The difference between reading the Bible and studying the Bible is like wearing a new set of clothes, and the designing, creating and wearing a new set of clothes.

Reading the Bible through in a Year is a commendable undertaking. Such an effort will result in true value for the reader. Even so, it does not compare to actual studying the scriptures. There is a world of difference between the two tasks. Regular reading of the word will result in increased biblical knowledge and discovering new information and/or spiritual insight. I highly recommend the practice.

Yet, to study the Bible brings not only additional knowledge, a storehouse of information and spiritual insights, it brings a deeper understanding of who and what God is plus additional spiritual insights. There is also the prospect of gaining a deeper degree of spiritual wisdom. However, studying requires an extended time, effort, energy and commitment; perhaps even some investment in additional reference materials. It also requires the student of the word to engage in continuous self-reflection, and a serious consideration of the following:

  1. Our personal mental, spiritual, and emotional filters through which the scriptures are read and interpreted.
  2. Who was writing (teaching) the scripture you are studying?
  3. Why did the author write his message?
  4. What did the author intend to achieve by his message, and what were the results of the author’s efforts, if recorded?
  5. What did this author say elsewhere concerning the same subject, if he did?
  6. What did other authors say about this same subject, if any did?
  7. What was is the context of the passage?
  8. What was the religion and how was it practiced at that time of the writing, as much as we can know it?
  9. What was the history at the time the passage was written?
  10. What was the culture and social structure at that time?
  11. What was the language and the worldview of the author and the people?
  12. What, if anything, do the scriptures being studied require of me in this century and culture?

These are critical areas of investigation to understanding the entire Bible and the foundation for formulating the best working biblical interpretations and developing a sound theology.

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A Supplemental Offering.

We all have many acquired points of view (biases) that we "filter" our lives through. From our daily existence, to how we view our neighbors, to our view of God and the study of His word. Most of the time we are unaware of them and their influence over us. But, our "filters" can hinder both our studies and our spiritual growth!

Attached you will find a pdf outline of the major filters that impede our growth to greater spiritual maturity.

Many years ago I ran across an article that contained the following statement:

"If your view of God has not changed in the past seven years, you're brain dead." I can't cite the author, and don't remember the article, way too far in the past. /sigh/

At first, I dismissed this comment, out of hand. I spent the majority of my time over years working on what do I need to know what God requires of me and what goodies I can expect from Him. One day, while going through my study's, it hit me, "My personal view of God colors how I understand scripture! Further, my view fluctuates on a daily basis!" Sometime I viewed God as the hard, righteous judge, and other times I viewed God as a gracious, loving parent, among many other such views. What I discovered was that I did not have a consistent, coherent view of who and what God really is and what He actually means to me, personally! Then the questions: Do I actually love God? How do I know that I love Him and demonstrate that love to Him - or, do I demonstrate what I think is love, according to my own human based standards, and not His holy standard of love? Ouch! 

With some research I found several articles that addressed these issues.

I complied them into a single missive, which I have attached to this post. If I am going to mature in my view of God, and gain a better understanding of His word, then I must clean up what I bring (of myself) to my studies. My foundational view of God will change. This task requires a continual deep self-evaluation, a very messy undertaking, I assure you. I am sharing my insights here for any who are will to undertake such a self-test, evaluation, and the put forth the effort required to mitigate, the best one can, those non-biblical points of view that stand between us and understanding and implementing God's word in our lives. It is also an imperative in understanding and implementing (obeying) the commandments of Jesus in a manner acceptable to Him.

Context is everything.

 Messed up! The attachment was deleted, so I am posting it as a reply to this post.

The kinds and types of biases that we bring to our study of the Bible. A brief outline:


First, there is our personality type. On one hand we have the analytical type. They want to figure everything out, label it, form logical sequences, categorize it, give it structure and put it into some kind of a system, a box. On the other hand, we have those with more of an intuitive approach. It is how the scriptures “feel”, how it will impact my relationships and how I feel about myself, my life and the lives of others. Then there are the majority of us who are a chaotic mixture of these two extremes: Then there are the non-consistent ones, those who approach their Bible reading and studies driven by how they happen to “feel or think” that day.


