It's a relatively common occurrence, people asking me questions about the Bible. Only on rare occasions do I sense a "stump the pastor" attitude or some other quirky put-down attempt. Usually someone is genuinely seeking reference to a relatively obscure verse or Bible story lost in their memory synapses. So, I'm not offended when details about God's Word are sought. More than anything, those kinds of requests signal me the questioner's unfamiliarity with Scripture. No, I haven't memorized the entire Bible and really don't expect any other human to do so either. But, every believer should have a basic knowledge of the Bible and possess some reference points when seeking Bible answers. And, no, Joan of Arc was not Noah's wife.
Reading the Bible is really a first step toward spiritual maturity. The Apostle Paul reminds us that our journey of faith begins in spiritual infancy when we must be fed milk rather than solid food (see 1 Corinthians 3:2, ESV). When we read Scripture regularly, perhaps systematically, we become become familiar with biblical words and phrases, names and places, and the time parameters of God's redemptive work in history. In most cases reading it will ignite a desire for more, that being, to know the Bible at a deeper level. King David, the man after God's own heart (see 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) penned many Psalms about knowing Scripture. In Psalm 119 he wrote "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple" (Psalm 119:130, ESV). Reading the Bible opens the portals of understanding. Knowing the Bible secures them.
What does it mean to know the Bible? As always, Google "knowing the Bible" and be amazed by the 94.5 million responses the search engines produce in less than a minute. There are books, studies, instructional series, articles, blogs, and every possible alternative to such a vibrant topic. Most agree that knowing the Bible is a multi-layered process requiring study. In my personal opinion, and that's all it is, knowing the Bible begins with---
1. Having the resources to facilitate such study. These include---
A version of the Bible that you can understand.
May I suggest the English Standard Version (Crossway, 2001).
A brief synopsis of the Bible. May I suggest The Books of the Bible by John Sailhammer (Zondervan Academic,
A Bible dictionary.
May I suggest The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (B & H Publishing Group,
A Concordance of the Bible
May I suggest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Hendrickson
These resources will assist in understanding Bible words, concepts, time lines, people, and events to facilitate knowing the Bible at a deeper level.
2. Understanding the arrangement and types of literature in the Bible. A second learning goal in knowing the Bible is to acknowledge the Old Testament and the categories of Old Testament literature: the Torah, or law; historical books, wisdom books, major prophets, and minor prophets. Additionally The New Testament (Gospels, historical writings, the Epistles, the Apocalypse). Knowing their strategic arrangement enables us to at least learn the broad scope of Bible information.
3. Memorizing Scripture.
Knowing the Bible also involves memorizing Scripture. King David wrote---
The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.
Psalm 37: 31, ESV
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119: 11, ESV
Scripture memorization is also referenced in several New Testament passages---
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done
John 15: 7, ESV
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing
one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in
your hearts to God.
Colossians 3: 16, ESV
in his second Epistle to Timothy the Apostle Paul commended Timothy for his knowledge of the Bible. He wrote, "...from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:15). It is a reminder of the value of knowing the sacred writings, the Bible. More to the point, Paul clarified for his younger colleague the path to spiritual wisdom and the blessings associated with knowing Scripture. It is a profound lesson for contemporary believers as well.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8, ESV). Our era, what many observers and demographers refer to as exponential times, is an age of velocity and complexity. Standards, values, morals, and ethics change by the hour. For this reason culture must be governed by principles that defy changing times and provide eternal guidance.
That guidance is the B.I.B.L.E., yes that's the book for me. We must read it. And, know it as well.