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The Bible is actually made up of 66 books within the one book, written by many different authors and in many different genres. Part of the problem in understanding the Bible lies in understanding each genre and reading it accordingly.

Many books are historical narratives, but others are poetic (e.g. Psalms, Proverbs) and use imagery and symbolism to convey truths. The Gospels in the New Testament focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but are not ‘biographies’ in the traditional sense of the word. We have letters to churches; we have prophetic writings in the BIble. Revelation, along with parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel and Amos, are part of what is known as ‘apocalyptic literature’, relying heavily on imagery and symbolism to convey spiritual visions connected with the end times and the ultimate establishment of God’s kingdom.

When a child learns to read, there is the challenge of vocabulary: what does this word literally mean? My granddaughter was reading a book this week about a ‘banquet’ and ‘goblets’. She had never encountered either word before, so although she could read them easily enough, I had to explain what they meant to her. Then, however, we move to the realm of idiom and metaphor. When we say God is our rock, we do not mean God is a literal rock; we are talking about the elements of a rock which He represents (strength, stability, immovability etc.) When we read Revelation, there are images a-plenty which take some fathoming, but even when things are not meant literally (Satan being a dragon, for example), that does not mean they are not true.

Learning to read the Bible in context and with these spiritual eyes and ears isn’t easy, but it’s the path to real understanding!