What is a Bible nerd? Someone who has taken their aptitude, learning and resources to study the Bible with an academic lens. Irrelevant? No! They are a key part of the body of Christ and its various giftings (Rom 12:4-6). In her book, Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin claims, “God gifts certain people [Bible scholars and theologians] among us with unique knowledge and understanding, and we would be fools to overlook their contributions to our study [of Scripture]. They provide an indispensable service to the body of believers.”
Here are four reasons why we should value Bible nerds in the body of Christ and use their distilled knowledge (in books, podcasts, sermons and study guides) to deepen our relationship with God.
- Bible nerds check our cultural assumptions.
We understand the Bible through our own 21st century, American culture. This leads to misunderstandings of the ancient (mostly) Jewish audience the Bible was written to. “For example, when Paul exhorts women to “dress modestly,” we automatically think in terms of sexual modesty. But Paul is likely more concerned about economic modesty – that Christian women not flaunt their wealth through expensive clothes and gold jewelry.” Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. There are many other Bible stories that a Bible nerd can help check our cultural assumptions on.
- Bible nerds can see the Biblical themes we cannot.
Since we do not understand ancient Hebrew or Greek culture, language, poetry, or literary devices, we cannot study the Bible the same way a nerd can who has studied these things. On my own, would I have understood that the Bible has a metanarrative (or why that is important)? Or that numbers have poetic significance? Or how the themes of exodus and redemption show up in my own life?
- Bible nerds know linguistic details we do not.
The Old Testament (written in Hebrew) says to love God with all your heart, soul and strength.” (Deut 6:5-7) We can read this on our own and understand we are to love God a lot. But, there is more insight to be had if a Bible nerd tells us Hebrew didn’t have a word for the “brain” (the heart performed the thinking). Or that the word for soul here literally means throat. Check it out yourself in the links above.
- Bible nerds help us believe theological issues with an appropriate degree of certainty.
The more I have learned from Bible nerds, the more I appreciate that there are many different, valid interpretations of many (not all) things in scripture. And there always have been. There are Jesus-loving Christians across time and denomination who believe differently on end times, predestination, war, baptism, etc. In college I had some Bible nerd professors and began to appreciate this point when I met a Catholic on a plane. I was astounded that he loved Jesus, too! And we had a great conversation on why we believed different and similar things. Instead of silently judging each other’s beliefs on different theological issues, we could have unity in Christ and respect (not agreement) for our differences thanks to Bible nerds.
Warning! Learning from Bible nerds may tweak your belief and cause you to question long held assumptions. The word Trinity isn’t in the Bible? What about the supernatural gifts? Did ancient Israel really believe there were many gods (elohim)?
Should we use Bible nerds exclusively and unquestioned? No. Read your own Bible because Bible nerds can be wrong. Should we use Bible nerds as our primary source of spiritual growth? No. That would be like reading a biography of a person without getting to know them. Develop your own relationship with God with the help of the Holy Spirit through prayer and scripture. Use Bible nerds in support.
Want to increase your Bible nerd level?
- An easy place to start is Blue Letter Bible. Search for John 21:15. Use the “inter linear” tool to see how the same word in English (love) is used to translate two different Greek words. Then look at a commentary to see why.
- The Bible Project is a Bible nerd non-profit that produces beautiful and understandable YouTube videos and Podcasts. Three meaningful videos to me are linked above. Try out the podcast for a deeper conversation on a video topic you like.
Written By Josh Gelser