Reading the Bible – First Encounter
I remember when I received my first Bible. I was 8 years old. My grandmother had taken me to a local store. It was mostly an office supply shop, but it also sold a few books. They sold leather bound bibles that they engraved. My grandmother had me pick out one that I liked. So, I picked a nice blue leather Bible that had silver lined pages. The store engraved my name onto the leather bound cover, and voila! Thanks to my grandmother, I had my first Bible (with my name engraved on it) and was ready to begin reading the Bible.
When I got home, I remember trying to read the Bible. Like any book, I opened the cover and began. I grasped a few basic things in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. But after that, I was lost. I did not understand the Bible that I was reading. It stopped making sense, so I left the Bible on the desk in my room. It wasn’t long before the Bible was placed on the bookshelf – out of sight and out of mind.
Reading the Bible – Other Early Encounters
Over the next 8 years, I would occasionally pull that Bible out of the bookshelf. I had heard many people talk about the Bible with reverence. “It will change your life”, “it will give you wisdom”, and “it will help you to know God,” they said. So, in between my young “professional life” of playing Nintendo, Sega, or Playstation or whenever I wasn’t consumed with my other young “profession” of playing tennis, baseball, or basketball, I would begin to read the Bible again. Every time, the same scenario played out. It was not easy to read. I did not understand it. And I would give up after a few attempts. I would put the Bible right back on the bookshelf where it had come from. I would go back to my professional youth life of playing video games and sports. After all, video games and sports were serious business!
Reading the Bible – Faith Seeking Understanding
In the prime of my teenage “professional” video game and sports career, at the age of 16, God decided to change my life. At the age of 16, I sensed God calling me to place my faith in Christ and to follow Him with my life. At the time, I really had no idea what that meant. But I remember being eager to learn more about God and my faith. Many people encouraged me to go to church and to read the Bible. So, I attended church regularly and tried to read and understand the Bible.
Somewhere along the way, someone gave me some wise counsel – rather than starting to read the Bible in the Old Testament begin reading the Bible in the New Testament. I did just that. To my surprise, I began to understand the Bible a bit better. However, even though the Bible began to make a bit more sense, I probably still only understood 25% – 33% of what I read in the Bible using a leading modern Bible translation. Nevertheless, I often pressed on. I kept reading because I was thirsty for deeper religious knowledge, but the same dynamic continued. I was only slightly understanding the Bible message (and mostly just hanging on to a few verses or passages that I read in the Bible that seemed to make sense).
Reading the Bible – Church and Study Bibles
At church, I often asked questions of more seasoned Christians, but I soon discovered they often had the same issues understanding Scripture as me. They struggled to understand the Bible too! In bible studies, we would all do our best to try to understand the Bible, but we did not know what we did not know.
For college, I ended up going to a Christian university. Where I grew up, it had a stellar reputation for sciences and pre-professional programs like pre-med. So, that’s where I went. During that time, I discovered study bibles. They were a big help. However, like most people in bible studies, I often found myself reading the study bible’s “footnotes” more than the actual biblical text.
At both church and in using study bibles, I began to realize that many people have the same issues when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible.
Realizing the Gaps in Understanding the Bible
In college and seminary, I learned how to “study” the Bible through various extra-biblical helps and quickly discovered the many gaps in knowledge, background, and context that keep many contemporary readers from understanding the Bible. I did not realize it at the time, but during my early Christian years, even though I owned many Bible translations, I did not have a Bible that helped me to understand the thought and meaning of Scripture. Through a variety of formal and informal education, I finally filled in the gaps that enabled me to comprehend Scripture, but I wondered how many other people had these types of struggles understanding the Bible? How many people attempt to read the Bible and do well to understand 1/3 of what they read? As I became heavily involved in ministry and continued my theological education, I observed the answer to these questions.
When Others Read the Bible and Don’t Understand the Bible
Immersed in ministry, I saw that many people had problems reading and understanding Scripture for themselves. When I would share with and teach others and when they tried to read it for themselves, they encountered the same problems I had encountered earlier. A person close to me became very interested in reading the Bible and learning more. I bought her the New International Version (NIV) and guided her on where to start, beginning with the New Testament. She read it, but she often became frustrated by how much she did not understand. We would discuss it together, but she eventually gave up on reading the Bible. She became frustrated reading the Bible and began thinking that understanding the Bible for herself was beyond her abilities.
So, I took the natural next step and got her a study bible. She tried it but became confused by all the footnotes. She would say, “Why does the Bible need footnotes?” and become even more intimidated. Next, I shared with her the Message and the New Living Translation (NLT). Her experience with them was no different from the NIV. The Message is in modern lingo but did not fill in the learning need, nor did the readability of the NLT. Through the years, I have shared bible studies and other extra-biblical resources with her, but even to this day, she still feels frustrated. As she has said many times, “I just want to pick up the Bible and be able to read and understand it. Why isn’t there a translation that can help me do that?”
Called to Create a New Bible Translation that People Can Read and Understand
Throughout years of ministry, I have encountered these same types of questions. Repeatedly, people have this same need – when they read the Bible, they cannot understand it. This problem has plagued bible readers for generations. It has been a burning passion of mine through most of my adult life. It is a problem that I have felt called to address – to create a Bible translation that people can pick up and be able to read and understand on their own. The Bridge was created for this very purpose and to address this need – to help people understand the Bible!
If you are someone that wants to read and understand the Bible, are curious about it, or are wanting a fresh perspective on studying the Bible, then I would encourage you to try The Bridge – an easy to read Bible that can help you to be better understand scripture.