How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Some time back, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens.

The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to dig into a text and explain what I think and why. Having been privileged to study under some brilliant Biblical scholars (and having read many more), I am all too eager to hold forth on the Scriptures, and I genuinely hope that my discussion helps those listening. However, in the past several years I have discovered a more fruitful approach to addressing these questions: walking through Bible passages with people and training them how to read and interpret wisely. Continue reading

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On Approaching Difficult Bible Passages

Bible DifficultiesNothing can be more frustrating (or worrisome) as reading something in the Bible and a) not understanding what is going on or b) finding some sort of apparent contradiction in the text. Below are some suggestions on how to best to approach and make sense of these difficult passages.

1. Context is key. Before trying to make sense of a passage, it is imperative that you understand its context. This means never reading a single, solitary Bible verse, but always at least a paragraph. Reading in context also means that you should try to understand passages wider literary, theological, and historical contexts as well. Understanding why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, the everyday situation of Christians living in first century Corinth, and what ancient Corinth looked like can go a long way in making sense of First Corinthians. Continue reading