“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.” Deuteronomy 11:18 (NLT)
This past month, I have been teaching a course on the basics of the Bible. This past week, we talked about how for the first time in human history there are more printed Bibles than there are people in the world. They estimate that there are 7.5 billion Bibles that have been printed since 1455, and 7 billion people. Personally, I have 12 in my office so clearly distribution is skewed. Yet it still raises an interesting question: why do so few people actually read the Bible?
I was amazed in a third year Seminary class when a professor asked these future pastors how many of us had read the Bible cover to cover, and only 3 of the 25 of us raised our hands.
Originally, the stories of the Bible were oral traditions passed on from generation to generation, then they began to be written down by freehand, but only the wealthy and professional religious people had access to them. In fact, one of the major changes by the Reformation in the 1500s was to take the Bible out of the hands of priests and into the hands of the laity making personal devotion times possible. The amazing expansion of access to the Bible is a huge benefit we now have, yet, it still remains that Biblical literacy rates have dramatically decreased.
It is not surprising that when life suddenly becomes chaotic, and we are struck by tragedy that many of us seek out the counsel of the Bible. Unfortunately, if we have not been reading it, learning about its structure and context, or engaging it prior to these events, then it is far more difficult to hear God’s words of comfort and love.
What are some of the biggest hurdles for our engagement with the Bible? Does it seem antiquated, confusing, overwhelming, boring or irrelevant? Why? How may we overcome these obstacles?