Last week (see Part I, July 11, 2012) it was established that each and every believer has the responsibility to study the bible in order to determine God’s original intended meaning so that each believer can apply the truths of Scripture to their everyday life situations. It is your duty to invoke an encounter between the word of God from the first century and your life of today.
Remember, the scriptures were not written to you. They were written to first century Jewish and Gentile Christians in Asia, Macedonia, Palestine, and such. They were not written to twenty-first century white, Anglo-Saxon Americans. Therefore, one must use recognized tools and great care bathed in prayer to ascertain the original intended meaning of scripture in order to derive a valid application.
The scriptures are not to be thought of as a “Dear Abby” or as a horoscope where one can find a “special message” designed uniquely for any given situation. Now mind you I do not desire to erode your confidence in Scripture. The bible is a valid source energized by the Holy Spirit to be brought to bear on every situation in our lives.
How does one do this? We must carefully exegete, or “lead out” of the passage the principles existing within the passage at hand. In other words, learning the “steps” or the “rules” to biblical exegesis, or bible study enables the believer to determine God given principles from scripture that we are then to bring to bear on each instance or circumstance of our lives.
What are those steps or rules which lead to effective study of the bible? First, they are not many. You may be relieved by this. Second, they are not that difficult, either. Third, these “steps” or “rules” are utilized in conjunction with earnest prayer and absolute reliance upon the Holy Spirit for guidance and insight. Having said this, allow me to take the next seven (7) Wednesday’s and develop these seven steps for you.
Step Number One – Getting Started
1.1 Read the larger context involving your passage
Take the time to develop a good sense as to where your current or specific passage fits into the overall writing from which you are choosing to study.
Remember your text is only one small part of a “whole” and was never intended to be looked at as an independent portion.
Read enough of that which comes both before and after your passage in order to understand how it relates to a major section of your book and to the book itself.
1.2 Read your passage repeatedly
Read and re-read your passage for its basic content. Read the passage out loud several times. Read in order to get a feel for the passage as a unit. Read your passage until you can keep the essentials of the passage in your head in an orderly form. Read your passage in a number of translations if you can.
1.3 Compile a list of difficulties
Make a list of those things in the passage that initially seem difficult or confusing to you. Make a list of things (names, places, terms, customs, etc.) that you will need to look up in an English dictionary, a bible dictionary, a bible encyclopedia, a customs and manners book, or concordance.
1.4 Analyze the Passage
Develop a good sense of the structure of the passage and the flow of the bible writer’s argument. It is good to write out a summary of what the author has said. Summarize and analyze any division or natural break in the passage. Paraphrasing the passage is also a good way to develop a summary of the passage.
1.5 Develop an “I want to know more list”
As you read, re-read, and analyze the passage make a list of things you want to delve deeper into. Names, places, events, reasons, doctrines, teachings, or phrases may pique your curiosity and cause you to dig deeper into those areas.
You can increase this list or pair it down to something easily managed depending on your need at the time and what you are studying. Never skip or ignore parts of a passage you don’t understand. Never guess about a portion of scripture. Never bring your own prejudice or bias to a passage.
To be continued Wednesday, July 25th, 2012