For me, one day I may “feel” very analytical and search for the deep meanings and nuances of a passage. On other days I am looking for a warm fuzzy that I can cuddle up with. Yet, we are all called, even commanded, to study the word for what it actually teaches and to interpret it according to God’s precepts, not according to how we might be feeling or what is on our minds that day. So, our approach to our studies is frequently haphazard in nature.


This can make the results of our studies not only inconsistent, but it opens the door wide to misinterpretation of scripture and confused application.


Second, there is our worldview (how we see) and how we interact with this world. This will dramatically color how we study the scriptures. What about the differences between the psychological makeup between men and women, and the great differences even within a single gender? Guys, are you most likely macho, a hunter, like to mix it up with the guys? Or are you more laid back in your life style. Ladies are you a stay-at-home mother, teacher and care giver of children, or are you a business woman, competing out in the world every day? Where do we each find ourselves in our dreams, aspirations, and/or find fulfillment in life? Are we slaying dragons, or painting portraits? Are we sky diving or settled in a library? Do you seek adventure or security? While men and women can be a mixture of all these kinds of attitudes, yet, to say that men and women view the world through the same glasses is a grave mistake.


Personally, our experience of the world around us will also influence our Bible studies. There are those who had the fortunate experience of being brought up in a loving, caring family, and there are those who are lucky to have survived a very violent childhood. After reaching adulthood there remains yet all kinds of wonders in life to enjoy, as ell as tragedies that most of us must still deal with, in addition to responding to the high and low experiences of those close around us.


Spiritually, if I tithe in a consistent manner and receive great blessings, will I not look for the same experience for others? Will I not also search out the Bible to find a “justification” for my approach to giving? Of course, I will, you will too. Or, at the very least look for validation from a spiritual leader or someone else you trust. It really does not matter, so long as we receive positive feedback to our experience. However, does even having a majority of people around us agree with us truly constitute a biblical validation? No, unfortunately it does not. For example, at one time in our Christian history it was mandated that anyone who disagreed with the church hierarchy should be put to death, tortured, and/or banished. Not exactly biblical.


Then there are our churches. Denominational created theologies and doctrines.


The not so obvious ….


Third, is there is a difference in our spiritual gifting. Some are given to the church as apostles, some as evangelists, etc. Each of these called and ordained spiritual leaders also receive particular gifts that are needed in order fulfill their particular calling. Not everyone shares in one or more of these particular callings, and not everyone will have one or more of the same spiritual gifts. Then there are those gifts that are not as “up front” and “on stage”, such as the gift of helps. Some gifts will push one to the forefront of an assembly while other gifts push one into the background. How you view yourself, your calling, spiritual gifts and your role and responsibilities within the assembly will influence the way you approach your Bible studies and how you interpret what you read. An apostle will no doubt study scripture differently than a door keeper.


A teacher of the word generally wants to know the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of everything, he/she is the analytical student. Then there those who find their primary purpose for study to be more along the devotional (intuitive) approach. For example, given the choice between buying two books, one on the 'Language Influence on Bible Interpretation" and one on "How To Touch God With Your Prayers", I would go for one on Bible interpretation every time – that is not necessarily so with my wife. One approach is not necessarily better than the other, but it will help you to understand what molds your approach to Bible studies.


Yet. When it comes to the process of interpreting the Bible, it also should be consistent, i.e. the same process should be used for preparing for a personal Bible study or for addressing a minister’s conference. One needs to know and understand what is being studied – from the world view of the original author. If not, then we are going to attempt to impose our own 21st century worldview (values, biases, desires, judgments, etc.) on the scriptures, thereby altering both the interpretation and legitimate application of scripture.


