Why Read the Bible?
THE question, Why read the Bible? is well put. Many are the reasons why various persons read the Bible. Why, for example, do you read the Bible?
Do you, as do many, read it because of the delight you get from its literary excellence? Its beauty of language is well known to all. Then perhaps you have been pained by the way some of the modern versions read, for they appear to have sacrificed literary beauty for the sake of Biblical scholarship. That is the way a certain professor in an eastern United States university felt about it. He criticized the way Psalm 23 read in the Revised Standard Version because it had lost the stately rhythm it had in the King James Version.
In a similar vein a literary authority, writing in the New York Times, criticized the way the New English Bible read as compared with the King James Version. After noting various opinions on the subject he concluded his own objections by saying: “I have a suspicion that their labors, whatever scholarly correctness they may have established, will not dislodge the K.J.V. from its vantage point. If we read the Bible for delights of language, we will not forsake its noblest version.”
But, it may well be asked, did God inspire some forty men, over a period of sixteen centuries to write his Word so that we might have “delights of language”? Is that the reason why many of its writers suffered persecution and even martyrdom, and why many who copied, translated, published and distributed the Bible had similar treatment accorded to them—merely so that we may have the delight of perusing a literary masterpiece? Hardly!—Ezek. 33:32.
Or do you, like others, read the Bible solely as a religious duty, covering so many pages a day or devoting so many minutes daily to reading the Bible? In certain Catholic Bibles readers are encouraged by being told that they will receive so many days of indulgence for reading the Bible fifteen minutes daily. But what profit can there be in all this if little or no thought is given as to the real meaning of what is read?—Acts 8:30.
Or do you occasionally read in the Bible out of curiosity? It is well to know something of its contents, true, but after having satisfied your curiosity with a mere smattering of knowledge, then what? How much profit would you derive from such an approach to any scientific subject? The Bible contains the very highest science, the ultimate truth. It deserves your regular and careful consideration.—John 17:17.
Then there are those who read the Bible merely so that they can say that they have read it through. Or they may read it over again and again so as to be able to boast about the number of times they have read the Bible. Reading the Bible through is commendable, and everyone should read it through at least once; but if our motive in reading it is that of having a name for having done so, then we have read it in vain as far as any real lasting benefit is concerned. We are in the class of those who pray or give gifts in public to be seen of men.—Matt. 6:1-5.
Many others read the Bible to find proof for their religious beliefs instead of basing their beliefs on what they read. They call to mind the words of the poet:
“Some read to prove a pre-adopted creed,
Thus understand but little what they read;
And every passage in the Book they bend
To make it suit that all-important end.”
Typical are the trinitarians, who, finding no mention or explanation of their favorite teaching, cite texts that mention the Father, the Son and the holy spirit to prove that these three are coequal in power, glory, substance and eternity, when such texts prove no such thing. (See Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14.) This also is futile Bible reading, for how can one learn from the Bible when he has preconceived notions and merely uses it to prove his own ideas. Such people read “to teach the Book instead of to be taught.”
Among other Bible readers that might be mentioned are the foes of the Bible, those who approach it with a critical eye, as often do the agnostic, the skeptic, the infidel, the atheist and the deist, to mention a few. While purporting to have an objective attitude toward the Bible, more often than not they read for the purpose of finding fault with it, scanning its pages with eagle eye to find instances in which the Bible appears to contradict itself, science or secular history. Thus these hope to discredit the Bible in the eyes of others. The extremes to which these go prove that they are anything but what they make their boast to be—objective. However, Bible scholarship, science and archaeology more and more bring forth evidence refuting all such attacks. Obviously, all such Bible reading is futile.
Then why should we read the Bible? To become familiar with the one true God Jehovah, whose revelation it is. In it he makes known to us himself as well as his purposes and will for us. As noted by that peer of Christian Bible scholars, the apostle Paul: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
To thus benefit from the Bible we must approach it with the right heart attitude and right frame of mind. We want to be open-minded, without preconceived notions, yet with the will to believe, with a consciousness of our spiritual need. That also means we must approach it humbly, recognizing how little we know and how much we have to learn. And we must approach it honestly, willing to pay the price for the truth, for truth does exact its price.—Prov. 23:23; Matt. 5:3.
So take time to read the Bible, but do so from the right motives.