Question: How does one study the Bible? Throughout the world many Bibles that people have, have only minimal helps and they may not have access to our many tools. With minimal or no Bible study tools, how does one study the Bible?
Answer: I am afraid that we often fail to recognize how blessed we are to live in the times in which we do. With the push of a button we can search every place the word of God uses a certain word or phrase in seconds. Through the internet, thousands of classic commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and textual studies are available free of charge. Websites offer instant access to scores of Bible translations in English and virtually every major language. There has never been a time in human history when it has been easier for people to study God’s word, understand it and apply it to our lives. At the same time, we must acknowledge that many of these recourses are available only in English. What if a person doesn’t speak English?
History is a great teacher in this matter. As hard as it is now to imagine, only 500 years ago there was no Bible in English. William Tyndale, the first to translate the New Testament from Greek into English was put to death for his efforts. Then, most Bible study material was in Latin, and even then it was often hidden away in monasteries and libraries that were not available to most people. The first Bible Martin Luther ever saw was literally chained to a library wall! How did people study the Bible then? How did things change from those days to the way they are now where Bible study tools are so easy to access?
We must recognize, first of all, that while Bible study tools make the study of God’s word easier, they are aids not necessities for the understanding of God’s word. Paul told the Ephesians, “when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). Scripture is not some enigma that is so hard to unravel we need special knowledge, or secret insight to even be able to grasp it. The Bible is the written communication of God to man in clear words that can be understood. Paul admonished the same church not to be “unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Any soul that can read can take a Bible in their own language and study it. By careful consideration of its content, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13), that man or woman can grow to be “a worker that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
So let’s say I can’t speak English—what do I do? First, look and see if there are any translations that have been done in your language. Organizations like the Gideons and the United Bible Societies have worked for years to translate the Bible into languages for which there were no previous translations. Chances are there is a translation in your language that is out there somewhere. For example, one website offer translations in 66 languages other than English (http://www.biblegateway.com). What if there isn’t a translation? Many don’t realize the fact that the written forms of some modern languages had their origin in the efforts of men in the past to translate the Bible into a previously unwritten language. For example, the Cyrillic alphabet used to write modern Russian was invented by two brothers, Cyril and Methodius in the 800’s in order to teach the Bible to the Slavic peoples. They had to invent an alphabet, make a translation of the Bible and begin teaching it to the people. This has been done time and time again throughout history, and if necessary it could be done today.
So let’s say you have a translation, but you don’t have good material in that language. The call is ever sounding for faithful preachers and teachers of God’s word to fill this void. There is nothing quite like material written in one’s native language to help someone grow in his or her knowledge of God’s word. Until that happens, I would mention one final thing that is yet another benefit available to us in the age in which we live. Even if you do not speak English but you have found some material that is sound and reliable, you can utilize online resources to translate it for you. Some search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Ask often allow users to automatically translate web-pages. Google offers a resources known as “Google Translate” (http://translate.google.com/) that will allow a user to paste text from one language into a window and then select the language into which he wants that text to be translated. This isn’t always flawless, but it does provide avenues of communication and study never even dreamed of in the past. With tools such as this the question in our day is often not HOW people can study God’s word, but IF they will take the time to utilize the many resources available to do so.
Kyle Pope, September 2012