Reading the Bible for all it’s Worth: Part II of III
Ten things to
remember By John H. Neufeld
This series of articles, begun last issue, explores the question posed by Philip when he
met the Ethiopian eunuch travelling home from Jerusalem:—Do you understand what
you are reading?” (Acts 8:31)—in the context of the Bible as a whole. In this second
article the author suggests 10 tips to keep in mind when reading the Bible. Paying
attention to these guidelines will help us read the Bible carefully and intelligently.
irst, the Bible contains various types of literature,
and the kind of literature we are considering has a
bearing on our understanding of the text.
It is necessary to distinguish between poetry (“the
trees clapped their hands”); metaphors (“the kingdom of
God is like . . ”); an epistle (“Now about the collection for
God’s people”); a narrative (“There once was a man who
had two sons . . ”); a genealogy (Matthew 1); a passage
with laws (Exodus 20); or apocalyptic literature (the
Book of Revelation).
It is important that we notice what kind of literature
we are reading, and take the form of the text seriously.
Taking a passage seriously does not necessarily mean
that we take it literally, especially not poetry, metaphors,
parables and apocalyptic imagery. It is well to note not
only what the text is saying, but also how it is saying
what it is saying.
taking a passage seriously Second, every reader contributes to the reading of
does not necessarily mean a text, either consciously or unconsciously.
that we take it literally, Take Psalm 121 as an example. Here we read the
words: “Where does my help come from? My help comes
especially not poetry, ”
from the Lord. For most of my life, these words were a
metaphors, parables and source of comfort, strength and hope, but that changed
when I was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, about
apocalyptic imagery. 10 years ago. Dealing with cancer and the effects of drugs
coursing through my veins, I asked, “How does God’s
help come?” I found nothing in this beautiful psalm to
answer that question. This Psalm says that help will come