Do Christians Spend Too MUCH Time Studying the Bible?

Are Christians seeking a personal relationship with the Bible over Jesus?

Do Christians Spend Too MUCH Time Studying the Bible?

Most Christians assume that immediately after Jesus died, rose from the dead and went back to heaven that a leather-bound copy of the Bible descended from the sky.

Complete with the 27 finalized books of the New Testament and Jesus’ words etched in red, this Bible was delivered to the church and has been studied in perpetuity by Christians around the world.

The reality is we didn’t have the New Testament in its complete form until 367 A.D. when Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria listed all 27 books of the New Testament for the first time.

That’s three centuries. 334 years to be exact.

Comparatively, that’s like Jesus showing up in the Jamestown colony when it had only 75 people in it, teaching, dying, raising from the dead and then the Bible coming together in its final form this Thursday right before we head out to Applebee’s for lunch.

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to be a Christian without a Bible:

  • 100 years after Jesus left it appears that some churches had copies of the collected letters of Paul and a gospel or two, but that’s it.
  • Many had collections with books of debated authenticity that were later ferreted out.
  • No one had a final New Testament like we have today.
  • Whatever copies existed remained in the possession of the local church leadership.
  • No one, it appears, owned their own copy of the Bible for personal “Bible study” unless they were wealthy enough to pay the substantial cost to have it transcribed (see Luke 1:3-4).

Besides, with the high rate of illiteracy among the social groups represented among the rank and file of second and third century churches, having a personal copy of the Bible would have been useless anyway. Most Christians wouldn’t have been able to read it.

I bring all this up to make one simple point: The modern-day church places a ridiculous amount of emphasis on studying the Bible.

It’s obvious, from historical observation alone, that one can be a sold-out, fully devout, willing to die a martyr’s death follower of Jesus and spend next to no time practicing the spiritual discipline of Bible study.

Do we think it’s any coincidence that the period of the church’s greatest growth and expansion (33–mid 300’s A.D.) occurred during the time when there wasn’t (1) a Bible in every Christian’s hand and (2) an obsessive preoccupation with Christians clustering to study it word by word, line by line and page by page?

Most Christians today assume that to be a Christian means to have a personal relationship with the Bible instead of the risen Jesus.

To be consumed with it.

To obsess over its details.

To memorize curiously meaningless trivia about it.

To study its root words and the historical data underpinning every sentence, every chapter and every book.

But what if we’re totally missing the point?

What if one of the reasons we’re so spiritually dead and the church is abysmally failing at its mission is not because we study the Bible too little, but too much?

Instead of being out and about extending the works of the kingdom, Christians are wasting precious time excessively “studying the Bible” in groups and feeling quite content that if they’re practicing the “spiritual disciplines” at home that they’ve done their duty and can call it a day.

Who gives a crap if I never open my mouth and share my faith today? Or forgive those who mess me over? Or share my money with those in need? Or my house with the homeless?

All is good.

I read my Bible today.

What do you think? Do I have a point? Missing the point?

Brian Jones
Brian Jones loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. Brian is founding Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley, a church of 2,000+ amazing people in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Cincinnati Christian University (B.A.). He blogs at www.brianjones.com, but if you’re a Senior Pastor you might want to check out his website, Senior Pastor Central.
  • Leyira Deebom

    You are correct. It is like reading manual on how to drive, and being on the sterling. Your life style is the bible others read. We have to show proof to others that we have had contact with Jesus(have read the Bible)

  • EdwardLee9

    I get what the point could be, that we Study so much that we miss serving people. However I feel little evidence that Christians are over studying if anything it would appear to be quite the opposite. In addition, the more we Study the Bible the more we know how to handle situations that we encounter. The Bible – the Living Word, is our great tutor and greatest guide of life principles. It is the living word – written by the Holy Spirit and it is nothing short of offensive to encourage Christians to study it less.
    You suggest we are in a relationship with out Bible more than Christ. The whole point of the Bible is Christ. By studying Gods Word you learn of God. Apart from God’s Word you are spiritually ignorant. I pray you really re-read, think and pray about encouraging believers to study the Bible less it is breeding ground for furthering spiritual ignorance.

  • Casper

    I agree with Brian. Yes, read the Bible, we are fortunate to have it. God speaks to us today in so many ways and discerning His Word in print and in Spirit, to share in person with humble service is as important as group study. Be careful with the opinion very few Christians are over studying the Bible, we are many and cover many miles.

  • Matthew Candler

    I think there is some truth behind what is being said, but we have to be careful when walking this line. There are a lot of people who could use this as an excuse to put down their Bibles to live like Christ. It sometimes turns into overly spiritual beliefs that cause chaos. I often hear people say things about the Bible that are not true because they do not read the Bible. Sometimes it sounds like something the Bible might say, but is completely missing from the text; at least from my Bible. Other times people make up excuses to live how they want or get into really bad arguments with people over something they believe the Bible says that justifies how they want to live their lifestyle instead of the life God has for them. Just read the importance of the Word in Psalm 119. It gives us freedom and yet keeps us from wandering too far from the fold. Nothing can beat prayer and worship and action in Christian living, I agree, but, I will take the addition of the Bible as a part of my daily study over setting it down just to live.