Fourth, the location of your birth. We know for a fact that those born and raised in the Far East view both their culture and religious preferences very differently than those born into a Western culture. Frequently where we are born within an area of their country will have a marked impact on the kinds and types of biases we absorb, apart from the scriptures. Consider the differences between being born on a ranch in Wyoming to being born in San Francisco, the intercity of Chicago, or in even Miami, and all of the cultural, racial, ethnic, and religions views that assert their influence in any particular area. Considering all of these influences, you will develop biases that will affect your Bible studies. We carry our birth place biases with us, usually for life.


Fifth, an additional bias is gained from our family and friends. Again, for good or ill, we either pick up and embrace what we have been taught by our parents from childhood, or we reject all or some of it and go off make our own path. My mother was a, XYZ church member so I am an XYZ church member, with all of their theologies and doctrines. If we go off on our own, there are plenty of spiritual gurus and false teachers out there in the world who are more than willing to lead you into their way. These evil people will even invoke the Bible and the name of Jesus in a very religious sounding manner in order to deceive and to manipulate the untrained and non-discerning. For good or ill, geography, time, place, language, culture/tribal, family, church and personal experiences all play a role in the biases that we bring to our Bible studies and its interpretation.

Then why do we sometimes wonder why everyone else do not (apparently cannot) approach or understand the Bible the way we do? Or, for that matter, why did those old Hebrew “Christians” seem to have had such a different regard for their scriptures than we do for our own sixteenth century English translations? Answer: A very different history, language, culture, religion (and practices), customs, social norms. A first century Rabbi, in all likelihood, would not understand much of anything a 21st century XYZ pastor teaches as “doctrine”.

As a result of our preconditioning, we will, not might, but we will approach our Bible studies and its interpretation from the viewpoint of what “we think the Bible is suppose say” and we will interpret it according to that position. Depending on the organization conducting the research, there are approximately 38,000 to 42,000 different protestant denominations, groups, societies, alliances, associations, etc. in the word today. These figures do not include independent churches, groups, home study groups or individuals who have abandoned formal religious observance altogether. Each of these organizations firmly believe that they have “the truth”, or at least more of the truth than anyone else. The evidence is in the overwhelming number of the competing churches just in our own towns and cities throughout America. The lament of Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth becomes comes true, “Is Jesus divided?” Sadly, today the answer is yes. We have divided Christ up into little fragments and then recreated God in our own image.


Sixth, yet there is one more bias that plays heavily on our approach to the study and interpretation of the Bible – and that is our sin. We are very good at skipping over passages that highlight our personal sins. We are practiced at interpreting scripture to minimize the magnitude of our sins, and to justify them to ourselves and even to others. What we fail to recognize, in our attempt at self-justification, is that God is not fooled. The acceptance of and submission to homosexual spiritual leaders is just one example. This is becoming more common every year. Conclusion. This is the hard part.


Until we take the time to be honest with ourselves about the things we have accepted as “truth”, and actually examine what we believe and why, we will not make much headway in our studies of the Bible – to learn, know, and understand what it is that God is actually telling us, rather than what we already think God is going to tell us. Just because the pastor, professor, mother or grandfather, teacher, etc. said that this is the truth – does not make it so. It is you, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit working together, with your carefully selected guidance from mature saints of God that will result in a more honest and complete understanding of God’s word, and its instructions that God expects you to implement in your life.


Our personal filters (biases) will almost always lead us off the path God has assigned for us as individuals and the rest of His children to follow.


We will never identify all those pesky biases that influence us and our approach to studying the
Bible, nor will we ever get rid of all of them. But, if we know what most of them are (at least the more important/influential ones), we can work to minimize their impact on both our studies and our life, and that will make us better disciples of Jesus Christ.

