In my church we are often reminded that we need to be careful about overlaying our perspective onto our understanding of the Bible as we read and study it. We are also reminded that sometimes we don’t even know that we’re doing it.
The other day a friend and I were talking about how our respective fathers have helped shape our view of God. God has said He is God the Father and has revealed Himself to be fatherly (even Jesus talked about Him as not just His Father but our Father as Christians), but for some people that can be uncomfortable because their fathers were bad. Others didn’t have bad fathers, but among good fathers their experiences were still different. My dad’s relationship with me felt balanced with love and discipline, and has helped me see a lot of that in God. My friend’s father was a little more on the disciplinary side, and though still loving, their relationship growing up has caused him to notice the aspects of God that focus a little more on righteousness and justice. These are not bad ways to view God, but it did point out to me just how much personal experiences can affect the way you see everything and everyone, including God and His Word, without even noticing that your view is affected.
Sometimes we American Christians have a hard time with not overlaying our views on the Bible. We have a Western mindset, and the Bible is written with an Eastern mindset. We live in a much different time period and culture, so sometimes things get lost not so much in the linguistic translation, but across the cultural differences. To understand the Bible doesn’t require you to become a scholar of Hebrew and Greek languages and the cultures of Biblical time periods, but at least dipping your toes into those things will certainly help. At the very least, realizing that things might not always mean what you think they mean will help. Sometimes you need to look at other times in the Bible that certain things were mentioned to better or fully understand what’s going on.
For a physical example, I’ll use astigmatism. I have that in both eyes. Almost all light has an odd glare that other people don’t see because of the way my eyeballs incorrectly focus light. I’m not supposed to see that way, but it’s normal for me. If I didn’t know other people didn’t see this way or that there was something wrong with my eyes, I would assume that my eyesight was correct and that everyone saw the world this way.
For another physical example, I’ll use glasses. When I was younger it was discovered that I needed glasses to see properly. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see, I should just be seeing better. At this point I had known and seen that trees have individual leaves, but when I had on glasses I could see them much more clearly. Knowing something is so and then actually seeing it clearly can be very different as you realize for yourself how things are supposed to be.
Take a look at familiar passages of the Bible and think about them differently. Look at parallel passages and ones that reference each other. Maybe even study the words in the original language and/or the historical context of the time. You might find you were correct, you might find you were wrong, you might find something more than you already knew was there. Just be sure you are seeing things as they are and not as how you think they are.
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Biblical Languages and Bible Study
Growing in Bible Study