8 Mistakes People Make When Reading the Bible—and How to Avoid Them


Should I read everything in the Bible as literal or figurative? What’s the point of reading the poetry in the Bible? Why does it matter who wrote the books of the Bible? These are just some questions that both new believers and veterans face all the time. And they’re important questions!

As part of our 30-Day Bible Reading Challenge, we’re posting a series of great tips and tools to help you get spiritually fit this 2016!

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find a Christian who is taking a verse or passage of the Bible out of context. Misreading the Bible can lead to damaging effects: cults, trauma, spiritual abuse, and so much more. It’s so important to know what the Bible says and understand God’s will and intent for us. Are you reading the Bible correctly? Let’s find out as we dig into the 8 mistakes to avoid when reading the Bible!

1. Overlooking God’s Overall Plan

8-mistakes-when-reading-bible-studyThe Old Testament reveals God’s loving plan of salvation, from Creation to prophecies of the future Messiah (the Savior).

The New Testament reveals God’s salvation of sinful man by the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and reveals the everlasting Kingdom of God.

God inspired 40 people over a period of 1600 years to write the 66 books of the Bible.

2. Ignoring the Background of the Books (Five W’s and One H )

Find out who wrote the books and the reason for, or theme of, the books. Ask “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?” Usually this information is in the first chapter or in the introduction to the book.

3. Not Reading Verses in Context


Read the surrounding chapters and the verses before and after the verse you are studying. Get the whole picture. Don’t study verses out of context. Look at the outline of the book.

4. Missing the Whole Message of God’s Word

Take the whole Bible as God’s Word. Don’t just concentrate on one verse or one idea. See if the teaching is explained more fully in other parts of the Bible. Look at the small cross references in your Bible to help you find other verses on the same subject. For example, look at the cross references and the verses around John 3:16.

5. Disregarding the Intended Meaning

As you read the Bible, look for the author’s intended meaning. What did the author want to say? What did it mean in that culture? What does it mean now?
What are the main ideas? If you have questions, write them down, pray for insight, and discuss your ideas with others.

6. Forgetting the History and Geography


Use a time line to learn about the history of the Bible. Use maps to learn about the geography of where the events took place.

7. Downplaying Figurative Language

8-mistakes-when-reading-bibleFigures of speech are word pictures that help us understand a truth. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” is a metaphor that helps us picture the Bible enlightening our minds and actions and giving us direction. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God” is a simile that compares ideas with the words “like” or “as.” Similes occur over 175 times in the Psalms.

Jesus used personification when he said if the people did not declare the mighty works they had seen God do, the stones would cry out in praise. Hyperbole (exaggeration) is found in Matthew 5:29-30.

8. Ignoring Forms of Literature

The Bible contains various forms of literature: History, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Parables, and Letters. Recognizing each form will help you interpret the meaning. For example, parables explain a spiritual truth by means of a story or analogy. The parable of the Prodigal Son does not refer to a specific historical person but teaches that God is a loving father who joyfully welcomes back prodigal or rebellious children who later repent and return to him.

Avoiding these 8 simple mistakes can save us from a lot of arguing and embarrassment! Are there any other mistakes that you can think of that we missed? Share in the comments below! And stay tuned or subscribe for the next post in our 30-Day Bible Challenge series!

Need a helpful tool to guide your Bible study? Let us recommend Bible Overview!

FREE “How to Study the Bible” eChart

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This “How to Study the Bible” eChart gives the four basic steps to study the Bible, using the inductive method. Whether you have studied the Bible for many years or are new to it, this helpful chart teaches you how to read Scripture in a deeper way. This one-page, step-by-step guide provides an easy-to-follow plan to help you enjoy your time reading God’s Word. Download and print out for your friends.

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2 Thoughts on “8 Mistakes People Make When Reading the Bible—and How to Avoid Them

  1. Kelly Taylor on November 27, 2018 at 4:52 pm said:

    Excellent article! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Donna Thomas on April 2, 2018 at 4:33 pm said:

    I think , in addition to your helpful list and the helpful comments that were added, it is very important to understand who is being addressed. Getting scriptures that specifically pertain to Israel mixed up with those that pertain to the Church is very misleading and has caused great confusion in the Church, and has led to the formation of false doctrines.

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