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A Guide on
How to read the Bible
The Bible appears to many to be a difficult book, but it is easily understood if certain rules are observed and lessons learned.
The purpose behind knowing Bible truth is that the history and the stories can explain how to be saved from any unpleasantness which may arise in your life, for with every problem there is attached a "way out". This may be obvious or hidden, but as a Christian you can learn it. The record is there whether the event has already happened, or is going to happen, because it was selected to "save you" from sorrow. You may learn from the past experiences of others, or from your belief in the warning. This "way out" may not be side by side with the problem but the use of the marginal references will lead you to it under the guidance of the "other" Comforter.
Prophets were people (male and female, Jew and non-Jew) who received warnings and guidance (in visions and dreams sent from God) to pass on to others. The Bible is made up of specially selected books and letters written by some of these people over a period of 1,600 years from about 1500BC to about 100AD. Some of them wrote of their own experiences and some wrote of others lives. Some give us the inspired history of God's people. Not all those who were accepted as prophets have their writings included in the Bible. The only part of it written by God personally is the Ten Commandments, and they were first engraved by Him on tables of stone and then copied into our book. When the authors wanted to use the actual words from God they had heard in their visions, they often used the phrase, "Thus saith the Lord", or more commonly, "The Lord says", because they did not use quotation marks like we do.
The writers of the Bible had to describe their visions in their own languages and everything that is human is imperfect. They were priests and shepherds, doctors and fishermen, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, Jews and non-Jews. The words were written for the men and women of their time by people who were influenced by God but not controlled by Him. One chapter is even written by the king of Babylon, the city which is often used to describe the worst enemies of God! Because each one approached the subject in his own particular way you will find it easier to understand some more than others.
The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds, including your own, with the same thought, but each expresses it in his or her own way, without contradiction, only difference. The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. The sunlight falling on various objects gives those objects different shades of colour depending on their makeup. If one witness notices only one man in a certain situation while another sees two, that does not have to alter the facts.
The Bible is meant to be practical. It has ideas and principles in it which you can use in your everyday life right now, in this world. It is not just a book of the past and the future, but also of the present. We should learn to accept it as it is written. Just ask "why" is it written that way!
In it are many picture forms which are used to show eternal truths. These are called "shadows" because they are NOT the reality, but only a form of it. Earthly shadows change shape depending on the light source and angle, and therefore Bible "shadows" of the same reality can appear to be different at times.
In this book you will also come across word pictures of weird animals, some with horns, and some without. Some with four heads and some with seven. There are metals such as gold and silver used to illustrate other points, and sometimes creatures in human form, but which are "aliens". There is even a story of trees "talking" to one another. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit you will have no difficulty in sorting this out.
One of the problems of Bible interpretation is the tendency to confuse the "picture" with the "reality". For instance, the Old Testament sacrifices were only intended to picture the sacrifice of Jesus, but they became "real" in the minds of many of the offerers. They thought that there was something good about killing and burning an animal when God was only trying to teach a lesson through it! Once the lesson was learned, there should not have been any further need for the "shadow". That is why Christians today do not offer animal sacrifices or have a temple.
The book is divided into two main parts - the OLD and the NEW Testaments or Statements. The NEW Testament does not present a NEW religion. Just a new way of looking at the old. Neither does the OLD Testament show us an OLD religion, only a different way of seeing the present one. The New Testament is simply an advancement and an unfolding of the ancient/ knowledge, which is why we have compared the book of Daniel with the book of The Revelation. They both tell us of the same things in different periods of time.
It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that wrote them, therefore use whatever version suits you best, but be sure to compare it with others. We use the king James version only because it is the most popular even though many of the words used in it are now not easily understood. It is the principles of the book that are required, as well as the words, and it is these which make it universal. That is why we need four writers to cover the life of Jesus. Four witnesses named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They do not present things in the same way, or even see it exactly the same, for all witnesses vary in detail no matter how conscientious.
The Bible was not given for ministers and learned people only.
The poor and uneducated need it as much as the rich and schooled. Every person, young and old alike, should read the Bible for themselves which is why it has been translated into so many languages. You do not have to depend on another to read it for you, nor do you need to know the original language. The Bible is Gods word to YOU. And He has made it so plain that in reading it no one need find it impossible to comprehend or to understand its important statements, unless they want to ignore them.
If you are not good with words God uses graphic language and stories to show you the truth. Just start anywhere in the book where you feel comfortable in your reading, and take the most obvious meaning first. Only when you have a common-sense understanding should you try for a deeper view.
However, Jesus said, "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life". John 5:39. To search means to look carefully for something which is not always clear at first. Therefore, as you read and reread verses you will get deeper understandings of the principles. To help you in this quest, most Bible compilers have placed references to other texts which use the same words, or the same thought, in a "margin" (sometimes in the middle of the page). It is by comparing the verse you are reading with others that the full truth can be revealed to you.
It is that simple!
You do not need an earthly teacher, church, or the writings of another person. The Bible explains itself when you compare one verse with another. To help you in this quest is the work of the Person Jesus called "another Comforter".
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be in you"....
"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you".
Some background and history is helpful, but not necessary. The only tool you may find useful is a book called a "Concordance" which shows you where every word in the Bible may be found, so you can look for yourself. Be careful about using dictionaries and commentaries, because these contain what other men think God means and they are often wrong!
The other thing to watch is that the chapters, verses, and their numbers have all been added years after the books or letters were written just to make it easier for scholars to find their way about. But you should just read until you have one complete story in your mind, ignoring these. When you have a complete story, stop and ask a question or two about what you have just read. Then look for the answers by using the margin references.
Have no preconceived ideas for they will only get in the way.
Let your mind relax and you will find it easy. Sometimes the answer to your question will be in the verses above or below your story.
Soon you will find that thoughts you have had before will come into your mind and you will find verses being connected in your head which may not be mentioned by the margins. After all, those helps were only put in by other men, and you may have your own too, given to you by the Spirit.
The Bible not only tells you what happened, but why.
It does not tell you all the details, but it teaches you the principles of history through selected incidents in history. Once you know those laws or principles, you may also peer into the future and come to understand what is going to happen, because there is nothing new under the sun; everything repeats itself over a period of time. So-called "mysteries" are simply unaccepted truths.
Everything in the Bible is for you to understand,
for it is the revealed word of God.
On to "A Guide to Interpreting the Prophecies of the Bible"
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