I know that some might be offended at the question. “The Bible isn’t difficult to understand,” they may claim. But the fact is, I’ve been studying the book my entire life and there are still portions of the Scripture that I struggle to understand. Even Peter mentions that some Scripture written by Paul would be difficult for some to understand. (II Peter 3:16)
Stop! Don’t get discouraged! I have some good news for every Bible student. Understanding the Bible becomes much easier when you identify the four challenges of Bible interpretation.
The Distance of Time
The New Testament is nearly 2,000 years old and parts of the old testament can date back 3,500 years. To understand what happened to a person or group of people four to five thousand years ago can be a daunting task. When a prophet speaks of certain cities, practices, events that were all commonly understood 2,400 years ago to the original audience it’s natural for a modern reader to stumble over the names of these cities, people and events without studying the historical context of certain passages. The better the student understands history the better he will understand the Scripture he reads.
The Distance of Culture
The primitive agricultural world in which the characters of the Bible inhabit are starkly contrasted to the modern, urban world in which many readers find themselves. To leave behind our cultural contest and mentally travel to another land and culture can be difficult for many people. This takes imagination. Why did the Pharisees place such an emphasis on ceremonial washings? Why was Jesus so upset with the moneychangers in the temple? Why did Boaz exchange a shoe with Ruth’s kinsman and how did this signify that Ruth could now marry Boaz? Beginning to understand other cultures will help the student in their understanding of the Bible.
The Distance of Geography
Perhaps the easiest obstacle to overcome is geography. In our modern world it is as simple as traveling to the holy sites to visit the locations. However, this is not always possible. Understanding the geography of the Bible will help you when the Bible speaks of “going up to Jerusalem from Caesarea” which is on the coast. Or when the good Samaritan was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho its important to understand that Jerusalem is in the mountains and hills while Jericho is down by the dead sea.
The Distance of Language
I would argue that language is the most difficult barrier to overcome in understanding Scripture. In the first place, the Bible was originally written in other languages, portions in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. To master any one of these languages would take a devout student many years. However, just because this may be difficult, doesn’t make it impossible. The Lord has provided within His church those gifted in languages who have produced impeccable translations, lexicons, language learners and study guides in order to have a proper understanding of Scripture. Along with the promise of God to preserve His Word (Psalm 12:7), we have been given English translations and many tools to aid us in our study of God’s Word.
Though the Bible can be difficult to understand doesn’t mean it’s impossible. God has written His Word for the sole purpose of giving us a proper understanding of Himself. Though there are several difficulties to overcome, the diligent student should have no problem understanding the teachings of Scripture. Let us remember the exhortation of Paul to his beloved disciple, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – II Timothy 2:15
 William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 13-17.
 William Sanford Lasor, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1996), 52-53.
 William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 15.
 Ibid, 16.
 Ibid. 16-17.