The Bible is a Letter from God to Me

Alright. Multiple choice time.

Who was the Bible written to?
A) Americans
B) Christians
C) ME!
D) Specific people in specific places at specific times in history

Best answer? D. And here's why I say that:

Along with most orthodox Christians, I affirm the innerancy of scripture(*1). And, fortunately for us, almost all of Scripture identifies its audience at the start of each passage(*2)! So I will take the Spirit at His word and accept that the texts were written to whom they say they were written to.

Here's a rough breakdown:
  • The Torah was written to Israel on Mt. Sinai. 
  • The prophets all spoke to specific individuals or nations concerning specific events which would take place, most often, in the immediate future. 
  • The books of poetry were written by kings for the enrichment of their sons and subjects. 
  • The historical books were written to a divided, fallen Israel. 
  • The gospels, despite all their red letters, weren't written by Jesus Himself but by four onlookers, all of whom were passionate that His message of the kingdom be spread. 
  • When Paul arrived on the scene, he worked to interpret Christ's message for infant churches who were still trying to figure out what it all meant.
Which one of those categories are you in? None?

That's because the Bible wasn't written to you. A few observations though, before the objections start rolling in: This does not mean God didn't want us reading it! A quick review of church history will remind us that there have been hundreds of attempts to obliterate the existence of the Holy Scriptures--none of which God permitted to prevail. He wrote it purposefully, and has preserved it purposefully. Although the Bible is closed to new additions, it will never be closed to study. The truths it contains about who God is and how He interacts with these strange yet chosen creatures called "humans" are timeless. The King of Israel is still King today, and the worship He demanded then is still a divine mandate today. (See Num 23.19; 1 Sam 15.29; Mal. 3.6; Ps 9.10; Jas 1.17)

So yes, we should absolutely take on David's attitude toward Scripture, "I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes." (Ps 119.48) and say with him, "Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps 119.97)

But there is a certain danger in the myth, "The Bible is a letter from God to me." Even though I've heard this idea taught from the pulpit and spread adamantly among believers, I don't think we realize the destruction we enable by it. You see, if we really are the only intended audience, then the Bible can mean whatever we want it to mean. If one morning we open up to Isaiah 41.24 and --believing it to be God's message to us-- spend all day trying to solve it like a riddle on a fortune cookie, surely we would come to a conclusion such as, "God is telling me that I will fail in my career; I must change jobs ASAP!!"

My friend, it wasn't written to you.

Are there immutable truths to be gleaned instead? Absolutely. From that same page, even that exact verse, the perceptive reader sees God sovereignly protecting His rebellious children. Now there's a message to carry through your day!

"Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
- Prov 1.5,7

For more information on the best way to read and understand Scripture, here are a few articles on one of my favorite topics: "Hermeneutics."

"How to Interpret the Bible" - 10 guidelines for biblical interpretation
"Hermeneutics: It's not life or death, right?" - On the importance of accurate interpretation

Happy studying.

*1 - Inerrancy is the idea that everything the Bible teaches is true and free of error. It holds that Yahweh actually means what He said and said what He means. There are exactly zero misplaced or incorrect words in the original text, and because we also know a thing or two about the tedious perfectionism of the scribes in ancient Israel, we can assume further that there are very very few mistakes in the manuscripts we have today.
*2 - The placement of both the author and the recipient at the beginning of the letters was simply for practicality purposes; all writing was done on parchment which was rolled into scrolls for delivery or storage... Imagine how inconvenient it would be to get a scroll in the mail and have to unroll the whole darn thing just to see who it was from!

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