An article entitled “Learn from My Bible Reading Mistakes: How to See God in the Story of Scripture” by Tara-Leigh Cobble in the October 7, 2019, Bible Engager’s Blog presents three things to avoid in Bible study. The link is https://blog.bible/bible-engagers-blog/entry/learn-from-my-bible-reading-mistakes. Even though avoidable, it is easy to stumble into any one of these activities.
The first thing to avoid is reading or studying to see oneself in the text. The Bible is not a self-help book or a “to-do” list or a “don’t do” list. As she writes, reading the Bible is “an opportunity to behold the beauty of God and be drawn in by him.” She lists five questions to ask of the text to redirect one’s focus toward God, and there are: What does God say or do in this passage? What does this reveal about what God loves? What does this reveal about what God hates? What does this reveal about what motivates God to do what he does? In all of that, what attributes of God are displayed? These are great questions to better see what the text says about God.
The second thing to avoid is reading or studying without reference to the context. To ignore the context is a recipe for disaster. The context is a critical part of Bible study, and so the following questions she asks of the text are great ways to focus on the context: who wrote it, when they wrote it, who they wrote it to, and what style they wrote it in. The factors that develop the authorial intent are critical to a proper understanding and interpretation of the passage.
The third thing to avoid is drawing conclusions too early in the process. She correctly points that reading just for selfish purposes is a mistake:
Mistakes #1 and #2 worked together to create my biggest mistake: drawing conclusions about God before I’d read the whole Bible. Since I had primarily been reading Scripture for selfish reasons, I was impatient and didn’t take time to read it all. That’s a dangerous approach because I didn’t have all the information.
Bible study is a crockpot exercise and not a microwave experience. It takes time, and the time it takes is worth it to accomplish careful study.
Her article sets out practical things to avoid that even the experienced exegete ought to keep in mind. It is a great article, and I recommend you read it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article.