HOW TO READ THE BIBLE AND WHY
by Archimandrite Justin Popovich
Bible is in a sense a biography of God in this world. In it the
Indescribable One has in a sense described Himself.
Holy Scriptures of the New Testament are a biography of the incarnate
God in this world. In them it is related how God, in order to reveal
Himself to men, sent God the Logos, who took on flesh and became
man--and as a man told men everything that God is, everything that God
wants from this world and the people in it.
the Logos revealed God's plan for the world and God's love for the
world. God the Word spoke to men about God with the help of words,
insofar as human words can contain the uncontainable God.
that is necessary for this world and the people in it--the Lord has
stated in the Bible. In it He has given the answers to all questions.
There is no question which can torment the human soul, and not find its
answer, either directly or indirectly in the Bible.
cannot devise more questions than there are answers in the Bible. If you
fail to find the answer to any of your questions in the Bible, it means
that you have either posed a sense-less question or did not know how to
read the Bible and did not finish reading the answer in it.
the Bible God has made known:
what the world is; where it came from; why it exists; where it is
heading; how it will end;
what man is; where he comes from; where he is going; what he is made of;
what his purpose is; how he will end;
what animals and plants are; what their purpose is; what they are used
what good is; where it comes from; what it leads to; what its purpose
is; how it is attained;
what evil is; where it comes from; how it came to exist; why it
exists--how it will come to an end;
what the righteous are and what sinners are; how a sinner becomes
righteous and how an arrogant flghteous man becomes a sinner; how a man
serves God and how he serves satan; the whole path from good to evil,
and from God to satan;
everything--from the beginning to the end; man's entire path from the
body to God, from his conception in the womb to his resurrection from
what the history of the world is, the history of heaven and earth, the
history of mankind; what their path, purpose, and end are.
the Bible God has said absolutely everything that was necessary to be
said to men. The biography of every man-everyone without exception--is
found in the Bible.
it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in
detail: all those virtues and vices which you have and can have and
will find the paths on which your own soul and everyone else's journey
from sin to siniessness, and the entire path from man to God and from
man to Satan. You will find the means to free yourself from sin.
short, you will find the complete history of sin and sinfulness, and
the complete history of righteousness and the righteous.
you are mournful, you will find consolation in the Bible; if you are
sad, you will find joy; if you are angry--tranquility; if you are
lustful--continence; if you are foolish--wisdom; if you are
bad--goodness; if you are a criminal--mercy and righteousness; if you
hate your fellow man--love.
it you will find a remedy for all your vices and weak points, and
nourishment for all your virtues and accomplishments.
you are good, the Bible will teach you how to become better; if you are
kind, it will teach you angelic tenderness; if you are intelligent, it
will teach you wisdom.
you appreciate the beauty and music of literary style, there is nothing
more beautiful or more moving than what is contained in Job, Isaiah,
Solomon, David, John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul. Here
music--the angelic music of the eternal truth of God--is clothed in
more one reads and studies the Bible, the more he finds reasons to study
it as often and as frequently as he can. According to St. John
Chrysostom, it is like an aromatic root, which produces more and more
aroma the more it is rubbed.
as important as knowing why we should read the Bible is knowing how we
should read the Bible.
best guides for this are the holy Fathers, headed by St. John Chrysostom
who, in a manner of speaking, has written a fifth Gospel.
holy Fathers recommend serious preparation before reading and studying
the Bible; but of what does this preparation consist?
of all in prayer. Pray to the Lord to illuminate your mind--so that you
may understand the words of the Bible--and to fill your heart with His
grace--so that you may feel the truth and life of those words.
aware that these are God's words, which He is speaking and saying to you
personally. Prayer, together with the other virtues found in the Gospel,
is the best preparation a person can have for understanding the Bible.
How should we read the Bible? Prayerfully and reverently, for in each
word there is another drop of eternal truth, and all the words together
make up the boundless ocean of the Eternal Truth.
