In an effort to make faith simple, some have tried to make the Bible simple too. Some make it sound like reading the Bible is as easy as picking up your favorite novel, Christian living book, or the rules of your new board game.
But if you’ve ever struggled over a tricky passage and decided that this book is far more difficult than you've been led to believe, you’re not wrong.
What is the Bible and what are we supposed to do with it?
The Bible is sacred to most Christians. We have very clear ideas of what books are in or out and squint suspiciously at apocryphal books that didn’t make it into our canon. Most Christians also consider the Bible to be the inspired word of God—whatever that means. That sounds glib, but I'm being serious.
When is the last time you sat down to consider what the Bible actually is? What does it mean, that scripture is inspired? 2 Timothy 3:16 is a popular proof text for the inspiration of scripture, but it is good to remember that this letter and this statement were written before the Bible as we know it was formed. Even what we call the complete Old Testament was not canon at this point.
The meaning of "inspired" text is debated among Christians. And answers vary widely.
Did each book of the Bible drop from heaven in perfectly finished form?
Did God dictate word for word and the biblical authors immediately wrote it down for future generations?
Was the Bible written by men of incredible faith who wrestled with faith in their day and age, within their own situation?
Did some biblical author's perceptions and interpretations make it onto the page?
If the author of one book in the Bible uses a word, debates a topic, or quotes a scripture, must it perfectly jive with another author of a different book? Or can they bounce off of each other, debate across history and situations, or use it in a new way?
Was the Bible edited over generations?