The kinds and types of biases that we bring to our study of the Bible. A brief outline:
First, there is our personality type. On one hand we have the analytical type. They want to figure everything out, label it, form logical sequences, categorize it, give it structure and put it into some kind of a system, a box. On the other hand, we have those with more of an intuitive approach. It is how the scriptures “feel”, how it will impact my relationships and how I feel about myself, my life and the lives of others. Then there are the majority of us who are a chaotic mixture of these two extremes: Then there are the non-consistent ones, those who approach their Bible reading and studies driven by how they happen to “feel or think” that day.


For me, one day I may “feel” very analytical and search for the deep meanings and nuances of a passage. On other days I am looking for a warm fuzzy that I can cuddle up with. Yet, we are all called, even commanded, to study the word for what it actually teaches and to interpret it according to God’s precepts, not according to how we might be feeling or what is on our minds that day. So, our approach to our studies is frequently haphazard in nature.


This can make the results of our studies not only inconsistent, but it opens the door wide to misinterpretation of scripture and confused application.


Second, there is our worldview (how we see) and how we interact with this world. This will dramatically color how we study the scriptures. What about the differences between the psychological makeup between men and women, and the great differences even within a single gender? Guys, are you most likely macho, a hunter, like to mix it up with the guys? Or are you more laid back in your life style. Ladies are you a stay-at-home mother, teacher and care giver of children, or are you a business woman, competing out in the world every day? Where do we each find ourselves in our dreams, aspirations, and/or find fulfillment in life? Are we slaying dragons, or painting portraits? Are we sky diving or settled in a library? Do you seek adventure or security? While men and women can be a mixture of all these kinds of attitudes, yet, to say that men and women view the world through the same glasses is a grave mistake.


Personally, our experience of the world around us will also influence our Bible studies. There are those who had the fortunate experience of being brought up in a loving, caring family, and there are those who are lucky to have survived a very violent childhood. After reaching adulthood there remains yet all kinds of wonders in life to enjoy, as ell as tragedies that most of us must still deal with, in addition to responding to the high and low experiences of those close around us.


Spiritually, if I tithe in a consistent manner and receive great blessings, will I not look for the same experience for others? Will I not also search out the Bible to find a “justification” for my approach to giving? Of course, I will, you will too. Or, at the very least look for validation from a spiritual leader or someone else you trust. It really does not matter, so long as we receive positive feedback to our experience. However, does even having a majority of people around us agree with us truly constitute a biblical validation? No, unfortunately it does not. For example, at one time in our Christian history it was mandated that anyone who disagreed with the church hierarchy should be put to death, tortured, and/or banished. Not exactly biblical.


Then there are our churches. Denominational created theologies and doctrines.
The not so obvious ….


Third, is there is a difference in our spiritual gifting. Some are given to the church as apostles, some as evangelists, etc. Each of these called and ordained spiritual leaders also receive particular gifts that are needed in order fulfill their particular calling. Not everyone shares in one or more of these particular callings, and not everyone will have one or more of the same spiritual gifts. Then there are those gifts that are not as “up front” and “on stage”, such as the gift of helps. Some gifts will push one to the forefront of an assembly while other gifts push one into the background. How you view yourself, your calling, spiritual gifts and your role and responsibilities within the assembly will influence the way you approach your Bible studies and how you interpret what you read. An apostle will no doubt study scripture differently than a door keeper.


A teacher of the word generally wants to know the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of everything, he/she is the analytical student. Then there those who find their primary purpose for study to be more along the devotional (intuitive) approach. For example, given the choice between buying two books, one on the 'Language Influence on Bible Interpretation" and one on "How To Touch God With Your Prayers", I would go for one on Bible interpretation every time – that is not necessarily so with my wife. One approach is not necessarily better than the other, but it will help you to understand what molds your approach to Bible studies.


Yet. When it comes to the process of interpreting the Bible, it also should be consistent, i.e. the same process should be used for preparing for a personal Bible study or for addressing a minister’s conference. One needs to know and understand what is being studied – from the world view of the original author. If not, then we are going to attempt to impose our own 21st century worldview (values, biases, desires, judgments, etc.) on the scriptures, thereby altering both the interpretation and legitimate application of scripture.


