The Bible: The Greatest Love Story Ever Written

Christianity is unique in that it is about people having a loving personal relationship with the creator of the universe. Thus, the Bible is the greatest love story ever written. God is the writer, and Jesus Christ is the hero, and He loves people. He gives them free will to choose to love Him back or reject Him. Most choose to reject Him, but a small minority love Him back. They talk to Him through prayer and listen to Him by reading His revealed Word. They trust Him and obey His law, even though most have never seen Him and don't understand everything. To them, the law of God is not a cage to try to get out of but rather an opportunity to know how to please the lover of their souls. When Jesus comes back, there will be a great wedding (Revelation 19:6-9).

Do we read the Bible literally?
When we read the Bible, the key question is to ask what the author intended for his readers. The majority of the Bible is quite straightforward - it's to be read like a newspaper - especially the commands, the historic sections and most of the epistles; they are mostly unambiguous. Some of Bible is a poetic or allegorical; for instance, some of Jesus' parables are purposely ambiguous, because He didn't want his adversaries to understand what He was saying (Matthew 13:11-17). Some prophetic parts are simply a mystery to most people, but the meaning is given to prophets when the meaning is needed. For every part of scripture, there is an intended technical interpretation, but perhaps many spiritual applications. There is no indication that any of the writers were joking, writing fiction or tall tales or being manipulative. If they were, why would so many Jewish and Christian scribes be so careful to to copy it throughout history? Why else would so many men and women throughout history sacrifice their lives due to the words of this book?

Who determines the standard for truth?
Another important question we need to ask is why do people not want to read the Bible literally? The main issue is: who gets to determine the standard for what is true, what is real, what is right? Historically, Christians have believed that Jesus does. He Himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14:6). After Jesus returned to be with the Father, His trusted apostles relied on His teaching and some were appointed to add to it. After they all died, though, the standard of truth required to know God personally was complete.

Why have men given up on God's standard?
This standard has continued for around 1900 years, but over the years Christians have given up on the standard.  There are three primary reasons:

  1. They added their own teachings to the standard

  2. They made the standard fuzzy by declaring it too complicated for normal people to understand (and thus consolidating power institutional traditions)

  3. They dismissed it as filled with errors (and thus made culture or individual preferences the standard).

For the first couple centuries, Christianity was for the most part not institutionalized.  It was too busy trying to spread the Word and survive persecution.  However, as times changed it did institutionalize for the sake of combating false teachers.  The institutional Christian church has for around 1800 years placed it's own traditions above the scripture. It mainly started with a brilliant man named Origen of Alexandria. He was the first well-known theologian to abandon the literal approach to interpretation. His theory that scripture had more then one intended meaning (i.e., any number of spiritual meanings) spread and eventually replaced the original practice of seeking a single meaning.  This forced people to rely on the tradition of the church to interpret Scripture, and this eventually opened the door to much abuse of Scripture and much confusion in the church.  The tradition of the church so monopolized interpretation, that the official Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate, became the only acceptable version - even though as time went on, fewer and fewer Christians knew Latin.

Coming out of the Dark Ages
It wasn't until over 1000 years later when things changed.  English scholar, John Wycliff (~1325 1384) wrote, "The whole error in the knowledge of scripture, and the source of its debasement and falsification by incompetent persons, was the ignorance of grammar and logic."  He translated the parts of the Bible into English, and taught truths that had been neglected for a millenium.  Other l literary scholars like William Tyndale (14941536) and Martin Luther (1483 1546) also began reading the Bible literally again - like they would read other ancient texts - and translating them into the languages of the common people.  They decided to follow the plain meaning of the text, keeping in mind normal rules of grammar and logic.  Their work and teaching helped break the monopoly of the religious leaders.  Normal people began reading the Bible again, and Christianity got out of the Dark Ages.

More confusion again
After these grass roots movements became institutionalized, though, tradition again eventually overtook the literal approach. Institutions are never prohibited in the Bible, but the nature of institutions is such that they are like lions.  When they are small, they are harmless and cute.  When they are full-grown, though, they are dangerous.  Thus, when the Spirit of God moves, He is usually greatly restricted by institutions and tends to work primarily through individuals and small grass-roots movements.  (See 1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and Luke 5:36-39).

Also, other men came along in the 19th century who even challenged the credibility of the text itself. Thus, after all these years the literal approach is usually not popular among the 2 billion people who claim to be Christian. 

The apostle Paul foretold the situation we see today:

The time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine; rather, they will accumulate for themselves a great many teachers who will tickle their ears according to their lusts - yes, they will turn their ears away from the Truth and be turned aside to fables.  (2 Timothy 4:3,4)

Give the Bible a chance!
If you have never read the Bible, then please give the Bible a chance.  Read it like a newspaper, believing it really is God's revelation to allow us to know Him.  Don't wait until tomorrow.  Start today.  Satan wants you to put it off and remain preoccupied with other pursuits, but you don't have to let him succeed.  If you sincerely seek the truth in the Bible, God will help you find it (Mt. 7:7).  If you'd like some tips on knowing where to start, click here.

 

This article is public domain.  It is the responsibility of Theodore Spaeth.
It was last updated on 10 May 2015.