The Bible is not a book but life; because its words are "spirit and
life" (John 6:63). Therefore its words can be comprehended if we
study them with the spirit of its spirit, and with the life of its life.
It is a book that must be read with life--by putting it into practice.
One should first live it, and then understand it.
Here the words of the Saviour apply: "Whoever is willing to do
it--will understand that this teaching is from God" (John 7:17). Do
it, so that you may understand it. This is the fundamental rule of
At first one usually reads the Bible quickly, and then more and more
slowly, until finally he will begin to read not even word by word,
because in each word he is discovering an everlasting truth and an
Every day read at least one chapter from the Old and the New Testament;
but side by side with this put a virtue from each into practice.
Practice it until it becomes a habit to you.
Let us say, for instance, that the first virtue is forgiveness of
insults. Let this be your daily obligation. And along with it pray to
the Lord: "O gentle Lord, grant me love towards those who insult
when you have made this virtue into a habit, each of the other virtues
after it will be easier for you, and so on until the final one.
main thing is to read the Bible as much as possible. When the mind does
not understand, the heart will feel; and if neither the mind understands
nor the heart feels, read it over again, because by reading it you are
sowing God's words in your soul.
there they will not perish, but will gradually and imperceptibly pass
into the nature of your soul; and there will happen to you what the
Saviour said about the man who "casts seed on the ground, and
sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, while
the man does not know it" (Mark 4:26-27).
main thing is: sow, and it is God who causes and allows what is sown to
grow (1 Cor. 3:6). But do not rush success, lest you become like a man
who sows today, but tomorrow already wants to reap.
reading the Bible you are adding yeast to the dough of your soul and
body, which gradually expands and fills the soul until it has thoroughly
permeated it and makes it rise with the truth and righteousness of the
every instance, the Saviour's parable about the sower and the seed can
be applied tp every one of us. The seed of Divine Truth is given to us
in the Bible.
reading it, we sow that seed in our own soul. It falls on the rocky and
thorny ground of our soul, but a little also falls on the good soil of
our heart--and bears fruit.
when you catch sight of the fruit and taste it, the sweetness and joy
will spur you to clear and plow the rocky and thorny areas of your soul
and sow it with the seed of the word of God.
you know when a man is wise in the sight of Christ the Lord? --When he
listens to His word and carries it out. The beginning of wisdom is to
listen to God's word (Matt. 7:24-25).
word of the Saviour has the power and the might to heal both physical
and spiritual ailments. "Say the word and my servant will be
healed" (Matt. 8:8). The Saviour said the word--and the centurion's
servant was healed.
as He once did, the Lord even now ceaselessly says His words to you, to
me, and to all of us. But we must pause, and immerse ourselves in them
and receive them--with the centurion's faith.
a miracle will happen to us, and our souls will be healed just as the
centurion's servant was healed. For it is related in the Gospel that
they brought many possessed people to Him, and He drove out the spirits
with a word, and healed all the sick (Matt. 8:16).
still does this today, because the Lord Jesus "is the same
yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8)
who do not listen to God's words will be judged at the Dreadful
Judgment, and it will be worse for them on the Day of Judgment than it
was for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14-15).
the Dreadful Judgment you will be asked to give an account for what you
have done with the words of God, whether you have listened to them and
kept them, whether you have rejoiced in them or been ashamed of them.
you have been ashamed of them, the Lord will also be ashamed of you when
He comes in the glory of His Father together with the holy angels (Mark
are few words of men that are not vain and idle. Thus there are few
words for which we do not mind being judged (Matt. 12:36).
order to avoid this, we must study and learn the words of God from the
Bible and make them our own; for God proclaimed them to men so that they
might accept them, and by means of them also accept the Truth of God
itself. In each word of the Saviour there is more eternity and
permanence than in all of heaven and earth with all their history.
