposed after Genesis chapter 3: How do we get back to the Garden of Eden?
So here at Redeemer, we are going to begin creating over time a guide to help you understand this primary story of the Bible as traced from Genesis to Revelation. It will serve as a guide to understanding Israel's rise and fall, and how Jesus fulfills the whole story. It will seve as a guide to understanding the background of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, and the letters (epistles) in the New Testament.
Stories are very powerful. And I'm convinced that the average layperson may find this approach to Scripture a little easy to grasp by way of introduction than beginning with the engagement of the Grammatica/Historical approach, although the two cannot be neglected for the sake of the other.
However, I'd like to begin with Biblical Theology by summarizing for you each major portion of the story. It will not be comprehensive in approach, but rather highling the major portions that find themselves at the center of each book. Our prayer is that you will be equipped to grasp and understand each book and section of the Bible, encouraging you to pick it up and engage it more than you ever had.
As you read through the guide, if you have any questions, please feel free to email one of your pastors! We'd love to engage Scripture with you. Know now that you are being prayed for as you dive deep into the Scriptures.
- Pastor Dan