You might be embarrassed to admit it, but honestly, it’s hard to understand the Bible. If you hear someone saying otherwise, just ask them about the last Bible passage they read. You will be lucky if you get anything besides an excuse.
It’s hard to admit to your friends and family that you don’t read your Bible. You don’t want them to know that you find reading the Bible boring and unnecessarily complicated. The phrases seem dated, the metaphors incomprehensible, and the history irrelevant.
It’s hard to confess to your home group that you don’t understand the Bible. After all, the Bible is God’s word and in it there’s eternal life. But how does it fit in today? New Testament books were written more than 2000 years ago and some of the Old Testament about about 3,500 years ago. Can text that old relate to a person in the 21st Century?
In this article, I would like to show you that the fact that the Bible is hard to understand is a demonstration of God’s ultimate love for us.
The One Reason Why People Don’t Read The Bible
I asked several people in the US and in Zimbabwe directly or indirectly about their Bible reading habits. Besides my wife and a close friend, everyone I else said they read the Bible regularly. It’s either I only know faithful stewards of God’s word or a bunch of lies.
Do you know why you don’t want anyone to know about your struggles with understanding the Bible?
It’s because reading and understanding the Bible has been incorrectly reduced to a mere yardstick for authentic spirituality. Those who don’t read the Bible are bashed, scorned and despised. Rather than get taught, encouraged and guided on how to read and understand the Bible.
As a result, you choose to suffer in silence. After all, no one is interested in helping you. Those who do, only want you to join their theological tent. But you only want to know Christ and learn how to navigate the complexity of life in the 21st Century through the simplicity of faith in God.
The truth is you love God with all your heart, mind and body. The only reason you don’t read the Bible is that you don’t understand it. Those who claim they are too busy to study the Bible will find time if they understood it.
It’s hard to read and understand the Bible so you ignore it and watch out accumulate dust like a forgotten tomb. Why would you spend time reading a book you don’t understand? As a result, the Bible is like any other classic, very popular, widely quoted but rarely studied and often misunderstood.
6 Top Reasons Why It’s Difficult To Understand The Bible
In Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy B. Zuck identified six gaps between the Bible passage you’re reading and you that create problems in understanding the meaning of a Bible passage. Therefore, if you want to properly grasp the original intent of the human and divine author, you have to bridge these gaps.
So, what are these gaps you need to bridge?
1. A Time Gap
It would have been cool if you could ask Paul what he meant in Romans 1. There will be no arguments about whether a Christian can be gay or not. The truth is, Paul is gone, Matthew is gone and Moses is gone. But the books of the Bible don’t just have human authors. They also have a divine author, God who promised he will never leave you nor forsake you.
2. A Space Gap
Have you ever heard people say that the sea that the Israelites crossed with Moses was shallow? Or that Jesus was walking on the banks of the lake and the disciples thought he was walking on water? It’s easy for you to entertain these objections because you don’t know the geographical setting of most events in the Bible. Thank God, archeologists are dispelling these myths and confirming biblical accounts.
3. A Customs Gap
You don’t say thank you after eating in my wife’s culture. If you do, it’s a diplomatic way of saying, “I’m not yet full and I need more.” But in my culture, if you don’t say thank you it means you’re not yet hungry. How do you feel when you read that Ruth got into the blanket with Boaz before they were married? Culture matters in understanding the Bible.
4. A Language Gap
The Bible was written in ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic that no one speaks today. Yet, language is dynamic, and like culture it varies with time and geography. For example, the Shona I speak is different from the one people from other parts of Zimbabwe speak. And it’s also different to the one my grandmother spoke when she was a teenager. Less than 13 million people speak ChiShona and everyone else can only understand through a faithful interpretation.
5. A Writing Gap
In Zimbabwe, we often use riddles, proverbs, idioms, metaphors, history and parables when teaching or engaged in a serious conversation. Poetry is the language of devotion, which is often invoked to show gratitude and awe. Genealogies are recited to demonstrate respect. Fortunately, this is the common language of the Bible. This is not so for our Western brothers and sisters, they have to bridge this literary gap.
6. A Spiritual Gap
When I was in high school, I loved only two things chess and math. So, I read biographies of famous grandmasters and mathematicians. I believed if I know who they were and why they did what they did, I could become like them. The result was I became very good in both. The Bible is about God yet God is infinite, eternal, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. All these characteristics are difficult to comprehend with our finite minds.
Why Did God Make It Hard To Understand the Bible?
If the Bible is all that it says it is, if the Bible is definitely God’s word that reveals Jesus Christ to us, and if God really wants us to be fruitful and effective in the knowledge of Jesus Christ then why did he make it difficult to understand the Bible?
1. So that you can know you need other believers, past or present
The Bible is hard to understand so that you need for others can become more obvious. When the eunuch failed to understand Isaiah 53, Philip helped him. Philip had learned how to interpret the Bible from the apostles. They’re many believers who can help you but first you need to be humble like the eunuch and admit your need for help.
2. So that your inadequacy can become obvious
Sometimes we overrate our expertise. Your hermeneutical and critical thinking skills are not sufficient if you want to understand the Bible. You need Jesus Christ to help you understand the word. Therefore, do not despair when you fail to understand what a Bible passage mean. It’s a moment to be thankful because your need for the Holy Spirit has become obvious.
3. So that you can dwell in it
The six gaps Zuck mentioned can only be bridged by a serious reading of the Bible. When you’re honest enough to admit that it’s hard to understand the Bible, you will seek for ways to understand the time, geography, culture, etc surrounding a Bible passage you’re reading. This might entail reading the books of the Bible as a whole and not as inspirational or instructional nuggets.
I don’t know if God made the Bible hard to understand. But all I know is if you change your reading habits, you’re honest to admit your failings and allow others and the Holy Spirit to help you, you will understand the Bible better.
Importantly, the goal of understanding the Bible isn’t that you may win theological arguments rather it’s for you to know Jesus Christ. Therefore, you need to remember what Christ said (John 5:34), “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”
You don’t bridge the Zuck’s six gaps so that you can have eternal life or become better theologically than everyone else. It’s only for you to have a 3D witness of Jesus Christ.
In the comments section, can you please share how reading difficult passages helped you to know Christ better.