Understanding the Bible


The Bible, consisting of 72 Books, contains many Types of writings, like Prose, Poetry, History, Mystical writings, etc. So one cannot proceed with ‘Literal’ meanings in trying to Understand it.

This article is the fifth in the series on Bible Study.

  1. On Bible study
  2. The Problem of Suffering
  3. My Journey on the Road to Peace
  4. The Answer to the Problem of Suffering!
  5. Understanding the Bible
  6. Ezekiel’s vision of God
  7. The Bible and History

The last three pertain to Bible Study, per se. The Others deal with the Use and the Advantages of Studying the Bible.

Even in Prose, words like: ‘His Liver was torn,’ (from Hindi), and ‘His Chest Burst’ (from Tamil) mean ‘Heart Broken,’ which in itself cannot be taken Literally.

We have verses like: ‘Let the rivers clap their hands,’ (Psalm 98:8), and ‘Pilate handed Jesus over to be Crucified,’ (Matthew 27:26, passim). The first would make sense Only when seen as Poetry. The latter is History, as Non-Christian writers write the same.

Here I give an image for: ‘Let the Trees Clap their Hands!’ (Psalm 96:12). Which shows that these sorts of words are Part of Poetry and Art the world over.

Trees clap their hands

Art by Mary Anne Nagy, fineartamerica.com

Understanding the Bible should pose Us No problems. But it is Not Child’s Play either. While Studying the Bible, one has to see things according to:

  • The Literal Sense. (For this, all that is needed is a fair understanding of that Language, and a Dictionary, at the most!)
  • The Typical Sense, and
  • The Fuller Sense.

The Typical sense:

This involves collecting Verses of the Same ‘Type,’ so that the meaning of the present one can be better understood. Let us take an example:

Jesus had said: “I am the Good Shepherd.” John 10:14.

But Why should be call Himself a Shepherd? Are We Sheep? Or Goats? Or did the people of His age think of themselves as such? Why did He use those words, particularly when He was considered a Leader, even possibly a political one; when people looked up to Him as a Great Teacher?

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

We will find the word ‘Shepherd’ a good many times in the Bible indeed.

  • God is addressed as the ‘Shepherd of Israel,’ (Psalm 80:1).
  • God will take Care of His Flock like a Shepherd; He will Carry the Young ones in His Arms, and Gently lead the Pregnant ones. (Isaiah 40:11).
  • God presents Himself as the Shepherd of Israel in a fairly long passage in Ezekiel 34:11-31.
  • Zechariah 11:15-17 speaks of a ‘Worthless Shepherd!’
  • Then We have the Famous and the Supreme poem to the Good Shepherd: Psalm 23.

The people of Israel, the Jews, would have known many of these passages. And many of them being shepherds, would have known of:

  • The Difficulties of finding Daily Pasture and Water for their Flocks,
  • The dangers of  Shielding them from Wild Animals, etc,
  • And over and above all this, their own current position as Under Roman Rule and looking for a Leader to bring them Out of this Yoke.

From all the above, they would have known that Christ was More than a mere Roadside speaker trying to ‘Bond’ with them by saying Sweet things to them, saying that He too was a Shepherd. Christ used the words the ‘Good’ shepherd; one who ‘Lay down His Life for His Flock,’ etc, all referring back to the Scriptural passages quoted above, and more. His bold use of the words ‘I Am’ added weight to these reflections.

So, by the Allusions to the ‘Shepherd’ in the Old Testament, one comes to Realize that He is the Promised One. And reflecting on those verses and passages all referring to the Good Shepherd, We gain the Trust to let go, and to Relax in His Arms.

The Fuller Sense:

Christ had said: “I am the Bread of Life.” John 6:48.

There were times in the Old Testament when the person who had enough to Wear and to Eat was expected to be the Leader! See Isaiah 3:6 and 7. But Christ did not say that He Had Bread.

He said that He Is the Bread. And the people, perhaps rightly, asked, ‘How can this Man give us His Flesh to Eat?’ John 6:52.

Jesus had answered that by saying: “If You do not Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink His Blood, You will Not have Life in You.” John 6:53. He might have continued: “You would remain Lifeless and Listless.” And that would have been the Truth.

Even when He instituted the Eucharist, Christ did not tear off his flesh or gash Himself to give His Disciples His flesh and blood. He used Bread and Wine, yet called these His Body and Blood. This should Prove that in all this matter of Imbibing, He was Not referring to His Physical Body.

By a Perusal of the Verb used for what We simply read and write as ‘Eat’ in these passages, the word used by Christ meant All of Biting off, Chewing and Masticating, and Swallowing. All these processes lead to making the Food Part of the Body! He was Not speaking about ‘Gulping!’

And That was what He wanted to Convey! That We are to Make HIM a Part of Ourselves. That He might become part of Our Life and Blood stream, so that All that We do is Inspired, Guided and Led by Him!

Here is an interesting COROLLARY:

People use the words: “It’s No long I who lives; It is Christ Who lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20), TOO EASILY. Paul became a person who Totally Gave Up All self will and self Interest. Till such time as one becomes like Paul in these things, one would be Wise Not to even Utter those words.

We might be Inspired, Guided and Led by Him. But, WE shall Remain the Doers. The Act and its Result shall Remain Our Responsibility. Suppose I go to church, profess to believe in the above Galatians 2:20, further go out and go on a killing spree, …at the end of the day, I would find that I was the one in Hell, Not Christ.

We would do well to take Time to try to Understand the Bible. We have to remember that We have difficulties in making sense of what is communicated to Us by Our fellow Human beings. The Bible is the Word of God. It cannot and should not be taken Lightly. Understanding the Bible would mean being Generous enough to Make Time for this, and Spending Time with Him in Prayer. Using all His, God given faculties, of course.



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