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Can I Understand the Bible Without a Bible Degree?

Lady siting by sea studying her Bible.

Have you ever felt like understanding the Bible is beyond you? That maybe if you had a Bible degree, or if you knew Biblical Greek and Hebrew, you’d be able to understand the Bible and God better.

Here’s good news.

You can understand the Bible without a Bible college degree. In fact, you don’t need any formal training. And unless you desire to teach at a college or university, you certainly don’t need an advanced seminary degree.

God has revealed Himself in such a way that any person at any level of understanding can know the Bible well enough to please Him. This is not enough to satisfy the criteria to become a professor at a seminary. But it is enough to satisfy the expectations of your Creator, Lord, Savior, and Judge.

The Key Word is Need. Do You Need a Bible Degree, or Greek or Hebrew, to Know the Bible and God?

No, you do not need a Bible degree, or knowledge of Biblical Greek and Hebrew, to understand the Bible and God better. Now that I’ve gotten the scholar-types riled up…

The keyword is need. One does not need these things to understand the Bible and God better. You must be aware that studying the Bible and God is not like studying biology or math.

We are not studying science or a system. We are studying God. And God cannot be discovered by mere study, no matter how intellectually smart a person is. Actually, God has deliberately hidden Himself from the “wise” of this world:

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You did hide these things from the wise and intelligent and did reveal them to babes.

Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Your sight.

Matthew 11:25-26

It is the height of foolishness and pride to think one can get a Bible degree or learn a language or two, and this will get them any closer to understanding the infinite God.

I know how this sounds, but stick with me long enough and, hopefully, I’ll prove that I haven’t bumped my head.

You Need More Than Intellect to Understand the Bible and God

God hides Himself from the proud: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). So, no matter how smart a person is, if the heart is not right, God will resist that person.

A natural by-product of gaining knowledge is fleshly pride: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). One translation (NASB) says it even stronger: “Knowledge makes arrogant…”

We see this often in life. Humans turn into peacocks the more they learn. Look at western society. We’ve learned so much that we’re now convinced we popped out of nowhere and there is no God!

This is where 2 Timothy 3:7 is fulfilled: “…Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” If learning is a guaranteed way to get to the truth, why didn’t it, and why doesn’t it, work for the folks spoken of in this verse? The answer is found in the word “truth.”

The Holy Spirit didn’t say learning will not expose you to facts and intellectual minutia. There are tons of people with fat heads filled with encyclopedic mumbo-jumbo. Some of it quite impressive.

But they still don’t understand or know God.

Bible Degrees and Greek and Hebrew Didn’t Help the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Doctors of the Law

How about a few real-world examples?

Who were Jesus’s greatest opponents? Was it the people with or without Bible degrees? It was the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and doctors of the law [of Moses].

These were the Bible-degree folks. Recognized rabbis, doctors of the law, priests, and members of the Sanhedrin (religious/civil court).

Did these enemies of Christ know the Bible and Greek and Hebrew? Yep.

So, how can you have a Bible degree and know Biblical Greek and Hebrew and hate the Lord? And what prompted Jesus to look these Bible encyclopedias in the eyes and say, “You know neither the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

It is because no matter how much Bible you can quote, and no matter how many languages you know, understanding God comes from God.

The best we can do on our own is to gather a bunch of information (good or bad), master it, and then claim to be experts on the Bible and God.

Why Do People with Bible Degrees Disagree with One Another on Doctrine?

Let’s consider modern-day examples that prove my point that more learning does not automatically equate to more understanding.

Baptists.

Catholics.

Charismatics.

Episcopalians.

Lutherans.

Reformed this.

Reformed that.

Etc.

All of these folks have advanced Bible degrees. They all know Biblical Greek and Hebrew. Yet, they all vehemently disagree with one another’s doctrine, and do not hesitate to label one another false teachers.

How can this be?

If Bible degrees and Biblical languages are the key to understanding the Bible and God, how can there be such disagreement among such smart people?

It’s because understanding comes from God.

Humility Will Help You Understand the Bible and God More Than a Bible Degree Ever Will

Little Asian girl on knees with folded hands looking up to heaven and praying.

The truth is you cannot understand the Bible and God unless you humbly submit to them both. Another truth is that many want their understanding of God, but they do not want the Bible’s revelation of God.

So, like the scribes and Pharisees, their biases and impure motives prevent them from seeing the true God. Unfortunately, should they happen to catch a glimpse of Him in others, they count those “others” as “unlearned and ignorant” and worthy of opposition (Acts 4:13).

Are Bible Degrees and Biblical Languages a Waste of Time?

Does this mean Bible school and biblical languages are a waste of time? Absolutely not. Not if you’re humble. Not if you’re fully submitted to Christ and His written word.

Not if you understand that Bible school and Biblical languages are not “the” key to understanding either the Bible or God. Not if you’re confident enough and wise enough to reject error from the person who is teaching you. No matter how many degrees the teacher has.

Jesus did not have a Bible degree.

None of the Twelve apostles had Bible degrees.

It appears that besides Paul, none of our New Testament heroes had Bible degrees (I’m speaking of their equivalents.)

Most of the Old Testament prophets were just regular folks used by God.

Nearly all of our Old Testament heroes had no Bible degrees.

Many, if not most, of our non-Biblical gospel heroes had no Bible degree. And nearly none of them understood Biblical languages.

Formal Bible School is Not the Enemy

Why write a post like this? Let’s be clear. It is not to discourage going to Bible school or learning Biblical languages. I have never been to a formal Bible school, and I don’t know Biblical languages. (But I am committed to studying the Word of God.)

However, I wouldn’t rule it out if I felt it was God’s plan. And I’d be a hypocrite to pretend I don’t greatly benefit from scholars with advanced Bible degrees and knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. I use their study aids all the time.

Presently, I’m self-studying The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, 1,300 pages of spiritual ecstasy, written by 47 Bible scholars. All of whom have advanced degrees.

I deeply admire Bible scholars. Yet, it must be clearly understood that formal Bible education does not automatically increase a person’s understanding of the Bible or God.

There are many variables that can cause the Bible-degree graduate to know less about God after attending than before attending Bible school.

Probably, the biggest variables are bias and unbelief. For instance, from what I read and see and hear, it appears that one of the most effective ways of learning not to believe all of the Bible is to go to some seminaries.

I say this because of their general agreement to disbelieve and explain away the gifts of the Holy Spirit, casting out demons, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and anything that resembles a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Lack of a Bible Degree Does Not Make You Inferior

The bottom line is you’re not a second-rate Christian because you haven’t sat in a formal classroom. The issue is not school versus no school. It is study versus non-study.

If you study the word of God with a humble heart and are careful not to make the Bible agree with you or your biases, God will open your understanding.

And I do strongly suggest that as you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and of God, that you expose yourself to as many good teachers and study materials as possible. This will provide accountability for yourself and help you to grow exponentially.

Eric M Hill

Eric M Hill is an author, blogger, YouTuber, and Bible teacher. He has written sixteen books. He is a member of the Authors Guild and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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