In Western New York if you do not know what to talk about you talk about the weather for the weather is always changing. When I was stationed in Arizona while serving in the US Army the weather was predictable. Even in monsoon season, you could count on knowing when it was going to rain, so the safe topic of conversation was religion.
The first thing I learned that there must be as many ways of interpreting sections of the Bible as there are people interpreting it. The next thing I learned was that many people do not read the context of the passage that they are taking meaning from. I began to identify with a short heavy metal song from Hawkwind's Sonic Attack album released in 1981:
"Question the nature of your orders!
Examine the meaning of your sentence.
Where does it begin and where does it end?"
Looking back... I suspect the people who had a firm grip on what the Bible said where the few who started up a conversation by talking about the weather. It was not like I thought I had all the right answers. It was just that the Bible should somehow make sense.
Years later I noticed something about the Bible: Within the covers of the Bible is a technical manual on how to live.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;"
(John 1:1 YLT)
The word is true, so the word has to work in everyday life. If the word does not work then there is a mis-translation.
"Question the nature of your orders!"
Go back to the source of Bible and try to figure out what you missed. When you think you got it, try it out and see how it works. If it works the way the Bible says it does, then you got it right.
Bible Interpretation-Hermeneutics Basics of The Bible is a short manual covering basic rules and guidelines of interpretation.
Interpreting Scripture by Ron Rhodes is a one page guide covering all the basics.
Overview of Bible Study Gives a history of the Bible translated into English, and has a guide to different versions and types.
Bible Basics where it came from, where to find various books or topics, and the history of the books it contains.
Guides on Bible interpretation recommend looking at the customs and background of the people the message was originally written for. Jesus was born a Jew from the royal house of David, so here is some information on traditional Jewish customs and practices.
Planting by The Laws of Moses Quotes from Exodus and Leviticus highlighting God's Word to the Israelites about farming.
Hebrew for Christians and Jewish Literacy covers the components of Jewish and Messianic Jewish worship service, Hebrew audio tracks, and info on the Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in.
Jewish Literacy Crash Course in Jewish History, Jewish Life Cycle, The Bible for the Clueless but Curious...
Judaism 101 On-line encyclopedia of Judaism, covering Jewish beliefs, people, places, things, language, scripture, holidays, practices and customs written from a traditional perspective compiled by Tracey Rich.
The Legend of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg is a complete on-line book containing English translations of much of the ancient Jewish lore called midrash. Midrash are stories which expand upon biblical narratives and interpret them by providing imaginary contexts.
The Talmud explains the difference between the Jewish Tamud and the Babylonian Tamud.
Sefari Library a free living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation.
The Babylonian Talmud the oral tradition of the Jews translated by Michael L. Rodkinson
The Scroll What is the Torah?
The Jews did not live on an isolated island but within the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire Everything you ever wanted to know about Rome.
If you really want to go hard core on understanding the Bible then you might want to learn Biblical Greek to translate The New Testament and the Apocrypha. Hebrew is the original language of the Old Testament. Arabic was the spoken language of Jewish people at the time.
Super Memo 98 Windows freeware memory program 3 separate modules to help learn New Testament Greek, also has zip files for learning Latin, and the Hebrew and Arabic alphabet.
VocabWorks Vocab testing program designed to help you master vocabulary. vocabulary set provided by the author, include J. W. Wenham, The Elements of New Testament Greek, William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, Workbook for Biblical Hebrew and a Hebrew Aramaic Vocabset by Jan Verbruggen.
Hear what letters sound like and PDF downloads.
NT Greek Alpha to Omega Listen to letter sounds and 16 lessons on Biblical Greek.
Learning Greek The Greek Word Course Starting with Greek letters Sounds and online videos.
School Prayer: A debate against atheism and for believing.
Researching Religious Information: Smatterings guide to getting the most out of on-line Bibles.