Understanding the Bible can be difficult. For many centuries, the Catholic Church taught that the Bible could only be understood by an ordained priest. In modern times, people like N.T. Wright and other well-credentialed theologians are often held up as having profound (even special or unique) insights into God’s word due to their advanced degrees and learning.

Others might contend that a working knowledge of the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) languages are necessary for understanding the Bible. Of late, the need to have an understanding of the culture of the day (1st century) has advanced…to the degree that some disregard portions of Scripture with the charge of modern-day irrelevance.

So what exactly is required to understanding the Bible? Can just anyone come to a conclusion about what God has communicated to each one of us?

how Scripture answers "What do you need for understanding the Bible?"

Understanding the Bible requires nothing more than the Bible itself1,3,9 and a diligent, open, seeking heart2,6,8. With our prayer to God for understanding4,7, He has promised that we will find Him8,9.

Of course, the word may travel by way of a teacher/preacher6, and some portions or topics may be difficult5, but Scripture’s promise is that we can grow in the truth9 with careful, diligent study2,6.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is from God (e.g. holy, inspired) and necessary for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and training in righteousness so that a man of God would be spiritually equipped and ready for any good work.

Paul is writing to the younger Timothy and giving general advice about his work in preaching the Gospel.

How does it inform?

Scripture is what is held up as the source for man’s “completeness” and equipping for any “good work”.

Does it apply? Yes

2
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

How can a young man keep his conduct pure? By understanding your [God’s] word.  I seek you [God] with an undivided heart; let me not wander from your word!

A great Psalm (119) dedicated to the merit and beauty of God’s word.

How does it inform?

Coming into an accord (e.g. understanding) of God’s word requires seeking with a whole heart.

Does it apply? Yes

3
Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. There is no end to the making of many books, and much study is exhausting to the body. Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.
Be warned, my son, of anything added to them [wise sayings of the Teacher].  There is no end to the making of books, and their study wearies the body.  Having heard everything, I have concluded that it is enough for man to only fear God and keep his commandments.

A book of wisdom from “the Preacher” (many believe to be Solomon). The very wise and wealthy “Preacher”, having done all things “under the sun”, shares his treatise on life and worldly pursuits – it is all vanity.

How does it inform?

Earthly knowledge (“many books”) is put at odds with God’s word which, it’s concluded, is independently self-sufficient for man’s “whole duty”.

Does it apply? Yes

4

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

How can a young man keep his conduct pure? By understanding your [God’s] word.  I seek you [God] with an undivided heart; let me not wander from your word!

A great Psalm (119) dedicated to the merit and beauty of God’s word.

How does it inform?

A prayer to God that He might grant an understanding of His word. (A thought repeated several more times in the 119th Psalm.)

Does it apply? Yes

5
And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.
Consider also the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our brother Paul wrote to you in all his letters based on the wisdom given to him. Some of his writings are hard to understand – the things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own demise – just as they do with rest of all scripture.

Peter’s final exhortation to hold a “firm grasp on the truth” (vs 17) and to “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge” of Christ (vs 18).

How does it inform?

Peter acknowledges that some of scripture, particularly what Paul wrote, is “hard to understand.” However, the very next verses confirm his audience had a “grasp of the truth” and his encouragement is to continue to grow [in the truth].

Does it apply? Yes

6
These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.

These Jews [Bereans] were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word eagerly, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if what we [Paul and Silas] said was so.

Paul is on his second missionary journey and has come to Berea after having to flee Thessalonica in the night for fear of being killed for preaching the gospel.

How does it inform?

The Bereans were taught the word by the apostle Paul himself, but they still confirmed it with daily, careful examination of the scriptures.

Does it apply? Yes

7
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
As a result, from the day we heard, we have continued to pray for you, asking God that you will be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  In order that you might walk in a way that’s worthy of Christ our Lord, fully pleasing him and bearing fruit in every good work while increasing in the knowledge of God.

Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.

How does it inform?

Paul and his companions prayed for Christians to gain understanding of God’s word.

Does it apply? Yes

8
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James practical words to Christians on how to live faithfully.  In chapter four he focuses on humility and single-mindedness.

How does it inform?

God will draw near to those who seek him with a desire and single-mindedness of heart.

Does it apply? Yes

9
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you dwell/remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is teaching in the temple while being challenged by the Pharisees (vss 13, 19).
How does it inform?

Jesus promises that true disciples will “know the truth” by remaining or continuing to dwell in the word.

Does it apply? Yes

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If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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