Roger Severino

“Should I Read Every Part of the Bible the Same Way?”

“Yes…No…and No.”

Have you ever found yourself reading one part of the Bible, say Leviticus, and then another part, like the Gospels, and noticed how different they are? So, should you read every part of the Bible? I think the answer to that is “yes” because, I believe God has something for us to learn in all of it. But…as a Christian, should I read every part of the Bible the same way?

In one sense, we should read every part of the Bible the same—that is, with the same attitude, and goal. When Paul writes to Timothy, he tells him that “the sacred writings, are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Here, Paul is referring to the Old Testament because the New Testament had not yet been collected. 2 Peter chapter 1 tells us that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” If we believe this claim that God speaks through these human writers with a message of salvation that is authoritative, then we read and study these words prayerfully, humbly, and with a desire to respond appropriately to God. God loves us and desires to have a relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible says that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” So, whatever portion of Scripture we read, we want to be open to what God may be saying to us. We want to get to know God better and respond in a way that honors Him.

In another sense, we should not read every part of the Bible the same way. That is because there are different types of literature in the Bible, and these various genres require differing interpretations to be rightly understood. For example, the Bible contains historical narrative, poetry, wisdom, prophetic literature, epistles, and apocalyptic writings (among others). We cannot impose a “one size fits all” approach to each of these. The key is attempting to discern the writer’s intent. The biblical authors use these various genres to communicate a message in different ways. Sometimes the intent is to take their words literally, or at face value; at other times, such as with poetry or apocalyptic literature, the language can be symbolic and figurative. In these cases, we would misread the text if we imposed a wooden literalism on it.

Finally, as a Christian, there is another sense in which I do not read all the Bible the same way. The New Testament is clear that the climax of salvation history occurred with the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus and the New Covenant have fulfilled many of the things we read in the Old Testament. For example, followers of Jesus no longer follow the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant because we believe that Jesus has died for sins “once for all,” and there is no need for any further sacrifice. Though the exact relationship between the Old Testament and the New is debated among Christians, it is fair to say that all followers of Jesus read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus and the New Covenant.

We read all of the Bible with a certain reverence, believing that God can speak to us through His Word. We read and interpret different literary types differently because the authors are employing the rules and mechanics of their particular genre. Finally, Christians read the Bible in light of the Grand Story of salvation that culminates in Jesus Christ.

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