How To Properly Interpret the Bible, Lesson 1: Read the Book, Yourself

That’s right. How can anyone really know what is in the Bible if they have never read it?

(I am having issues with my webcam so there won’t be a video today)

And I don’t mean to go buy one of those “Read a Bible Passage a Day” calendars. That’s like telling someone you are bringing a cake to their party and showing up with eggs, flour, salt, and some water. It may be what is in a cake, but it ain’t the same thing.

Maybe you’re thinking, “But Steve, I hear the Rabbi or Priest or Minister tell me what is in there every time I attend services.”

No, you don’t.

What you hear is what that person thinks the Bible is saying, and most likely because that is what he or she was taught it means, from people who were taught, from people who were taught, from…well, you get the idea.

Christianity has been teaching the same stuff for millennia, and they have never gotten most of it right. Why do you think there are so many different Christian religions? If they had it right, they wouldn’t have so many followers think it should be something else. In truth, if they had it right, they would be Jews, but now we’re getting way off-topic.

If you ask me, most of the religious leaders are doing nothing more than parroting their teachers. “Parroting” means repeating what you have been told without understand what you are saying, and that is what you learn when the only thing you learn about the Bible is what others tell you.

Do you know who Tarzan of the Apes is? Do you agree with me (and you should) that Johnny Weissmuller was the best Tarzan portrayer, ever? And that Tarzan lived in a treehouse, spoke English worse than Tonto, and had an adopted son named Boy?

The truth is quite different: I have read the entire series of Tarzan books (there are 27 of them) and Tarzan was fluent in French (his first human language), English, and some African dialects, as well as being able to converse with animals. His son was not called “Boy” but had a name, Korak. And they lived in a large plantation deep in the jungle, protected by a fierce warrior tribe of Africans who were Tarzan’s friends.

Now ain’t that a kick in the tuchas! You thought you knew about Tarzan, but I’ll bet very few of you did. So, do you think maybe, just maybe, there might be more to learn from the Bible than what you have been told or seen on TV?

You bet there is! And you will never know what is in there until you read it for yourself. If you don’t read the Bible, it is possible you are being taught an improper understanding of God’s word and you need to understand this- you will be held accountable for what you have learned, whether it is right or wrong.

When you get a new job, you read the Employee Handbook (if you’re smart) so you know what is expected of you and to stay out of trouble. When you get a new power tool, you read the instructions so you know how to use it without hurting yourself. When you have a new medication, you read the warning label so you know what to be aware of if you have a bad reaction. You read these instructions to ensure you are safe while alive, so why wouldn’t you read the instructions for how to be safe for all eternity?

One of the most wonderful things about the Bible is that no matter how many times you read it, there is always something new in there for you. When we get to a later lesson about the Jewish exegesis system called PaRDeS, you will see that underneath the written word is a spiritual message, and often you will not understand or comprehend that message when reading the words. But then, many readings later, you suddenly have an epiphany and say to yourself, “WOW! So that’s what it means…how come I didn’t see that before?”

When this happens to me, and it has many times over the past two decades or so I have been reading the Bible, I figure the reason I didn’t see it before was simply that I wasn’t ready for it. There is a certain level of spiritual maturity at which we all have to be in order to grasp the deeper meaning of the words we read, whether in the Bible or even in an Employee Handbook. There is a lot to be “read between the lines”, but until you have had enough exposure to the lines, you won’t be able to see what is between them.

I know many people don’t read the Bible because they tell themselves they don’t have the time or they can’t deal with all the “begots” and “begets” or the tough language. Well, don’t use a King James Version (I would never recommend that version, anyway, but that’s for a different time); use an NIV or CJB or some other version of the Bible written in easy to understand language.

As for not having the time, do what I do: I keep my Bible in the bathroom. Yes, that’s right- it is on the back of the toilet tank in a little basket with other reading material. I keep it there because that is the one place I know I will be spending 5-10 minutes, every day, with no one disturbing me. I read a chapter or two each day, and if you follow my example, you will be surprised how quickly you go through the book.

It makes me feel a little closer to God, knowing that he is on his throne and here I am, on mine.

And, one last thing: the Bible is from the first line of Genesis to the very last line of Revelation: it is one book, about one God, who choose one people to bring his instructions for how to worship him and treat each other to the world; it also tells of the Messiah he sent to help us to be forgiven of our sins so that we can be with God throughout eternity when this life is over. Don’t skimp on what you read, even the boring parts (and yes, there are some pretty boring sections but you have to muddle through them) because you never know what God will reveal to you, and to you, alone.

I believe there is something for everyone in the Bible that is uniquely for them, and God is just waiting for you to come to that point in your spiritual growth when he can show it to you. But you will never get there if you do not read the book.

Reading the Bible is not just part of being able to properly interpret it, it is the very keystone of interpretation. Without reading the Bible, you will never really know what is in there.

In our next lesson, we will begin learning about some different methods of Bible exegesis.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Comments welcomed (just be nice)