He said: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not
pass away" (Matt. 24:35). This means that God and all that
is of God is in the Saviour's words. Therefore they cannot pass away.
a man accepts them, he is more permanent than heaven and earth, because
there is a power in them that immortalizes man and makes him eternal.
and fulfilling the words of God makes a person a relative of the Lord
Jesus. He Himself revealed this when He said: "My mother and my
brothers are those who hear the word of God and carry it out" (Luke
means that if you hear and read the word of God, you are a half-brother
of Christ. If you carry it out, you are a full brother of Christ. And
that is a joy and privilege greater than that of the angels.
learning from the Bible, a certain blessedness floods the soul which
resembles nothing on earth. The Saviour spoke about this when He said,
"Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke
is the mystery of the word--so great that the second Person of the Holy
Trinity, Christ the Lord, is called "the Word" or "the
Logos" in the Bible.
is the Word (John 1:1). All those words which come from the eternal and
absolute Word are full of God, Divine Truth, Eternity, and
Righteousness. If you listen to them, you are listening to God. If you
read them, you are reading the direct words of God.
the Word became flesh, became man (John 1:14), and mute, stuttering man
began to proclaim the words of the eternal truth and righteousness of
the Saviour's words there is a certain elixir of immortality, which
drips drop by drop into the soul of the man who reads His words and
brings his soul from death to life, from impermanence to permanence.
Saviour indicated this when He said: "Truly, truly I say unto you,
whoever listens to my word and believes in the One who sent me has
eternal life ...and has passed over from death to life" (John 5:24).
the Saviour makes the crucial assertion: "Truly, truly I say unto
you, whoever keeps my words will never see death" (John 8:51).
word of Christ is full of God. Thus, when it enters a man's soul it
cleanses it from every defilement. From each of His words comes a power
that cleanses us from sin.
at the Mystical Supper the Saviour told His disciples, who used to
listen to His word without ceasing: "You have already been cleansed
by the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3).
the Lord and His Apostles call everything that is written in the Bible
the word of God, the word of the Lord (John 17:14; Acts 6:2, 13:46,
16:32, 19:20; II Cor. 2:17; Col. 1:15, II Thess. 3:1), and uniess you
read it and receive it as such, you will remain in the mute, stuttering
words of men, vain and idle.
Every word of God is full of God's Truth, which sanctifies the soul for
all eternity once it enters it.
Thus does the Saviour turn to His heaveniy Father in prayer:
"Father! Sanctify them with Thy Truth; Thy word is truth"
If you do not accept the word of Christ as the word of God, as the word
of the Truth, then falsehood and the father of lies within you is
rebelling against it.
In every word of the Saviour there is much that is supernatural and full
of grace, and this is what sheds grace on the soul of man when the word
of Christ visits it.
Therefore the Holy Apostle calls the whole structure of the house of
salvation "the word of the grace of God" (Acts 20:32).
Like a living grace-filled power, the word of God has a wonder-working
and life-giving effect on a man, so long as he hears it with faith and
receives it with faith (1 Thess. 2:13).
Everything is defiled by sin, but everything is cleansed by the word of
God and prayer--everything--all creation from man on down to a worm (1
By the Truth which it carries in itself and by the Power which it has in
itself, the word of God is "sharper than any sword and pierces to
the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerns
the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Nothing
remains secret before it or for it.
every word of God contains the eternal Word of God--the Logos-it has the
power to give birth and regenerate men. And when a man is born of the
Word, he is born of the Truth.
this reason St. James the Apostle writes to the Christians that God the
Father has brought them forth "by the word of truth" (1:18);
and St. Peter tells them that they "have been born anew...by the
word of the living God, which abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23).
the words of God, which God has spoken to men, come from the Eternal
Word--the Logos, who is the Word of life and bestows Life eternal.
living for the Word, a man brings himself from death to life. By filling
himself with eternal life, a man becomes a conqueror of death and
"a partaker of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and of his
blessedness there shall be no end.
main and most important point of all this is faith and feeling love
towards Christ the Lord, because the mystery of every word of God is
opened beneath the warmth of that feeling, just as the petals of a
fragrant flower are opened beneath the warmth of the sun's rays. Amen.