Can we be honest with each other? The Bible is hard to understand at times. There’s a gap in the time period, cultural customs, and, if you’re reading certain versions of the Bible, there’s a gap in the language. Because of this, it’s important to have tools to help you understand what you’re reading. And don’t get it twisted, we’re not alone: the most anointed, Bible preaching, 40-year-veteran pastor uses tools to help him/her understand the Bible. Check out 3 tools I use to help break down the Word.
1. Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible
At one time, the King James Version of the bible was the most accurate among bible translations. Nowadays, this is not the case. While it is still a very accurate word-for-word translation, there are other versions that capture the original thought of a phrase or story (like the New International Translation or NIV). But the real challenge with the KJV is that for us, as Americans, it is truly a different language. Remember reading Romeo & Juliet in high school? Your English teacher had to translate it for you, right?
If you need a translator, nine times out of ten, you need a new translation. The Easy-to-Read version is an awesome version to read as you seek to understand the bible. The scriptures are written in everyday language that are just what its name suggests: easy to read.
Let’s look at an example shall we?
Proverbs 17:1 KJV : “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.”
Okay, now you tell me what that means. I’ll wait.
Same verse in the ERV version: “It is better to have nothing but a dry piece of bread to eat in peace than a whole house full of food with everyone arguing.”
See what I mean? Much easier to understand. You can find the ERV version of the bible on the Bible app, Amazon, and most stores where bibles are sold.
The other day I was reading Psalm 132. In verse 17, God says that He will “make the horn of David grow…” Now, when I think of horns, I think of an animal. But what kind of horn would a king have? Is this literal or figurative? To find out, I went to biblestudytools.com. To get a comprehensive explanation of a Bible term or phrase, click the tab at the top that says “Study.” Click “Dictionaries” then scroll down and click “Quick Reference Dictionary.” From there, type in the word or phrase you want to study. For my study, I typed in “horn.”
The site provided so many scriptures that mentioned the word “horn” with an explanation for each use. And what I learned was that the word “horn” means different things depending upon the context. Sometimes it does mean the horn of an animal while other times it represents strength and power (as is the case for Psalm 132).
Biblestudytools.com is a must for me when I’m stuck on something I don’t understand.
Commentaries are writings that give a deeper explanation of scriptures. They are written by well-known theologians (experts in the study of God and religious beliefs). I almost always go to commentaries when I study the Bible. Why? Because as readers, we are limited by our knowledge, cultural background, & personal experiences. Commentaries, on the other hand, are objective: they look closely at the author, the history, the setting, the theme and more to interpret the Scriptures. Theologians do the heavy lifting for us, and we benefit greatly from their intensive study.
There are tons of free commentaries available online at sites like biblehub.com and christianity.com. I love to read commentaries by Matthew Henry. However, he uses elevated language that, at times, can be hard to read. One of my other go-tos (and I actually own this in print) are the commentaries by Warren Wiersbe. His commentaries are very clear, easy to read, and always expand my perspective. Click here for a free pdf version of The Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the entire New Testament.
When you find yourself stuck, don’t get discouraged and stop reading. Instead, use the tools that are available to get the most out of God’s Word.