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General Conference

Why the Bible is not a book to be merely read, but rather to be studied and internalized

The benefit of studying the Bible goes far beyond a superficial reading, but involves a deep relationship with the text.

Brazil | Maiara Costa

If I were to ask how many readers of this article have one or more copies of the Bible in their house, I believe that the vast majority would manifest themselves in a positive way. If I also asked how many here have already read the Bible from cover to cover, I think the answer would be equally positive. However, the question I do not want to silence is: How much of the daily and annual Bible reading that Christians do is really being well understood, explained, and applied in life? How much of that reading is actually bringing transformation of thoughts, feelings, and will?
The Bible is not a book to be merely read, but a book to be studied, explained, and applied. In addition, although we popularly consider it a unique book, it is really a small collection of books, each with its own literary genres and subgenres, peculiarities, and writing styles. It is as the Christian writer, the messenger of Lord Ellen White, says:

“The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's form of thought and expression. It is the form of humanity. God is not represented as a writer. Men often say that a certain expression does not seem like God. But God has not tested himself in the Bible by words, by logic, by rhetoric. The writers of the Bible were God's scribes, not his pen. Consider the different writers.

It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but men who were inspired. Inspiration does not work on man's words or expressions, but on the man himself, who is imbued with thoughts under the influence of the Holy Spirit. But the words are impressed by the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will combine with the human mind and will. In this way, the statements of man are the word of God ”. [1]

Importance of studying the Bible

The Bible is the written Word of God and, due to its transcendence, this word reaches all peoples, from all eras. However, we cannot forget that each book of the Bible has a primary audience; an era and a context that needs to be properly understood, before being applied in our context and reality.

Is there still a need for a deeper study of the Bible today? How can we have a deeper and unbiased reading of the Word? What is the blessing found in a deep study of God's Word?

A deeper look at the Word of God. There is a psalm that says: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul; Jehovah's testimony is faithful, making wise the simple ”(Psalm 19: 7).

Learning

How many people have we heard of that have learned to read using the Bible? The Bible was written in such a simple manner that even children can understand it. For example, the very structure of the psalms includes a form of parallelism - similarity and contrast - used to facilitate a better understanding.

Without a shadow of a doubt, what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 19:7, mentioned above, is correct - the revelation that we find in the Word of God will give us wisdom. However, there is a very important clause that should not be ignored - that is, the willingness to learn. Based on that psalm, we can draw some important lessons for our lives.

The instruction (law, Torah) is complete. It is entirely in accordance with the truth. In that instruction, we find strength and courage. The disclosure it contains is 100% reliable. She gives wisdom to those who are willing to learn.

I do not know if you noticed, but the wisdom that comes from the revelation contained in the Lord's instruction (even for the simplest), is given through what has been learned and there is no learning without teaching.

If someone were to ask you: What is the difference between reading and studying? What would your answer be? Would the two things be perfect synonyms? According to the dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish language, reading is: “Passing your eyes on what is written or printed, understanding the meaning of the characters used. Understanding the meaning of any type of graphic representation ”. [2]

Studying is, "Exercising the understanding to reach or understand something". [2]

Although reading may be involved in a study, when we intend to study something and not simply read it, our learning may be greater. Why should the Bible be studied and not merely read?

Reader disposition

We have aspects such as the age of the text, the idiomatic expressions, the language barrier, and different cultures. There is a theological expression that says: "A text out of context serves as a pretext." If we do not want to make that mistake, we must learn to study the Bible, and analyze the texts within their proper contexts, time, and language if we want to interpret them correctly. The more we seek to study the Word, the more wisdom we gain from the instructions and revelations left by God.

