Why is the Bible so hard to understand?

I hear it a lot; the Bible is hard to understand, difficult to follow or so complicated.  The Old Testament prophets are difficult to comprehend and the book of Revelation requires a Ph. D. to understand… I just can’t get it!

Would you think me crazy if I told you that the Bible is easy? Perhaps you would…

But if I were to tell you that, I’d be telling the truth!

Let’s start with a premise: The Bible is God’s revelation to Mankind.  I think it’s safe to say that this is a major premise of every Christian background, group, brotherhood and tradition.  So if the Bible is God’s revelation to Mankind, then do we suppose that it requires a lawyer to understand it?  OK, in modern society, if the Bible were the government’s revelation to Mankind, it would require many lawyers and several courts to interpret, but it isn’t from government, it’s from God.  God created us to be in fellowship with Him, why would He make His revelation so complicated that we couldn’t understand it?  (Please pause a minute and think about it)

Now that you’ve given that question a bit of thought, (yeah, right) ask yourself who He gave His revelation to…?

Well first of all, He didn’t give it to government agencies and politicians who them muddied it up so that it was too complicated to follow.  Instead He gave it to some very unlikely people to record.  Fishermen, carpenters, regular folks for the most part… It is clear and simple and very consistent.  It has themes that we can follow all the way through from Genesis to Revelation.  It doesn’t contradict itself, it has insights that are truly amazing, and yet anyone can understand it, so why do we have problems with it?

Here are a few ideas:

1. We don’t understand Covenant and how the covenants of the Bible affect what is going on.Arlington 9413 056

2. We let our traditions interfere with our understanding by buying into the old notion that only certain experts can interpret it.

3. We buy into the notion that you can take any passage of Scripture and have it mean whatever you want… so why even bother?

4. We start our study with the wrong presuppositions, which is to say that we think we know what is true and we go looking for texts to prove it, instead of following the texts where they take us.  This is particularly true with prophecy.

5. We expect it to be too difficult, so we try to take short cuts and just read what others say.

These are just a few possibilities that come to mind as I write this; there are many more.  What made the Bible become simple for me was first, the realization that all 66 books are telling the same basic story which is the story of redemption.  The story of redemption is set in the overall context of God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place: Fellowhip. Second, was that the story of redemption is set within the context of covenant.  Biblical covenant are the means by which God established His relationship with Man after the Fall.  Bear in mind that after the Fall, we were at war with God, a war of rebellion in which Mankind is fighting to take God’s place as the ruler of our lives.  God has established a series of covenants, or maybe we should say “treaties” to re-establish relationship of one sort or another, because His ultimate goal was a return to Fellowship.  The final treaty is the New Covenant which is the one that restores fellowship almost as it was in the Garden of Eden. To restore fellowship, God had to restore purpose to our lives; His purpose, not ours.  He has done so.

Do you realize that I just condensed the major themes of the entire Bible into a paragraph? The Bible isn’t all that difficult!  Of course there is more; this isn’t even an Executive Summary, and yet if you grasp that paragraph, you’ll be ahead of many scholars in overall understanding.  If you are sharp, you might even notice that I haven’t said anything in this paragraph that goes against the teaching of any major Christian doctrinal tradition.  The division comes when we try to prove our pet preferences and then impose them on everyone else, which is another way of saying when we try to be the ruler of our lives, which of course is to resume our rebellion against God.

Go figure…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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14 Responses to Why is the Bible so hard to understand?

  1. Wm Haney says:

    Kind of the first story of good vs. evil if you think of it. I beleive in a men’s study once we chatted about how Shakespeare pretty much used the good book for some of his stories. I thought we did at least. It will be at risk that I say that even stories today are pretty much based on the good vs. evil originally in the Bible. Definately the holy ghost has been twisted at time to the dark side. Science fiction, as you know one of my favorite genres, really seems too afraid to touch it though.

  2. Mike says:

    “Why is the Bible so hard to understand!” That sounds vaguely familiar. Fortunately, my Christian family has provided great insight on the larger picture. I’m no longer concerned that I do not yet have the genealogy memorized and therefore, no longer am focused on my inadequacy as a Christian.

    Great post. Thanks Don.

  3. Judy says:

    Well said and very interesting. What do you think about these additional thoughts?–we need the revelation of Jesus to understand the Old Testament, and we need the Holy Spirit to help us understand spiritual truths because the carnal mind can’t grasp them. Or maybe these ideas are already summarized in your points. I love your point about division being caused by our trying to be rulers in our own lives.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you, Judy. I agree entirely with your points. It has always struck me as interesting that some of the greatest Bible scholars are atheist or agnostics. It’s one thing to learn the Bible like we may learn, say law, and quite another thing to “get it.” We need the Holy Spirit for that!

  4. Pingback: Why is the Bible so hard to understand? | A disciple's study

  5. Pingback: Understanding Biblical Truth | kdmanestreet

  6. Very well written, Don. I totally agree that we generally look for verses to ‘prove’ what we think we already know, instead of reading with an open mind. We need to spend more time reading God’s word than debate doctrinal differences and we need to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s word to us.

  7. The biggest problem of understanding the Scriptures is noted in point 2: “We let our traditions interfere with our understanding by buying into the old notion that only certain experts can interpret it.” Most people also want to hold fast on those human teachings and doctrines brought in by many church ‘theologians’.

    People are too much afraid to let the words black on white speak for themselves and take them as they were meant at the time of writing. An other problem is also that certain people do not understand or do not want to take the untranslated words as substantives in their original language meaning and want to personalise so many things, which are conditions and not as such persons or elements.

    the best way to come to the Truth is to put all previous known doctrinal teaching aside and to read the Bible, Old and New Testament from the first until the last letter like it is written down and to take the words like they stand there in the Holy Scriptures, so reading ‘son of god’ when there stands ‘son of God’ and not thinking ‘god the son’. And when there is written God to think of God who is also called the Elohim Hashem Jehovah, and not think Christ Jesus, who is the son of God and not ‘god the son’.

  8. Pingback: Miracles of revelation and of providence | Broeders in Christus

  9. Pingback: Miracles of revelation and of providence 1 Golden Thread and Revelation | Broeders in Christus

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