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The Bible – no idea?

Saul, later Paul, the Apostle – is this the same Saul who was king over Israel? Asked a Bible student.

Joshua “the son of Nun” – he was the son of a Catholic nun! Asserted another Bible student.

In the US, surveys show that Bible reading is steadily dropping. New Testament professor Kenneth Berding says in an article:”we’re slowly killing ourselves with a lack of Bible reading”. Americans care about the Bible, many believe it is God’s Word – but, says Berding, actually there is a “Famine Of Bible Knowledge”, a “Biblical Illiteracy”. And the reason is not that there are just fewer Christians – the illiteracy includes Christians!

What are the reasons? Berding mentions

  • distractions: Neil Postman wrote about “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1986), relating George Orwell’s “1984” to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”: “Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” To me, this sounds shocking on the background of TV, internet and social media – what a flood of information and distraction!
  • misplaced priorities: Berding: “More time watching television than reading/studying/memorizing God’s Word… is sin”
  • unwarranted overconfidence: people saying “We already know more of the Bible than we put into practice anyway.” According to Berding, this shows that the person is willingly not learning more of the Bible, is passive about putting it into practice, and thinks others have the same passive attitude.
  • the pretext of being too busy: … like single moms who have to work full time. But is reading and learning the Bible only for those having enough spare time? As a counter-example, Berding cites a woman from his church. Raising three children, she read and memorized the Bible and witnessed later: “During those difficult years, I always had a verse somewhere in my mind to fall back on.”

Continuing on Berding’s article, Paul Caminiti, Biblica’s Vice President for Bible Engagement, points out that not learning and knowing the Bible is only the symptom of a deeper problem: not loving the Bible. The Bible writers “compared the Scriptures to great treasures like gold and silver, or to delicacies like the finest honey.”. He concludes: “If at some point we don’t help people fall in love with Scripture, they will walk away from it.”

To change this situation, he suggests

  • less “verse of the day” and more reading of whole books, and
  • to read the Bible together and talk about it.

Oh stop – “less verse of the day” – isn’t our project Bible 2.0 just about The Word, a kind of verse of the day?

Right! But…

  • better read one Word than none at all!
  • The Word relates two Bible readings: “Bible explains itself”
  • The Word invites us to read the verses in their Bible context!
  • In the BibleStudio (German), Christians search for related Bible readings as input for The Word. This motivates them to read the verses in the Bible contextd.
  • Editors of The Word in the various Bible editions like the intensive contact with many key Bible verses.

What does this all mean to my Bible reading? Some personal thoughts:

  • It helps to have a motivation to read the Bible! As a teenager, before I started to live with Christ, I had a big motivation to read the Bible: I was made a junior leader in a youth group and thought I would have to tell them a devotion from the Bible. So I read the New Testament just to know what to tell others.
  • Memorizing Bible verses is great! As a teenager, I used to regularly memorize key Bible verses. On Sunday, I memorized Psalm verses, sometimes entire Psalms. I’m still glad about this treasury!
  • In our young family, reading a children’s Bible every evening was a good time – together we listened to the great deeds of God! We read from Dutch Anne de Vries (in German language) the “Kinderbibel” and “Das große Erzählbuch zur biblischen Geschichte”. When the wording was rather formal, I paraphrased or even used our dialect (Swabian) for the entire reading.
  • I find it hard to decide on a Bible edition. For a long time (being 50 now) I read the German Luther Bible. But this text is not how people would say things today! I like natural wording, reading as you would speak (the Easy to Read movement puts this even further). Therefore I like to read the Hoffnung für Alle in contemporary German. Unfortunately, that text is harder to memorize!
  • Day by day, I take the time to pray and read the Bible. In the daily routine, it happens that I read some verses day after day and try to “eat” them, but they seem to find no place in my head…
  • In our church, Bible study takes place in home groups.
  • It can be very helpful to pass a Bible verse to somebody. But it must be done in love – not in wrong pride about my knowledge (“… knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”, 1. Cor. 8,1).
  • Some say, a person who loves the Bible is guilty of idolatry – because we should love God alone. Oops? If my wife sends me a love letter from a health resort, I do love my wife, and I appreciate her letter which expresses her love. Therefore we may say with the psalmist: “I love your law” (Psalms 119,113). We should not play off the love of God against the love of His word!

A comment by “Melinda” (2014-06-18) on Mr. Berding’s article strikes me:

SunshineJust last week, my oldest son who is now 18, just came in the living room and asked me if I’d do a spontaneous Bible study with him. He had no preference in what he wanted to read so we read Galatians for 2 hours and cross referenced ans discussed it. That is one of the most meaningful moments in my life-that my decision 6 years ago to really turn my life around and repent and start living my faith has had a huge impact on my kids.

What a motivation!


Kenneth Berding is a professor of New Testament at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology. His book, “Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book” goes in depth about the topic of his article.

Biblica (former International Bible Society), translates and publishes the Bible in many languages. Project Bible 2.0 currently has kind permission from Biblica to use the Bible texts of the German Hoffnung für Alle and the Kiswahili Contemporary Version 2006.

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Helmut Steeb | 2014-08-08