    • Dee

      If they put down their bible to live like Christ, then they are not living like Christ. Christ knew the scriptures, was taught and lived the scriptures, and quoted from 22 books of the Old Testament. If a person can do that, without having read and studied the Bible, Glory be, it is written in your heart and in your mind!!
      Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing and only said what He heard the Father saying. Jesus said He was not here to do His will, but to do the Father’s! We are bond servants of Christ, bought at a price, we are not our own. So, when people want to say they are free to live as they please, they are not living as Christ lived!!

      • Matthew Candler

        Thank you, Dee. That was the point I was making. There is a movement in this younger generation that claims to live like Christ, but live without the rules of the Bible because it just a book of religion. It is very dangerous to assume that we can live like Christ without the mind of Christ. Jesus was very knowledgable of the Scriptures and did quote them often. To me that is one of the most important parts of developing the relationship with God is full immersion in the Word. It also makes it easier to evangelize.

  • Randy Curtis

    Jesus himself gave us the cliff notes version love God with all that you are and love people as yourself. He said everything hinges on those two. Use those as your guide and messure. If what you are doing no matter how biblical it is doesn’t fall in line with those two it is wrong.

    • Dee

      Jesus did not say everything hangs on these two, He said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
      ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:40‬ ‭KJV‬‬
      There is a difference.
      Jesus also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
      ‭‭John‬ ‭14:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬
      Keeping His commandments is an action, required of us. Do we know His commandments, I guarantee you, there are more than just these two. These two are the greatest, that was the question that was asked, what is the greatest commandment.
      When we follow these two, we will not be stealing, murdering, coveting, committing adultery and idolatry, etc. love covers a multitude of sin, but does not excuse it. Jesus paid the price, our sin required blood and a life. He gave us His!
      We must do thingsGod’s way, not ours!!

  • Kenneth Wentworth

    Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

  • Tommy Bowen

    Pharisee-ism. Yes. Too much exposure to Scripture? Impossible. Christ encouraged us to examine and know His Word. How can you “hide it in your heart” if you’re not intimately familiar with it? (Matthew 5:17-20) And I disagree with your assessment of N.T. era literacy. On what historical source(s) did you base your conclusion for this? You also fail to mention the importance of Old Testament Scripture, from which Jesus quoted regularly. He Is Eternal, He could have chosen ANY medium to minister and express His will, right? (John the Baptist and Jesus preached the Gospel from the Old Testament.) He was content with a deep knowledge of the existing Scriptures of the time. (His adolescent visit to the Temple?) Paul was accused of lunacy by Festus due to his Biblical knowledge, and almost convinced Agrippa by a defense based largely on the events of the Old Testament. You want to encourage believers’ to ignore God’s Word? No thanks. I believe direct and focused attention to it will demand evangelism in the heart of a believer, otherwise, they’re not paying attention.

  • Dee

    There is no mention in this article of the fact that these people (for thousands of years) KNEW the Old Testament, It was taught and lived out in their homes, or around them. The Gentiles had the educated Jews to teach them, every Sabbath, in the Synagogues.
    Jesus was taught, from a child God’s word. The early church passed around the letters from the apostles, and read them from house to house. They did not have television, internet, etc, to fry their brains. They had great memorization skills, as most were illiterate.
    They met from house to house, in the early church, to teach each other, to read the scriptures and letters, to rebuke, correct, admonish, and instruct each other in righteousness! Try rebuking or correcting someone today!
    Today, who does all that, who teaches their children, from memory? You can NOT teach what you do NOT know, nor whom you do NOT know.
    Teachings back then were very straight forward, repeated from house to house, proved! Today, you don’t know the scriptures but yet you try to teach them. Jesus called this the blind leading the blind, and they both fall into the ditch.
    Not an article that I would want to propagate!!
    Dena ❤ >

  • Dee

    Like I said, try to bring correction, they just delete your response!
    “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
    ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:36-40‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    In the LAW, he wasn’t interested in everything, he was asking about the LAW specifically.
    “EVERYTHING” does not “hinge” on these two, “…On these two commandments, hang all the law and the prophets.” There is a difference! What is the law and the prophets? Don’t you think we ought to know what they all? I do!! You will find them through God’s word.
    Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭14:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    And I guarantee you, Jesus had more than just two commandments! If we follow the greatest two, we will not be committing murder, stealing, lying, coveting, adultery, idolatry, drunkenness, formication etc.
    What did the Lord say is causing His people to perish/die?
    “But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.”
    ‭‭Job‬ ‭36:12‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    “He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”
    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:23‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.”
    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
    ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    Knowledge of WHAT? God’s WORD!
    Thank you for deleting my first response! The Lord always says it better than I can!!
    Dena ❤ >

  • J.m luna

    I thought it was a good point. But you made it seem that we shouldn’t study the Bible at all. Which I think, was not the message. We do need to show our faith through works, but first we need to learn how. You reminded me of Festus in Acts 26:24.