Our relationship with the study of the Bible should always be this:

"What is the truth? Do not interpret the Scriptures in light of your ancient beliefs and do not insist that doctrines of finite human beings be the truth. Let your inquiry be: What does the Scripture say? It is Satan's deliberate plan to pervert the Scriptures and lead human beings to make a false sense of God's words. ”[3] (TL)

“There is no excuse for anyone to take the position that there are no more truths to be revealed and that all of our expositions of Scripture are without errors. That certain doctrines have been held true for many years is not proof that our ideas are infallible. The passage of time will not turn the error into truth, and the truth has the capacity to be impartial. No true doctrine will lose anything by careful investigation. ”[4]

Hermeneutics

There are two words that are apparently difficult, but extremely necessary in the deep study of the Bible. Words that are well known in the theological world and that can and should also be part of the daily life of the sincere student of the Bible. Hermeneutics and exegesis.

Hermeneutics is a word that comes from the Greek term, hermeneuo, which means to explain, interpret, translate. It is understood that doing hermeneutics is knowing how to correctly interpret a text.

Does the Bible support such a study? Yes, indeed. In 2 Timothy 2:15 it says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

To understand the Word in the sense proposed by the text, the advice Paul is giving is that the Word of truth must be taught correctly in order to be a God-approved worker and therefore not be embarrassed in teaching the Word of God. Only those who study and put into practice what they learn are free of risk. Every faithful student of the Bible should seek to understand it correctly.

Exegesis

But how can we make a good interpretation of the biblical text and not be biased? What are the tools that we can use to avoid running the risk of misusing the word of truth? Here comes our second little word for today, exegesis. While hermeneutics is interpreting, exegesis would be the way interpretation can be done.

Exegesis, therefore, is nothing more and nothing less than carefully and systematically studying Scripture to discover the original meaning intended by a certain passage. It is an attempt to hear the Word according to how the original recipients must have heard it; to discover the original intent of the author's words.

For that, a few things can be done:

Ask the text questions, such as: who wrote it, from where, when, for whom, and why? Let the Bible itself be your interpreter. Read the text calmly and carefully, paying attention to details and repetitions that appear. If there are any, read texts that are parallel. The gospels, for example, are full of such texts.

Another indication is to use different versions of the Bible and biblical commentaries. Remember that research is also one of the ways the Holy Spirit teaches us about the revelation in God's Word. Luke writing the gospel that bears his name left this well-recorded (Luke 1: 1-4).

The blessing that accompanies the study of God's Word

Unlike other areas and disciplines of study, learning and training in the study of the Bible should not exist just to gather information. On the contrary, the aim of the study of the Bible is to produce a transformation in life. The main objective of Holy Scripture is to provide us with the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:39, 46), a knowledge that gives us wisdom for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). It teaches us what it means to have a truly righteous life (2 Timothy 3:16).

As I once read on the back cover of a Bible, the Word is God's scalpel for the heart transplant that we all need to receive. Through His Word, God has the power to change our lives completely. No other book will arouse such pure, lofty, ennobling thoughts; from no other book can such a profound religious experience be gained.

The Bible can be compared to a leaf on the tree of life, because by feeding on it, that is, by internalizing its teachings in our minds, we receive strength to do God's will.

I make my own the words of Ellen G. White:

“There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Holy Scriptures. No other book is so potent to lift the thoughts, to invigorate the faculties, as the great and ennobling truths of the Bible. If the Word of God were studied properly, men would have the greatness of spirit, a nobility of character, and a steadfastness of purpose that is rarely seen in these times.

“There is only a very small benefit to be gained from a hasty reading of the Holy Scriptures. One can read the entire Bible and remain, however, without seeing its beauty or understanding its deep and hidden meaning. A passage studied until its meaning is clear to us and its relationships with the plan of salvation become evident, is of much more value than reading many chapters without a specific purpose and without obtaining positive instruction ”. [5]

Remember that the Bible is food and nourishing food should not be eaten in a hurry. Study God's Word and your life will be powerfully and radically transformed. 

Maiara Costa, es redactora y productora de la TV Nuevo Tiempo y estudiante de teología.

Referencias

[1] Elena de White. Mensajes selectos, t. 1, p.24.

[2] https://dle.rae.es/leer

[2] https://dle.rae.es/estudiar

[3] Elena de White. Perto do Céu [cerca del cielo], CPB. MM 2013, p. 19.

[4] Elena de White. El otro poder, MM, p. 35.

[5] Elena de White. El camino a Cristo, p. 90.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

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