Bible literacy
By Unknown Russian Orthodox painter of early 19th cen. (Private art collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Literacy is just reading right?

Most of us think “reading” when we come across the word literacy.  Now that universities are being held accountable for information literacy it occurred to me to ponder Bible literacy and what that means.  My thoughts turn to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP):

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

It also occurred to me to examine the Association of College and Research Libraries’ definition of information literacy to see if that might help.  The main website is here: and the definition for information literacy can be found here: and is quoted below.

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” 1

Extrapolating to draw conclusions

With the definition of information literacy in mind I can draw the conclusion that Bible literacy is the set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when a Bible verse applies or is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use the scripture effectively.  The next question that springs up is, “Does this definition line up with what the scripture says?”  Ironically, this is me having to use biblical literacy in order to make sure I am a workman, or woman in my case, approved.  I look at the verse and see that I am to:

  • have experience with God and with His Word
  • analyze the Word
  • be skillful at teaching it

Note:  If you think differently I truly want you to let me know in the comments so I can prayerfully take your suggestions to the Father so He can make it clear to me according to Philippians 3:15.


The experience part takes time.  If you are just starting out with God and His word be patient with yourself.  God is tender with us like a nursing mother should be with her infant.


My Webster’s 2 defines analyze as:

  1. to separate (a thing, idea, etc.) into its parts so as to find out their nature, proportion, function, interrelationship, etc.
  2. to examine in detail so as to determine the nature or tendencies

“Their” makes me think Webster means the nature, proportion and so on of the parts.  The 2nd definition prompts me to think of  how God allows us to see Him in detail through the stories in the Bible.

These things taken together lead me to the conclusion that I should read the Bible in such a way as to examine what it says about Him; to look for the nature of God, the proportion, the function, and His relationships with Himself, us, and Creation.

Rightly handling

The truth is, when I first began this post, I had no idea what to put here but when I got to this point I was reminded of Psalm 50:16-17 (AMP):

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite My statutes
Or to take My covenant on your lips?

“For you hate instruction and discipline
And cast My words behind you [discarding them].

So, rightly handling, most importantly, means keeping God’s word in mind and not ignoring it/Him.  Another aspect is not taking it out of context.

I have been guilty of this.  If you’ve gotten an email from me you’ve seen my tagline which used to say, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” from John 8:32.  The truth is Jesus was talking to “Jews who believed Him” prefacing this thought with the condition that they be true disciples, holding to His teaching, from John 8:31.

I will go so far as to say that interpretation of God’s word may not be rightly handling.  By this I mean construing the Word to say things God did not intend such as placing our hope in a restoration of earth at Christ’s return.  A skimming of the book of Revelation will put that notion to rest quickly.

Definition of Bible literacy

What conclusion do we draw then?  That Bible literacy means having experience with the Bible and God; examining the scriptures to know Him better; and being able to apply what we learn to ourselves and our lives.


I am already thinking that I will probably return to this idea as I learn.


1 American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report.(Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.) [Written as on ALA website.]

2 (1979.)  Guralnik, David B. Ed.,  Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language. Second College Edition.



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