Last Wednesday, (see Part II, July 18, 2012), we began our eight week/step lessons on how to study the Scripture. We began with step one which we called Getting Started.
1.1 Read the larger context
1.2 Read the passage repeatedly
1.3 Compile a list of difficulties
1.4 Analyze the passage
1.5 Begin an “I want to know more list.
Today we continue with our steps as we examine the next step.
Step Number Two – Dive into the Content
This step is related to the various kinds of details that make up the content of the passage that you have undertaken to study. This step enables you to develop the “what” of your text. This step actually deals with text itself as well as some examination of the grammar in the passage.
Use the center margins and footnotes of your primary Study Bible to see some of the textual variants which exist in regards to the passage you are studying. This gives you the opportunity to evaluate them.
2.1 Look up your list of key terms
As you read and re-read your text take the list of key words you listed in your “I want to know more list” in step one. Look these words up in the appropriate reference material in order to understand them and to see how or why they are used in your section of scripture.
2.2 Do a word study on any crucial term (s?)
For example, if you chose to study Matthew 5:13, it would behoove you to do an in-depth word study on the word “salt.” This allows you to see both its meaning and how the author intended to use this word or term. Don’t ignore or by-pass theological terms. Take the time to study words or terms like propitiation, justification, adoption, grace, sober, diligence, or worship.
2.3 Investigate important historical-cultural matters and terms
You will find great help when you understand the historical-cultural matters that are truly significant to the meaning of your text. Investigate the background on the historical usage of “hell,” “salt,” or “marriage.” Take the time and make the effort to read about slaves and their treatment at the time of Christ.
As you can see studying the scripture is much more than merely reading a section of scripture. Some words or terms may be known to you from the beginning of your study. Others that are not known need to be looked up, examined, and even studied to determine the meaning that the original author intended to convey to his readers.
This step isn’t that hard however it is time consuming. Effective bible study is similar to the crossing of a bridge. You are standing on the twenty-first century, white, Anglo-Saxon side of the bridge. Coming to understand various terms and definitions enable you to cross over these “gaps” and gain insight into the first century mind of the bible writer.
Reading a passage may give you bits and pieces of familiarity. However, diligent study of words, terms, definitions, places, and cultural distinctions will take you past familiarity. Studying the content will enable you to determine the original meaning of the ancient text. This is the first step necessary to make accurate and appropriate application to your specific circumstance and/or situation.