Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Do I Study the Scriptures?

New Testament Exegesis

A few days ago I was chatting with someone about the overwhelming value of studying the Scriptures exegetically. I was asked how does one do that? I was specifically asked how I did it? Did I follow a list, specific instructions? Was there a blue-print or process sheet? At the risk of boring or alienating my non-technical readers I thought I would give a quick recap of how I exegetically study the scriptures.

Fist, let me share three of my most favorite books dealing with exegesis and exposition of Scripture:
  • How to Prepare Bible Messages by James Braga
  • New Testament Exegesis by Gordon D. Fee
  • Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study - by Frederick W. Danker.
 I have several other books and tools but these are my three top favorites. :)
My steps are as follows:

1.  I research the historical content of the book I am studying

      Author - Who wrote the book?
      Audience - Who was the book written to?
      Age - When was the book written?
      Affairs - What was the historical background of the audience?
      Aim - Why was the book/passage written?
      Argument - What was the author's purpose (s) for writing?
      Analysis - The general outline of the book
2.  I determine the limits of the passage I am studying

     By examining what precedes my passage
     By examining what follows my passage

3.  I familiarize myself with the passage thoroughly

     What is the main idea?
     What is (are) the key word (s)
     I  engage my 6 friends in conversation:

        Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

4.  I analyze the sentence structure and syntax

     What is the subject?
     What is the predicate?
     What is the object?
5.  I begin familiarizing myself with the Greek text

      I employ precepts of textual criticism
      I examine textual variants and/or interpretive challenges
      I establish the best reading (translation) [with lots of help]

6.  I analyze the grammar

     I use a grammatical worksheet:

        text form (how the word is written in the text)
        the lexical form of the word
        grammatical description of the word
        explanation of the meaning and its usage
7. I analyze and do word studies on significant words/terms

    I research the authors choice of a word and how he uses it
8.  I research the historical and cultural background of the passage

     The bible was not written to 21st century, white, Anglo-Saxons. It was written to 1st century Jews. What historical and cultural bridges do I need to cross in order to make the passage and application sensible. My task is to determine the original meaning of the author and apply his meaning to a modern audience.

9. I determine the genre and then apply principles to study that genre.

   Is it an epistle? (letter)
   Is it a gospel?
   Is it a historical narrative? (Acts)
   Is it an apocalyptic writing? (Revelation)

10.  I consult commentaries, dictionaries, atlases, periodicals, magazines, journals, and other helps to make sure I am on track and not "out to lunch"

Contrary to what people may think it takes a lot of work, sweat, and prayer to determine the precise meaning of the first century author and then to make accurate application to modern day listeners. There is no private interpretation of Scripture. It does not mean one thing to you and another thing to me. There is only one meaning to every passage, verse, or book of the bible. Good oration and attractive ideas are no substitute for good ole fashion exegetical study. The most dangerous and damming words you will ever hear in this life are: "This is what it means to me." 

It does not matter what it means to you or me. What did it the bible writer mean by what he said? What did his hearers or listeners understand him to mean? It takes hard work to dig this out of the text. That is why there is much more bad preaching/teaching than there is good preaching/teaching.


Anonymous said...

Such alot of studying to do Gregg to gain the knowledge you have.#Most interesting to read,


Larri said...

Thanks for sharing your study method, Gregg. Studying His Word is time-consuming, albeit soul-savoring. I usually come away exhilarated when I've discovered what He wants me to know...and then I want to share it with others. Overflowing. :) Happy Thursday & Independence Day!

Gregg Metcalf said...

Yvonne - it takes a lot of reading, aborbing, and meditating to come to accurate interpretations.

Lari - you are welcome. Good to see you back, thanks for dropping in! Of course study is not only for self but you are right, we must share what we have learned! Happy 4th to thee and thine!