We know that it is important to read the Bible, but there are many places in the Bible that are hard to understand. There are also parts that seem rather boring and we loose interest.
Since the Bible doesn't always make sense to our modern western ears means that we need to take time to understand it.
The Bible is a collection of books written in different literary styles. In fact, many books contain more than one type of literary style within it.
This is important because we don't read poetry the same way as we read narrative. Understanding the literary type helps us understand what God wants us to know.
About a third of the Bible is narrative, which makes it the most common literary style found in Scripture.
In order to understand narrative we need to understand the basic plot. Often when we read the Bible we pluck sections out of their context, looking for some eternal truth that we can apply to our lives, and in the process we miss out on the bigger plot of the story.
Another feature of narratives is character development. Every good story is about people, and their development within the story draws us into the narrative and makes us care about what is going on.
To be honest, it is hard to relate to Biblical characters. Their world is alien to us. We live surrounded by technology, which prevents us from experiencing the natural world around us. The people described in the Bible were outside people. They were herders who cared for animals and lived a nomadic existence.
This is just one of the issues we face as we come to read and understand the Bible.
How can better understand the characters written about in the Bible?
The characters in the Bible show us what humans are like. They are a commentary on human nature, a reminder that we are a complex mixture of good and bad motives and actions.
While the Biblical authors provide minimal detail when describing these people, especially in terms of modern day novel authors, the details they provide are important and give insight into their character.
Another key feature is the name of the character. We don't always think about the name of a person, but for the authors of the Bible names were very important and shed light into who the person was.
A frustrating feature of Biblical narrative is that the thoughts and motives of people are rarely shared. In the stories we read and watch the authors typically provide us glimpses into the minds of their characters.
Instead, the Biblical authors provide the details of what happened without moral commentary. This forces us to ponder about what was right and wrong in that situation and how we would have responded.
The Bible is not a collection of nice children's fables that provide a moral at the end of the story. We have tried to do that when teaching the Bible to children, and have ended up watering Scripture down.
The Bible is not a children's story. The narratives in the Old and New Testaments are filled with complicated characters, who often make the bad choice. Over all, these are not people we want to imitate.
What we want to do is to pay attention to the failures of these characters and why they made those decisions. This helps us to think about our actions and the reasons behind our failures and our faith.
We also want to pay attention to how they turn to God and experience God's grace and love. These are the moments that allow us to see God's character and the love He has for us.
The more time we spend reading and meditating on Scripture the better it is able to guide our lives.