Biblical literacy refers to a deeper awareness of the content and the meaning of Scripture—how God’s story holds together from beginning to end. And understanding the meaning leads naturally to application because doctrinal competency can never stand alone. Doctrinal competency without Christlikeness is head knowledge without a heart connection. Without a heart connection, we fail to fully comprehend Scripture. Biblical literacy is a vital part of personal development as we take steps to partner with God in our calling. It’s also a key part of discipleship.
Have you ever heard the analogy “They teach bankers to recognize counterfeits by showing them REAL bills?” Christians frequently offer the statement as a reason against exposing children to non-Christian texts. The reasoning asserts that: If we are to raise children to know the truth, why expose them to untruths?
Here’s the reality: Even when we start with the Bible, we aren’t always starting with the same text. This is because there are so many different Bible translations, and the English language is complex. For example, consider the difference in Psalms 1:6 these three translations are read back to back:
The comprehension of various texts and possible responses could differ depending on the selected translation. For example, suppose someone prefers a translation that aims for a literal transcription rather than a paraphrase. In that case, the impact of death on the ungodly is much more significant than simply understanding that those who follow God are not wandering aimlessly.
There are many translations to choose from, and even these have changed through the centuries. Here is a chart that explains some of the Bible translations:
If the Bible Can Reference Outside Texts We Can Too
Part of Biblical literacy is developing a holistic understanding of the context of the content. This requires us to read a wide and diverse range from different centuries and multiple authors. Additionally, the Bible itself references outside texts identified as non-canonical books. Two examples are The Book of the Wars of the LORD in Numbers 21:14-15 NRSV and The “Book of Jasher,” or the “Scroll of the Upright One” which is mentioned as recording Joshua’s long day in Joshua 10:13 NET. If the Bible can reference outside texts why can’t we?
Counterfeit Money is a Poor Analogy for Bible Comparison
Tobin Duby writes:
But a treasury agent’s function of detecting counterfeits is not exactly analogous to the task of a Christian knowing the appearance and smell of truth. Here, I will argue that the ‘counterfeit money’ analogy is a poor one based on three reasons:
– Discerning real money from counterfeit is an act of recognition and knowing the truth requires not just recognition but also understanding.
– Even if we assume that secular writings contain no truth—that they are absolutely counterfeit—a Christian is not called to simply detect falsehood but to respond to it.
– Secular writing does, in fact, carry value in a way a counterfeit dollar bill does not.
A treasury agent engages in a fundamentally different process than a Christian does: Truth and the Bible are made up of ideas, while paper currency is made up of facts—shapes, colors, and patterns. Therefore, what a treasury agent is doing when he is looking for counterfeits is a fundamentally different activity than what a Christian is doing when he is learning about truth.Counterfeit Bills
Connecting Our Heart Knowledge with our Head Knowledge
“Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.” A.W. Tozer