Step Number One – Reading (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.
Step Number Two – Matters of Content
2.1 Look up your list of key terms
2.2 Do a word study on any crucial term (s?)
2.3 Investigate important historical-cultural matters and terms
Now we are going to dive in and deal with issues relating to the context of our passage. So, let’s move to the third step.
Step Number Three – Answer Textual Questions
Working out the items of “content” I (see step #2) is half the job of properly studying a chosen passage of Scripture. After you have worked through various words, key terms, and definitions it is time to examine the context. You must pay close attention to the questions of the historical/literary context of your passage.
Historical Context – This is the general historical environment of the passage. It includes the specific occasion of the writing from which you have chosen a passage to study.
Literary Context – This deals with how your passage fits in specifically at its current place in the author’s argument or narrative. Remember you passage and/or paragraph was not written to stand alone or to be “ripped” out of its existing setting or “context.”
3.1 EXAMINE THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
At this step you want to do some investigation that will assist you in arriving at an accurate interpretation of the passage at hand. I like to call this my Five A’s. Investigating each “A” will assist you in the interpretative process. Each of these “A’s” will contribute, support, defend or define your author’s argument or purpose for writing.
Utilizing various reference tools, determine the author of the scripture writing that you are studying. Discover as much background on the author as you are able. Where was he born? Where did he study? What was his background? What were some of his experiences?
Knowing as much as possible about your author will help you come to grips with the historical context in which the author wrote.
Again, using various reference tools, determine when the writing was written. Time periods and history can give great insight into your passage. This also helps with the interpretative process. Do your best to discover the date you passage was written.
Discover through investigation the audience of the writing that you are studying. Was the recipient a church or an individual? Were the recipients Jewish or Gentile? Investigate the general situation of the recipients. Become familiar with the city and its people. Consult a bible dictionary or a good bible introduction. It also helps to become familiar with the nature or composition of the recipient church. Was it a Jewish congregation or a primarily Gentile church? Reconstruct the specific/historical situation that made the gospel, epistle, historical narrative or apocalyptic writing necessary.
This is a crucial component of effective and accurate Bible Study. Why did the author write his gospel, epistle, history, or apocalyptic writing? What did he intend to say or to prove? What is his theme and thesis? Each paragraph that you study will support the overall argument of the book at hand. Your studied interpretation of a separate unit or paragraph cannot contradict the overall argument or thesis of the book.
This is my fifth “A” utilized in the study of a paragraph or passage. Since we will look at this step in-depth in the future, I will only say one thing at this point. Any interpretation of a paragraph or section of scripture cannot contradict the overall interpretation and argument of the writing as a whole.
3.2 EXAMINE THE LITERARY CONTEXT
What is the main point of your passage?
How does this point fit into the overall scheme of the book you are studying? How does it fit with the author’s argument or exhortation? Take the time to write out the main point of your paragraph or passage. Write out the logic used by the author to arrive at his point. Describe what the author has said. Describe the development of his argument. Never be satisfied with you study until you can answer the Why and the What of the passage.
Look for items that will give you insight into the author’s emphasis and his main point. Look at the life and background of the recipients in order to see how they contribute to your understanding of the passage.
To Be Continued Wednesday, August 8th, 2012