The Bible is confusing

At one point in my Christian life, I was taught the doctrine of perspicuity. In more simple terms, the idea is that the Bible’s meaning is clear and available for anyone to understand.

In fairness, this doctrine is taught by seminary professors with nuance and many qualifications. And I do agree that the Bible is comprehensible! After all, it’s main points seem to be relatively well understood by billions of people around the world. Some of the high points are that God loves us, Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for our sins, and if we respond to God in faith, we can participate in God’s mission and live with him forever.

(I know, that’s a very simple overview that leaves out many important points!)

However, I’ve struggled with this doctrine because… the Bible is complicated!!


  • Over forty authors, writing in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, wrote the text over 1,500 years.

  • These authors lived in diverse and ancient cultures, with assumptions and values that are foreign to most readers

  • They wrote in a variety of genres, including apocalyptic, poetic, and prophetic styles, each of which take special care to interpret

  • The Bible is meant to be read as a whole, yet it takes years of study to understand each section. It also takes additional study to see how each part connects to other parts of the Bible.

  • At times, it appears that various authors contradict one another.

  • The Bible is read in dialogue with other ancient texts, archaeological finds, and other information from the surrounding cultures, each of which requires unique expertise

  • Even among Christians, there are legitimate debates about how to interpret various passages, with long-standing and unresolved tensions expressing themselves in thousands of denominations

  • The Bible is subjected to skeptical scrutiny from the perspective of every major religion, as well as agnostic and atheistic critiques, raising additional questions and challenges to its truthfulness, goodness, and basic meaning.

  • Most people read the Bible via translations, which are usually excellent but are not identical to the original text

  • We believe the Scriptures are understood with the help of the Holy Spirit, which introduces a certain level of mystery and dependence into our studies

  • We understand that our understanding of Scripture is also affected by our sin patterns and our affection (or lack thereof) for God. We are not approaching the text as brains in vats but as embodied, spiritual beings.

I imagine your own personal experiences and research can unearth additional reasons why the Bible can be confusing.

For me, this is why I’m grateful for a community like Uncommon Pursuit, where a global team of brothers and sisters in Christ can come together to help us understand God’s word. I’m also thankful for generations of faithful scholarship that is now widely accessible through the internet and (relatively) affordable books.

Still, these can be daunting challenges.

Do you find the Bible confusing?

What helps you understand it?


I was taught that also but as I recall it applied more to the understanding of the Gospel message and not Judges as a comparison.
Going beyond the Gospel as a journey to its beginning required much more study.