The Bible is not as difficult to understand as most people think it is.


The Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). All Bibles today are translations from those two languages.

There are now more than a dozen major English translations, and all of them are adequately accurate for conveying the meanings contained in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. We don’t need to worry about whether or not a particular Bible is a ‘true’ Bible because excellent translation has gone into all of them.

Ideally, to capture depth of meaning, each paragraph from the Bible should be read concurrently in several different translations.


Many people ignore the Bible with the excuse that it can be interpreted to say anything anyone wants it to say.

That often happens when words are pulled out of context by persons wanting to use a Bible quotation to defend a particular pre-determined view. But, as with any document, intelligent understanding requires that words be read in context and interpreted by the other words and concepts in the same document. Read in its entirety, the Bible is its own best interpreter… and it’s consistent.

The Bible uses metaphors, similes, parables and other figures of speech, like we use them in expressions today. The rule for interpretation is that if the literal words make sense, read it literally. A figurative meaning should be accepted only if the literal meaning doesn’t fit the context or doesn’t fit other portions clearly addressing the subject.

The Bible should be read simply for what it says, no more and no less.

When reading the Bible, it’s helpful to always remember that the Old Testament is background for the New Testament, and that the New Testament is good news about God’s offer of new life for us and about how this life should be lived out.


Because the Bible is a spiritual book, it helps to have spiritual assistance. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible writers to write it now helps readers to understand it (see Topic 19). This is why the Bible is such a profound book. A professor can spend a lifetime studying the Bible and still not exhaust it, and yet an uneducated person can read from it (or listen to it) for the first time and understand what’s needed for him at that moment.

We don’t have to rely upon a priest, pastor or churchman to tell us what God is saying. We can learn from God directly by reading the Bible.


The term Bible study is a frequently used Christian expression. People say they’re doing a Bible study, in a Bible study, going to a Bible study, etc.

This refers to the way many Christians, alone or in groups, carefully investigate the exact words of the Bible; often with the assistance of other books and commentaries. They probe, cross-reference, challenge and share understanding.

Intensive study of the Bible, with an open spirit, provides great understanding of God’s plan and purpose for our lives.


Like food and exercise, a ‘little and often’ is the best approach to Bible study. We need to take time to digest what we’ve just read.

The real test of our sincerity is not how much we’ve read, or how often we’ve read it, but how much we’ve understood and obeyed, and how we’re applying it to our life. Bible study always requires a personal response.

We should never use the Bible as a lucky dip or horoscope by just opening it at random and expecting some magic word or thought. It’s the Word of God and we must study it seriously, carefully and methodically.

NOTE: The inset seen here is a portion of a page from the NASB Interlinear Greek/English New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House. Other translations have comparable interlinear versions.

How to read the Bible with precision without learning Greek ...

Except for clergymen and scholars, very few people can read Greek. However, scholars have created what’s known as Greek/English inter­ linear Bibles, which show the actual Greek words on one line and the closest English equivalents directly below on the next line. Because an interlinear Bible has not been smoothed for differences in language structure, it’s more difficult to read than a translation, but it’s excellent for capturing meaning. It’s not necessary for an ordinary person to read from the original Greek text, or even from a Greek/English interlinear, but it’s an option for anyone who wants to study the Bible in depth.

This is an example of scripture direct from the Greek manuscript.

Greek cannot be translated word­for­word into English.

Some smoothing, and some judgment, is necessary in rendering a translation.

The judgment factor can be removed by reading from a Greek/English interlinear (like this) or by reading several translations simultaneously.

Posted in Bible Survey.