The Bible is Difficult for Many Reasons

The Bible is difficult for many reasons. It involves characters and linguistic patterns from times long past. It surveys centuries and spans a number of political eras. Its language parallels other religions, though with its own distinctive tilt. It does require intellectual effort to interpret this book. Above all, though, reading the Bible is a thorny practice, because it is so penetrating. It cuts through the thick of things, like a hammering fist or an ice-axe or, as the anonymous writer to the Hebrews says, by “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Biblical difficulty is largely a corollary of its doctrinal and moral judgment—this book involves the most profound and pervasive of judgments, drawing all reality into its theological register. It makes profound declarations about reality, separating the good from the bad, the beautiful from the grim, and the true from the false. Most crucial, however, is that this verbal illumination of reality shines upon the reader: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 3:13). This text will grab hold of you—it is difficult because it does not let you be.

Michael Allen, “Theological Commentary,” in Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives, ed. R. Michael Allen (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 3–4.

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