Recently my wife and I attended a “Read The Bible For Life” conference our church sponsored. The speaker was Dr. George Guthrie of Union University in Tennessee. The presentation is an outgrowth of his book, Reading The Bible For Life: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God’s Word. The book is conversational in tone as he presents information on the foundations of interpreting the Bible, the Old and New Testaments , and understanding the Bible in modern contexts. The book I say is conversational as it is based on his interviewing of other top Biblical scholars on the various topics.
The Best Seller The Bible
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In the beginning of the conference Dr. Guthrie reminded us that the Bible is a perennial best seller. Every year over 25 million copies of the Bible are sold in the US and about 100 million are sold around the world. Those numbers surpass the best sellers on the New York Times best seller list. I just happened to look at the New York Times list as I was writing this to see what book was number one today. This week the fiction number 1 is CONCEALED IN DEATH, by J. D. Robb and the number 1 non-fiction is THE MONUMENTS MEN, by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. These change from week to week but the Bible keeps selling regularly.
It is amazing to consider the uniqueness of the Bible. It is a compilation of 66 books of which 39 are from the Old Testament and 27 from the New Testament. The authors came from various geographical areas and the writing occurred over a time span of about 1,500 years. Yet from the Christian perspective there is a unity that connects the books together. That unity is the message that there is a personal God who is seeking a loving relationship with humankind that has turned their backs in rejection to God.
Literary Styles in the Bible
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Dr. Guthrie empathized that the Bible has a variety of literary styles within it. That needs to be considered as we are reading it. The Old Testament has the richness of the historical stories of the development of the nation of Israel. There are sections of Laws that relate to helping the nation as a people form and laws that relate to all mankind. The differences need to be considered in understanding the context of the scripture passage being read. There is also the Wisdom literature of the Psalms and Proverbs that need to be read differently from the historical passages.
In the New Testament there are the first four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke , and John that tell of the life of Jesus. Each gospel author is looking at Jesus from a different perspective. Many times people will point out the differences in the gospel stories and suppose those as errors in the Bible. But if you consider it reasonably, you would expect there to be some variation with four writers taking a different perspective on a subject such as the person of Jesus. Then there are other writings in the New Testament. These books are mostly letters to Christians in the early years of the development of Christianity discussing how they should live as followers of Christ.
In the conference presentation we were reminded as we read the Bible take note of the various styles. Understand the literary style as that has an effect on interpretation. We understand that poetry of the Psalms are filled with metaphors and illustrations. Reading that is different from reading the facts of a historical narrative say in the book of Joshua or I Samuel.
Living the Bible for Life
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Going back to the overarching theme of the Bible as God seeking a personal living relationship with us, we were exhorted in the conference that reading the Bible should make a difference in our lives. Consider these words from Psalms 119: 25 – 29 “ I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” I chose this set of verses for those who say the Bible is an old irrelevant book. Who has not been in a situation where they felt like they were knocked down in a dusty desert? Who has never been worn out by the burden of life’s sorrows? The Psalmist is telling us to meditate and listen for God in these low-down times. Listen for God to help strengthen your life. To learn how to preserve our life for the better we need to be living according to His Word. I like the phrase meditate on God’s wonders. Think over the amazing things about creation and your life that you know are Godwinks from Him trying to get your attention. As you ponder these in awestruck wonder you can understand the graciousness of God and then choose to follow His way of Truth.
These thoughts are just a few of many that came from attending the “Read The Bible For Life” conference. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Dr. Guthrie speak, do so as he is very passionate about Bible reading. In the meantime pick up a copy of his book, Read The Bible For Life.
What is your favorite Bible story or Bible character? Get out your Bible and read the story or read the passages about your favorite Bible character. What principles can you apply to your life from what you read?