A fundamental principle of teaching and learning the Bible is presented below.
PRINCIPLE: It Is Not Necessary To Teach The Content Of The Bible.
Before you misunderstand what this principle is really saying, please understand what is not being said. This principle does not mean the Bible should not be taught. The Bible should be taught and studied. The point of this principle is to recognize that teaching the content of the Bible is not necessary. The content of the Bible (what is in it) can be learned by merely reading it. Those who cannot read, or who don’t care to, can acquire knowledge of the content of the Bible in a variety of other ways such as audio tapes and CD’s and videos. Hence, teaching the content of the Bible, merely for the purpose of transferring information, is not a necessity. Of course, that is a generalization. There are many places in the world where there are no Bibles, let alone other teaching aids.
Of course, everyone can benefit from the instruction of an experienced teacher. The point being made is if it is not necessary for the content of the Bible to be taught for a person to learn what is in it, what is a Bible teacher’s goal to be? A teacher’s goal must be to create an atmosphere in which students can come to a place of desiring to go beyond mere knowledge to acquiring understanding.
When a teacher accepts the idea that it is not necessary for the content of the Bible to be taught, the way is cleared for them to strive for this grander goal. They can seek to instill in others a desire to understand the meaning (as opposed to just knowing the content) of the Bible, and most important to create in students a passion for understanding. These are the things upon which a lasting foundation must be laid. Let’s clear away the idea that someone else is responsible for another’s understanding of the Bible. It is every believer’s responsibility to understand the Bible for themselves.
The desire for understanding is key to the creation of a unified body of Christ. It is only when understanding of the Bible is sought, received and shared with other believers that the whole body can come together with one mind.
While this principle expresses my position and intent in an unusual way, it accurately expresses my goal for Bible teaching which is essentially this: Teaching the content of the Bible (the words and stories contained in its pages) is not the do-all and end-all of Bible teaching … or learning, for that matter. While going through the process of teaching and learning the content of the Bible, it is important for teachers as well as students to also strive to develop a passion for seeking understanding.
The whole point of my claim that the content need not be taught is intended to clear the way for Bible teachers to see that there must be more to Bible teaching than what they might be doing. The rationale is that if a teacher is only concerned with teaching content, and if they could see that it is not necessary to do that, they might ask, “What should be the goal of my effort?” My answer to that question is that the goal is to motivate and show students how to obtain understanding from their Bible study.
Let me close with the following words of instruction for Bible teachers and students:
13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
14 For her [understanding] profit is better than the profit of silver, and her gain better than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. (Proverbs 3:13-18)
1 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father,
And give attention that you may gain understanding,
2 For I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction.
3 When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother,
4 Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live;
5 Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.
7 “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.
8 “Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 “She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty.” (Proverbs 4:1-9)
Knowledge and understanding are actually a duality. They are the same but different. For a more complete discussion on dualities and the dual nature of the Bible, please read the article, The Dual Nature Of The Bible. Knowledge is a mental activity gained by means of our five senses. Knowledge is therefore a physical activity.
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind. (Colossians 2:18)
Understanding, on the other hand, is acquired through the heart. Therefore, understanding is spiritual.
FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM. (Matthew 13:15)
Physical and Spiritual are also a duality. Since understanding is spiritual, it is not acquired through your five senses. Rather, it is obtained through a process of revelation. Paul explained it this way in his letter to the Galatians.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)
The giver of these revelations of understanding is the Holy Spirit.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth [the Holy Spirit], comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit speaks to the followers of Jesus. In this way He guides believers into all the truth. Therefore, there must be truth beyond the words written on the pages of the Bible. If this were not so, the Holy Spirit would not be needed to guide us into the truth. Therefore, I conclude that the Bible is the truth, but it is not all of the truth. The remainder of the truth is received by means of revelations from the Holy Spirit. These revelations are called understanding.
It seems clear to me that getting understanding, and not merely knowledge of the content of the Bible, must be the goal for Bible teachers and students.