Why People Do Not Understand the Bible

People know more about more things than ever before. Technology. Art. Health. Business. Music. Ecology. Accounting. Fitness. Relationships. Architecture. History. Math. Physics. Botany. Computers. Engineering. Film. Medicine. Economics. Genetics.

People know less about the Bible than their great grandparents who followed a plow around a field for twelve hours a day.

Why? Is the Bible that hard to understand? Was it impossible for God to give a book that the minds He created could grasp?

It is possible to understand the Bible. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Christians possess the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:12-13) and Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) in written form. God expects all men to understand His word alike (1 Corinthians 1:10). If two understand the Word differently, at least one misunderstands.

God wants us to desire (Matthew 5:6; 1 Peter 2:2), dig into (John 5:39), divide (2 Timothy 2:15), discern and learn His Word (John 6:44-45). By so doing, freedom is gained (John 8:32), faith is attained (Romans 10:17), access to the Father is sustained (John 6:44-45), man is perfected (2 Timothy 3:17) and the world neglected (2 Peter 1:3; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-­17).


Some Do Not Study It. John Quincy Adams read four or five chapters of the Bible every morning immediately after rising. He said, “It seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day.” Yet only 26 percent of Americans said they  read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Of Bible readers, 57 percent only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Fifty-seven percent of those ages 18-28 read their Bibles less than three times a year, if at all. Only twelve percent read the Bible every day, and among these, the average time was only nine minutes a day. Is it any wonder that thirty-one percent said, “The Bible is too difficult to understand?”

It is impossible to have a saving, strengthening Scripture knowledge without regular study (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). We do not expect to learn math, English, science, history or literature without cracking a book. The Bible is no different.

We should study the Bible because it gives

  • Light in a darkening world (Psalm 119:130).
  • Understanding in a wondering world (Psalm 119:130).
  • Knowledge in a confusing world (Proverbs 2:6).
  • Approval in a rejecting world (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Stability in a floundering world (James 1:3-6).

Religious people often do not study Scripture, relying instead on the traditions of their parents and the views of their preachers. Many could not point to the Bible as authority for what they believe (cf. Colossians 3:17). Christ’s words are hauntingly real in our generation, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29). Some spend more time with Swindoll or Lucado than they do Peter and Paul. As strange as it sounds, we need to put the Bible back into our religious curriculum.

Some Do Not Want to Understand It. Scripture speaks of those who are willfully ignorant (2 Peter 3:5). The Bible condemns sins; therefore, sinners do not enjoy reading it. Deeds of darkness do not enjoy exposure to light. “Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). Those who are afraid they will find their sins in the Bible fail to realize that ignorance does not excuse (Romans 1:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Woodrow Wilson said,

A man has deprived himself of the best there is in the world who has deprived himself of a knowledge of the Bible . . . I have a very simple thing to ask of you. I ask every man and woman in this audience that from this day on they will realize that part of the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great Book.

Some Minds Are Cluttered with Other Things. Jesus spoke of thorny-ground hearts where the seed of the Word was choked. One of those thorn bushes was the “cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22). Good, moral people sometimes get too busy with family, food, finances, and fun to give the Word space to grow. Even among Bible readers, ignorance can remain if they fail to meditate on the Bible’s precepts (Psalm 1:2). The Bible is not a book that a hurry-up bed­time chapter or a newspaper-style glance can do much good.

Bible study must become important enough to us that we make time for it. No knowledge is as important as Bible knowledge. We spend thousands for a college education, but a free Bible education is undervalued. The average per­son spends 7.5 hours sleeping, 7.1 working, 5.3 in leisure, 1.45 doing housework, 1.15 eating, and .3 hours grooming per day. Surely, there is time for God in there.

Some Have Not Learned to Rightly Divide It (2 Timothy 2:15). A great number of people do not know that the Bible is divided. There is an old and new covenant, the Law of Moses and the law of Christ, called the Old Testament and the New Testament in our Bibles. We live under the New Law (Colossians 2:14). If one misses this, he will never understand the Bible.

Further, one must always consider who is speaking to understand the Bible. The words of Satan (cf. Genesis 3:1-4; Matthew 4), fools (Psalm 14:1) and false teachers (John 9:34) are recorded. Always observe the context.

Some Are Prejudiced against It. If we wear sunglasses, the world looks dark. When we put shades over our mind’s eye, the Gospel light becomes dim. Many come to the Bible with their minds already made up as to what it says. Like the ancient Jews (Matthew 13:15), they make it fit their beliefs rather than fitting life to it. This makes proper interpretation impossible.

Men can understand the Bible! We can remove these obstacles from our path and run the race to heaven (Hebrews 9:27).