Fourth, the location of your birth. We know for a fact that those born and raised in the Far East view both their culture and religious preferences very differently than those born into a Western culture. Frequently where we are born within an area of their country will have a marked impact on the kinds and types of biases we absorb, apart from the scriptures. Consider the differences between being born on a ranch in Wyoming to being born in San Francisco, the intercity of Chicago, or in even Miami, and all of the cultural, racial, ethnic, and religions views that assert their influence in any particular area. Considering all of these influences, you will develop biases that will affect your Bible studies. We carry our birth place biases with us, usually for life.


Fifth, an additional bias is gained from our family and friends. Again, for good or ill, we either pick up and embrace what we have been taught by our parents from childhood, or we reject all or some of it and go off make our own path. My mother was a, XYZ church member so I am an XYZ church member, with all of their theologies and doctrines. If we go off on our own, there are plenty of spiritual gurus and false teachers out there in the world who are more than willing to lead you into their way. These evil people will even invoke the Bible and the name of Jesus in a very religious sounding manner in order to deceive and to manipulate the untrained and non-discerning.

For good or ill, geography, time, place, language, culture/tribal, family, church and personal experiences all play a role in the biases that we bring to our Bible studies and its interpretation. Then why do we sometimes wonder why everyone else do not (apparently cannot) approach or understand the Bible the way we do? Or, for that matter, why did those old Hebrew “Christians” seem to have had such a different regard for their scriptures than we do for our own sixteenth century English translations? Answer: A very different history, language, culture, religion (and practices), customs, social norms. A first century Rabbi, in all likelihood, would not understand much of anything a 21st century XYZ pastor teaches as “doctrine”.


As a result of our preconditioning, we will, not might, but we will approach our Bible studies and its interpretation from the viewpoint of what “we think the Bible is suppose say” and we will interpret it according to that position.

Depending on the organization conducting the research, there are approximately 38,000 to 42,000 different protestant denominations, groups, societies, alliances, associations, etc. in the word today. These figures do not include independent churches, groups, home study groups or individuals who have abandoned formal religious observance altogether. Each of these organizations firmly believe that they have “the truth”, or at least more of the truth than anyone else. The evidence is in the overwhelming number of the competing churches just in our own towns and cities throughout America. The lament of Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth becomes comes true, “Is Jesus divided?” Sadly, today the answer is yes. We have divided Christ up into little fragments and then recreated God in our own image.


Sixth, yet there is one more bias that plays heavily on our approach to the study and interpretation of the Bible – and that is our sin. We are very good at skipping over passages that highlight our personal sins. We are practiced at interpreting scripture to minimize the magnitude of our sins, and to justify them to ourselves and even to others. What we fail to recognize, in our attempt at self-justification, is that God is not fooled. The acceptance of and submission to homosexual spiritual leaders is just one example. This is becoming more common every year.

Conclusion. This is the hard part.


Until we take the time to be honest with ourselves about the things we have accepted as “truth”, and actually examine what we believe and why, we will not make much headway in our studies of the Bible – to learn, know, and understand what it is that God is actually telling us, rather than what we already think God is going to tell us. Just because the pastor, professor, mother or grandfather, teacher, etc. said that this is the truth – does not make it so. It is you, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit working together, with your carefully selected guidance from mature saints of God that will result in a more honest and complete understanding of God’s word, and its instructions that God expects you to implement in your life.


Our personal filters (biases) will almost always lead us off the path God has assigned for us as individuals and the rest of His children to follow.


We will never identify all those pesky biases that influence us and our approach to studying the Bible, nor will we ever get rid of them. But, if we know what most of them are (at least the more important/influential ones), we can work to minimize their impact on both our studies and our life, and that will make us better disciples of Jesus Christ.

Be blessed in your studies.

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