As an Anglican priest and seminary professor I regularly get questions about the Bible thrown at me. Some are weird conspiracy theories like, “Didn’t Constantine invent the Bible?” Other times it is misunderstandings about the Bible from non-churched people, “Didn’t the Dead Sea Scrolls disprove all that Bible stuff?” But even among Bible-believing Christians there are some repeated concerns or misconceptions about the biblical canon, terms like “inspiration,” what do we do with weird parts of the Old Testament, and general queries about how to get the most out of their Bible study.
So, I have written a book on seven things about the Bible that I wish all Christians knew to help Christians answer their critics, be more confident about the truthfulness of the Bible, and be better interpreters of the Bible.
- The Bible Did Not Fall out of the Sky, Bound in Leather, Written in Ye Auld English.
Christians should know the basics of the canonisation of the Old and New Testament as well as where their English Bibles came from. The Church did not “invent” the Bible, but the Church was called by God to put the Word of God into its canonical form for building up of all Christians.
- The Bible Is Divinely Given and Humanly Composed
The Bible is given from God through human authors. It is not a magic book, but neither it is a record of human musings about the divine. God “inspires” human authors, through their own personality, experiences, and literary style to produce a text that conveys the divine purpose in human language. If the Bible is divinely inspired, then, by implication, it is also “infallible.” A disputed term which I take to mean that God’s Word is true in what it affirms.
- Scripture Is Normative, Not Negotiable
Forget the “Battle for the Bible,” whether one believes in hard or soft inerrancy. For the mainline church, as much as for the secular culture, the bigger question is whether the Bible can in any sense be authoritative for anything. Some consider the Bible to nothing more than a white supremacist patriarchal and heteronormative text that can only be redeemed by surgically separating its progressive-sounding bits. Yet Christian faith in history and around the world maintains that God’s word is authoritative and normative … even if the practice of biblical authority must be worked out with theological reflection and ethical sensitivity.
- The Bible Is for Our Time, but Not about Our Time
While the Bible is indeed written “for us,” it was not written “to us.” We need to recover the back-then-ness of the Bible in order to get the most of it. We might even need to defamiliarize ourselves with the Bible in order to avoid projecting ourselves into it. Historical context is necessary to understand everything from the Passover to the Pharisees to Patmos. Now certain people might complain that this will result in a priesthood of scholars as arbiters of biblical truth, since they alone are competent in ancient languages and archaeology. But the alternative a naïve a-historical reading of a historically situated story.
- We Should Take the Bible Seriously, but Not Always Literally
Everyone wants to responsibly handle the Word of God. But there is no single way that is always right. Whether that is literal, literary, or figurative, all have their place. The real task of interpretation is to take the Bible seriously, to handle it responsibly, and apply it diligently. A few basics tips include what I call to C4, paying attention to context, content, concern, and contemporary application.
- The Purpose of Scripture Is Knowledge, Faith, Love, and Hope.
If we were to ask about the purpose of the Bible or how it should function in the Christian life, I’d proffer several things. The Bible should increase our knowledge of God, enrich our faith, drive us towards love of God and love of neighbour, and give us endurance so that we might not lose hope.
- Christ Is Centre of the Christian Bible.
A Christian reading of the Old and New Testament must invariably have Christ at its centre. Jesus saw Scripture pointing to himself and the apostles unapologetically preached Jesus from the Old Testament. Of course, a christocentric reading of the Old Testament does not mean one can avoid ethical and ecclesial readings, however, Christ is the glue between both testaments.
How This Book Could Help You!
I think pastors and churches could fine this book useful in many ways. One could, over seen weeks, do one of the following:
- A group Bible study about each particular “thing” using the book and its study guide.
- A sermon series that covers the topics addressed in the book.
- A series of studies about the Bible for elders/deacons or leadership training.
- An adult Sunday School series about the things with emphasis on Q&A about the Bible.
FREE DOWNLOADS for Michael F. Bird’s Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew About the Bible. Simply right click and choose to download these free pdfs.
How to Read Bible Historically
Seven Things Study & Discussion Guide