Can I Trust the Bible?

Can I Trust the Bible?

by Emily Brown

Before I got involved in InterVarsity, I disliked the Bible.

I loved the Lord, prayed every night, and believed Jesus Christ was my Savior. But the Bible? Meh.

I just didn’t get it. Why follow a book that, I believed, preached murder and oppression? I told myself the Bible was a piece of literature inspired by God, not written by him.

But as I started to actively study the Bible, in and outside of InterVarsity, I started to appreciate my little black book a bit more. And after sharing some of my concerns to different InterVarsity staff members and my mother, I realized I was looking at the Bible the wrong way.

Rick Mattson, staff member of InterVarsity’s Christian Fellowship Apologetics Ministry, described it this way: “The Bible was written by ancient authors in an ancient context for an ancient audience.”

Part of studying the Bible is understanding that ancient setting and cultural context, and then looking at the passages with a modern mindset. How would the Bible change if the authors were placed in the modern world with a modern culture?

That is one of the most challenging, but fascinating aspects of Bible interpretation.

Looking at the Bible from this angle, I better understand the passages and the reasoning behind certain things. I’d thought the Bible supported misogyny and the oppression of women. But after reading it and looking at the time period, the Bible actually uplifts women. During that time, women were thought of as nothing. Yet, New Testament writers used testimonies from women, and Jesus conversed and traveled with them.

As Rick put it, “For women’s rights, the Bible is actually way ahead of its time.”

Here are a few tips Rick provided to help you better understand and trust the Bible:

1. Trust Jesus' Judgment

”Jesus believed the Old Testament was the word of God, and he was always referring back to passages in the Old Testament,” Rick said.

Jesus trusted the Old Testament and looked forward to the writing of the New Testament. So, if we follow Jesus, we should trust his judgment, too.

2. Look at Each Passage's Genre

The Bible isn’t just a book—it is a collection of books with more than 40 authors and a variety of genres. To accurately interpret the Bible, you need to look at the genre of the book you're in. A Scripture passage from a historical narrative is going to have a different ancient context than poetry. For example, we interpret the historical narrative of Exodus differently than the poetry of the Psalms.

3. Interpret in Community

By studying the Bible with others, you can learn from God’s people and keep on track. Yes, we are all sinners, so it won’t always be perfect. But your chances of accurately interpreting the Bible go way up. God speaks to his people in community, and we need to make sure our interpretations of the Bible are in line with the overall community of faith.

4. Read the Old Testament in Light of Jesus

The Bible isn’t static. Ever since Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament, the story of salvation and how we live has been updated.

Here is a helpful analogy Rick used:

“When my kids were little, they couldn’t go out into the street by themselves. When they were older, that rule no longer applied. I hadn’t changed; I still believe in that rule for younger kids. Their lives have changed, and the story of my family has been updated.”

So, we have to read the Old Testament in light of the coming of Jesus.

5. Don't Read the Bible Like a Rule Book

The Bible is a story—a story with teaching embedded into it. Don’t miss the bigger picture of what the author is trying to say by only focusing on the little details.