I found this pretty neat chart that shows you how long it takes (on average) to read through an entire book of the Bible. (From 3 Tips For Better Bible Reading) And here’s the response that Andy Naselli gives to a common objection against reading through an entire book:
I understand the objection: “There’s no way I could possibly find time to do this.” But aren’t there other activities you do in life for prolonged periods of time? Do you read other books for a few hours at a time? Do you ever spend an hour watching a TV show or two hours watching a movie or three hours watching a football game? Why not prioritize lengthy, undistracted time in the life-giving word?
It’s difficult to argue against that.
Why not try to read through an entire book in one sitting? Remember that chapter and verse numbers are relatively new additions to our Bibles. Reading whole books is the way the Bible was meant to be read. Consider the New Testament: The longest books take approximately 2.5 hours (Matthew and Luke) and most can be read in under 20 minutes!
The word “hermeneutics” is derived from the Greek word that means “to interpret.” It the science and art of interpretation, with its own set of rules and principles. You may not realize it but you use hermeneutics every day. When you read your favorite biography or the latest novel, or even when you browse through the latest headlines, your mind is busy interpreting what you read. It is so common that you may not even be aware that you are “interpreting” as you read a book, see a documentary, or communicate with your friends. You are unconsciously making decisions, formulating ideas, developing perspectives, all based on how you interpret the input that presses itself on your mind and senses. But in this case, you almost do it by “instinct”, guided by preconceived ideas about how to interpret particular external and internal messages from different media.
Many of us do the same thing when we come to the text of Scripture. The problem with that is that we end importing our own ideas and modern cultural perspectives when we interpret the Bible. We unconsciously put on “modern” glasses when we look at the Bible, not aware of the fact that the Bible was written during time and culture much different than our own. The result is that we become our own antagonist and do not end with an interpretation that is faithful to what the author intended to communicate in the first place. Instead, the outcome is an interpretation that has been filtered by own prejudices and modern culture. And that is the main issue that hermeneutics seeks to address.
The critics would argue that it is impossible to gain any type of hermeneutical certainty because the definite meaning in the mind of the author has been lost to us since the author is no longer here to explain themselves. The best we can expect is a type of “community interpretation” where the text is understood to mean what a particular tradition teaches us it means. This is one of the reasons there are so many different denominations today. I would contend that it is the over-emphasis and/or under-emphasis of particular verses of Scripture, church traditions, and doctrines that fuel the plethora of denominations and faith traditions.
The goal of biblical hermeneutics is to “discover the intention of the Author/author (author = inspired human author; Author = God who inspires the text).” (1 – pg. 24) In other words, by following consistent hermeneutical principles we can come to understand what the author was intending to say to the audience which they were addressing. We allow the author to speak for themselves. It sounds pretty simple, right? Well, yes and no. The principles themselves are not necessarily complex. The problem comes in when we try to apply the principles of hermeneutics consistently That is what we must strive for: consistent application. Secondarily, there is the issue of cultural distance. We are centuries removed from the time of the writings and the languages of Hebrew and Greek. The Bible does not automatically cross into our culture in its application to our lives without at least a rudimentary understanding of the “where, when, and who.”
Every true believer in Christ recognizes the hermeneutical task as sacred. Why? Because it is the very words of the living God that we are trying to understand. It is the duty of every believer to strive to interpret, apply, and teach the Bible in such a way that it does justice to what God intended to communicate, and not what we want to the text to say to us. The goal is to understand “the ultimate treasure of divine truth!” (2) Biblical hermeneutics provides us with the tools that we need so that we can mine this divine truth.
(1) Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010, pg. 24
(2) Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, pg. 21
I was on a social media site recently and ran across this very honest confession.
Over the past few years Ive read more theology books than most, Ive read my Bible and commentaries, Ive sought after strong churches and attended intense discipleship classes. Ive wanted to listen to the most controversial theological issues and how to argue for my position. On appearance to some, I have sound theology. The 5 solas, reformed, covenantal, well behaved.
However, I have no interest in sharing the gospel. I don’t like people. I have no joy. Its all intellectual. When i repent, i wonder if I’m self deceived. I’m going through the motions. I fear i have an empty intellectual faith. My prayer life is lacking to put it mildly. I’m angry all the time. I am envious and resentful of those with faith and joy. After all these years, I have changed the context but feel I’m further from God than before. I have wondered many times that I’m reprobate. The reason why I can’t care is my heart is still stone and it may be. I want a zeal for the lost but i have none. I believe its because I haven’t truly experienced God after all these years in books.
I’m writing and asking for prayer because I’m sick of being fake and i don’t know how to be real.
I understand this person’s plight. I was once such a person. All head, no heart. All the theological acumen in the world can’t save you. You can be the greatest biblical scholar in the world and still be utterly lost.
I’m not bashing the importance of studying theology. I think it is vital for the stability, growth, and protection of the church and individuals. We are called to love the Lord with our minds. Yes, that means using our intellect for the glory of God. (Luke 10:27) There are wonderful men and woman throughout the history of the church and living today that have served the Lord in amazing ways in the academy. I’m thinking of people like D. A. Carson, Tom Schreiner, Sinclair Ferguson and others like them that love the Lord, teach the Word responsibly, and would never compromise the Gospel. Their preaching and teaching flow from hearts that savor the glory and beauty of Christ. They just love Jesus.
What I am saying is that the relationship we have with the living Lord Jesus is vital, pulsating, vivid, heart-moving, life-changing, joy-giving, peace-experiencing, and absolutely glorious. Theology can feed this relationship, but theology without that living, experiential relationship with the Christ of glory will bring you down to the pits of hell. It’s not knowing about God that matters. The question is this: ARE YOU KNOWN BY HIM?
It is no longer possible to assume that when readers are trying to figure out the “meaning” of a text, the “meaning” they are looking for is what the author intended to communicate. With Postmodernism’s ubiquitous assumption that anything you read can be understood to “mean” any number of things, it has become increasingly difficult convince people, even people in the church, that the text of Scripture has a true, knowable, and sure meaning that is universal and unalterable.
The following set of videos by John Piper seek to explain what “meaning” means (I know. A ridiculous play on words), how to get to the meaning, and why its important for the Christian to know this when they are reading their Bibles.
What Does “Meaning” Mean? Part 1
What Does “Meaning” Mean? Part 2
What Does “Meaning” Mean? Part 3
What Does “Meaning” Mean? Part 4
(Picture: Jacques Derrida, Father of Deconstructionism)
While reading Matthew Barrett’s God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, I came across this description of the Postmodern worldview. This is why I believe that it is indispensable that believers who hold to the doctrine of the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of the Bible strive to understand and are able to articulate the aforementioned doctrine to a pluralistic world in need of the truth. Will we be maligned, marginalized, accused of bigotry, and cast of as intolerant? More than likely. But who ever said that followers of Christ were going to elevated, respected, or accepted in this world? (1 Peter 4:12-19)
To claim to know the truth, or to possess the only truth, is the deadliest, most arrogant sin in the postmodern universe. In regard to religion, such epistemological relativism leads to religious pluralism in which every religious text is equally as true as any other, regardless of how incompatible they may be with one another. Such pluralism lends itself to a relativistic pragmatism. As the popular expressions go, “what is right for us might not be right for you,” and “What is wrong in our context might in your context be acceptable or even preferable.” (pg. 132)