Things Many Modern People Overlook When Trying to Understand the Bible


One of the biggest mistakes people make today when reading the Bible and understanding how the gospel was spread is looking at it through a modern worldview. Here are some essential things to consider.

Today, some people don’t stop to consider that some of the books of the Bible were written tens to hundreds of years apart.

Further, they never stop to realize that the Bible is a reasonably modern book in terms of history.

No one had Bibles

The first mistake people make is assuming that when people in ancient times had a question about spiritual teachings, they could look it up.

The Bible, especially as we know it today, did not exist.

In those days, there was no printing press, and individuals did not own Bibles.

Biblical scholar Michael Heiser points out some of the errors people assume today.

“Why would we ever expect all of the biblical writers to know the same things at the same times?” Heiser says. Especially, he points out, “having lived so far apart.”

“Why would we have this expectation that everybody knows the same thing?” Heiser posits. “Well, the short answer is because that’s what we were taught in church. Okay, that’s not the correct answer. It’s not a coherent answer.”

“It wasn’t until the modern era, post-printing press,” Heiser points out, “and even then you have to go a few centuries afterward. It’s only in the modern era that you could pretty much assume that the average person, despite their station in life, when have a Bible. “

“That is not true in the ancient world,” Heiser clarifies. “And so these assumptions… We look at biblical characters, look at biblical writers, and sort of expect them to just be able to look something up. Or just automatically know it because they’re a prophet.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Heiser argues. “They don’t have the information downloaded into their heads. Most of them will never pick anything up that you can call a Bible.”

Context and worldview are important

Another thing was that people living during the times of the events in the Bible had a specific worldview and set of knowledge known to the people of that era.

As modern readers, sometimes we do not understand these backstories that put things into context. Parts of the Bible need an explanation now, but not to the people the prophets spoke in the past. They knew the backstories, traditions, and so forth. They were able to extract other layers of meaning that is not readily apparent to us today.

Don’t pull single lines or verses without considering context

Therefore, the takeaway here is that readers today need to be careful not to apply modern worldviews to the passages they read in the Bible. When one does that, it can distort the original intended meaning.

One of the biggest mistakes people make today is to pull a single line or verse and try to use them to make a particular point. But many times, the verse has been pulled out of context and does not have the (often modern) meaning one is trying to imply.

Read scholarly interpretations

One thing that can help put things into context is to read explanations given by scholars who understand the worldview and generally understand the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words that sometimes suffer significantly from translation into English. Bible Hub is one good source of commentaries from scholars.

How people were taught in biblical times

“This is why prophets exist,” Heiser states. “Profits are the oral covenant enforcers.”

“This is why you have ‘schools of the prophets in the Old Testament so that they can share information.” Heiser continues. “They can take what is written, and it’s not a whole lot… And then they can be taught by the prophet. They can pass that on because prophets need to be succeeded.

“This is how it works,” Heiser adds. “It’s not like our time when you can just look stuff up, and everybody’s got a Bible.”

People today overlook that knowledge was passed on from generation to generation through oral traditions, not through reading. Even In early Christian times, people went to church to learn religious teachings because they did not own Bibles.

Before the printing press made the Bible available to more people, copies were handwritten. In the early fifteenth century, a handwritten copy of the Bible would have cost the equivalent of thousands of dollars, Deseret News reports. Even then, the majority of medieval people were unable to read at all.

When were complete Bibles printed?

The first books of the Bible were written on papyrus scrolls by hand.

The first mass-produced printed Bible is the Gutenberg Bible, published by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s. It was in Latin Vulgate, containing the version of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament.

The first Old English translation of the Bible is credited to John Wycliff in 1832. The first translations into modern English did not occur until between 1500 and 1800. Miles Coverdale produced the first printed English translation of the entire Bible in 1535, and the first complete Roman Catholic Bible in English was the Douay–Rheims Bible in 1582.