How To Read The Bible?

Years ago I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.  Ironically, this book is written about something as simple as a skill we learn in elementary school yet is challenging enough to be taught on a collegiate level.  Even more ironic is the fact that in reading this book, I was relearning how to read by reading books.  Now do not get me wrong.  I am literate.  I recognize words, put them together into logical sentences, and know what is being said by a particular piece of writing.  I can look at a page of text and come away with comprehension.

Although I can logically understand a text, I have found out that I read entirely incorrectly.  I do not read for optimal performance, speed, or comprehension.  It is so frustrating to find out that all these years I have been doing something incorrectly that I believed so fundamental and elementary.  According to these books, I am in good company because the majority of people do not read correctly because they have never been taught to do so.  In elementary school, we are taught to recognize words and coordinate those symbols that make letters and words to real events.  We recognize that the word “cat” represents a furry four-legged animal that meows.

We are not taught how to read a book for the best understanding.  Understanding a word does not always bring someone to understand what is says.  For instance, the words “crushing blow” will give different people different concepts when they read it depending on the context.  A “crushing blow” in a news story might be referring to the method of murder in the crime report, whereas in a sports story it might refer to a finishing punch by a boxer or a home run hit in baseball.  In an advice column, a “crushing blow” might refer to a tragic life experience.  My point is that just because we can recognize words does not mean that we always walk away with the best understanding of those words.

I believe many of us find ourselves in this predicament when we approach the Book called the Bible.  We have read bits and pieces of this great book, but have we really understood it?  We learn about the stories of Noah and the Flood, King David, and Jesus’ crucifixion, but do we understanding the significance of these stories?  We learn about loving God, our neighbors, and even our enemies, but do we comprehend the underlying importance and weight these commandments carry in our lives?  We learn about salvation, and depending on the denomination of which you are a part you have learned different things about salvation, but do we truly understand the Bible’s teachings regarding such elementary teaching of Scripture?

I dare to say that a more important lesson than How to Read a Book is how to read THE BOOK.  We must look at the Bible in context.  We must understand what the Bible teaches, not what we want it to teach.  We must learn to distinguish between what we’ve always believed and what we should believe.  We must seek to understand the Bible, not just read it and take what we want out of it.  As Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  For these benefits from God, we must truly read for understanding.  God opens our eyes only if we first open His Word.