Why Can’t We Understand the Bible?

Let’s face it.  The Bible is a confusing book.

It may be the Word of God, but that does not make it any easier to understand.

There are so many different commands and stories that make no sense to us. We do not understand why the people behaved the way they behaved, why the cultures are so conflicting and why God commanded certain things.

One would expect that the Word of God, the book that contains all knowable truth about God and His dealings with humanity would be an easy book to understand.

But it is not easy to understand.

Why is it this way?

There are a variety of reasons that make the Bible hard to understand. Let us look at just a few of them.

1. It is an old book.

When was the last time you picked up Shakespeare and understood every single word written? Or even the Declaration of Independence? Or some other old text or document?

The older the text, the harder it is to understand. The language is different, not to mention phrasing and word choice. Not even people from 5 years ago speak or write the same way as people today. The more generations change, the more the language changes. That is just a fact of life.

2. It is written by a different culture.

Cultural barriers always create confusion. There are customs that are different between cultures, and not everyone agrees on the definition of right and wrong. Cultural acceptable behaviors and social norms are not the same, which can cause conflict and discord.

There are so many issues when trying to share information between cultures, and it is even more difficult when sharing information between an ancient culture and our modern culture.

3. The original language is ancient.

Much of the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew, with small portions written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek, though it should be pointed out that it was written in Greek, while the original language of the writers was some form of secular Aramaic, so there was the language barrier between their spoken language and their written language.

With so long between the use of the original language of the Bible and today’s age, translation is tricky and requires deep research. Even then, some words do not translate well into English while others do not translate into English at all, which requires guessing based off surrounding information.

4. We are sinners with corrupt minds.

This is perhaps the most important reason we have such a hard time understanding the Bible. Paul tells the church in Corinth, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are headed to destruction” (1 Corinthians 1:18a).

Elsewhere, Paul states that when the Bible is being read, a veil covers the hearts of those who do not follow Christ (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

What is the Good News in All of This?

A lot of this information can be discouraging, especially the part about translation being difficult, if not downright impossible. How can we be sure that the Bible we read and study today is the same Bible that was written thousands of years ago?

The simplest thing is to have faith. If we believe that God is good and true, we must believe that His word has been the same throughout the years, no exceptions.

We must take on faith that God’s word is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Word of God is inerrant. It does not contradict itself. It is always true and accurate regarding the Lord and matters of faith.


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