Roundtables: How to Study the Bible.
Definition for Studying the Bible:
- The quest to discover the meaning that has been conveyed in a text.
What are the benefits of studying the Bible?
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17: Teaching, training, correcting, rebuking.
- Psalm 1:1-3: You will be spiritually fed
- Jeremiah 15:16: There is great joy and delight
- Psalm 119:3-4,11: Guide to life, helps us not to sin.
What are some barriers to studying the Bible?
- The Bible requires action
Key #1. Read Your Bible.
America is biblically illiterate. This is cause for concern and important to note particularly with regard to evangelism, but the most disconcerting aspect of this statement is that it applies to those who claim to be born again.
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are, “ said George Barna. “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”
Key #2. Biblical convictions regarding inspiration, inerrancy, and illumination.
Inspiration: That work of God wherein He providentially prepared and moved the human authors, enabling them to receive and communicate, according to their individual personalities and styles and situations, the truth He would have His church know for His glory and for human salvation. The authors knew they were writing to the words of God. Listen to what Paul writes.
Inerrancy: Without error. The affirmation of inerrancy means “An advance commitment to receive as truth from God all that upon inspection the Bible is found actually to teach.” J. I. Packer
Illumination: The Spirit’s work preparing us to receive the written Word so that we comprehend its authority and the spiritual significance of its meaning. ( John 14:25-26, 15:26-27, 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:7-16; 1 John 2:27)
In Scripture we are not dealing merely with information about God; we are rather engaging with God Himself – with God in communicative action. Christians have historically been committed to the idea that the meaning of a text lies in the author’s intended meaning.
Key #3. Understand the story of Scripture as a whole.
It is wrong to attempt to interpret the Bible correctly without correctly understanding the Bible. How do you relate the Old Testament to the New Testament? Do you? How do you relate the New Testament to the Old Testament? Do you?
The Bible at a glance.
- God as Creator: By Divine right, He is the ruler over all.
- Noahic Covenant: Noah and his family. Genesis 4 -11. It gets progressively worse; “make a name for ourselves. “ In this covenant, we see that God’s answer to human sin would be a covenant of grace, beginning with Noah.
- Abrahamic Covenant: Abraham and his descendants. Genesis 12. Land, a son, a nation of people, and all nations will be blessed through him.
- Mosaic Covenant: Moses and the Israelites. The Law helps show us our sin. 613 laws.
- Davidic Covenant and the Kingdom of Israel. Provide safety for the nation, prosper the people. The messiah would come from the line of David.
- Ushering in the New Covenant: Jesus.
- New Covenant: The church.
- The prophetic word is completed in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2)
- All prophecy is fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:32-33)
- David’s line is ended in Christ (Romans 1:3-4)
- The Davidic Covenant and promises are fulfilled in Christ (Acts 2:30)
- The Old Testament promise of salvation is fulfilled in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
John 5:39-40. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.
Luke 24:27. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
There is a general order in Scripture. First, God announces what He is going to do. Then He does it. Then He explains what He did.
Key #4: The three most important things in studying the Bible are…CONTEXT, CONTEXT, and CONTEXT.
Context: Historical and Cultural and Literary
Historical/Setting: We need to read the Bible as it is, not as I am.
- Biblical and cultural context is so important to hermeneutics because the Bible was written by human authors who lived in a particular place, at a particular time, and gave a particular message. The historical/cultural context gives us a window to look in and see what God is communicating through the authors to the audience. Hermeneutics is about seeing what God is communicating and doing in the text. It is through the historical and cultural context that we can gain many important insights by knowing what is happening in the days of the original reader. Without knowing what was intended by the author, it is impossible to accurately interpret the text.
The Bible is the best source, but other sources such as an Encyclopedia are also positive.
Revelation 3: 15-16. I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth!
Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Ask the Question: What is God doing in this passage?
Key Number 5: Understand the basic differences in genre.
Overview of Genre
1. Biblical Narrative: History
Books: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel 1-6, parts of the prophets, parts of the four gospels, and Acts.
Key: When reading, pay attention to setting, characters, and plot.
- Narrative makes up 40 percent of the Old Testament. It makes up the majority of the four Gospels and Acts. Sixty percent of the entire Bible is narrative.
2. Law: Boundaries
Books: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
Key: When studying, look to see what is validated or set aside in the New Testament.
- It establishes the boundaries of the covenant. One knows that he or she is in covenant if he obeys the law. The OT Law continues to be valid and useful when seen in light of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ; it must continue to be taught, but interpreted and applied in light of its fulfillment in Christ.
3. Prophecy: Message
Books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Key: When studying, look for how God is calling His people back to the covenant.
- Prophecy is direct discourse from God to man, mediated through the prophet. The prophet was more of a forth-teller than a fore-teller.
4. Poetry: Emotion
Books: Psalms, Song of Solomon, parts of a lot of them.
Keys: Poetic language is colorful and often figurative.
- Biblical poetry is dominated by parallelism and figurative language. War, love, lament, praise, thanksgiving, imprecatory, penitential Psalms
5. Parables: Simile
Books: Mainly in the gospels
Key: Study them by paying close attention to the ending.
- A fictional part and a real part. Do not confuse them. Pay attention to stock imagery. For example, if a story were told today of a donkey talking to an elephant, would not most in America recognize the imagery? Often Jesus told a parable to answer a specific question that confronted Him.
Wisdom Literature: Advice
Books: Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Job
Key: Study them as general truths about living wisely in God’s world.
- They are generalized statements, intended to give advice rather than to establish rigid codes by which God works. They are not laws. They are not promises from the lips of God. Think in terms of speech acts. These are not promises.
6. Epistles: Instructions
Books: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1-3 John, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude.
Key: Study the logical development of the argument.
7. Apocalyptic: Reveal
Books: Revelation, parts of other books (Daniel, Matthew, 1 Thessalonians, etc.)
Key: The future in the apocalyptic literature is not the end in itself, but the means to an end – usually to comfort and encourage the saints.
- Apocalyptic literature is written to encourage the saints to persevere.
Read it carefully and seriously, coming aware of what you see.
- Words and their definitions
- Repeating words
- Relationship between the words
- Relationship between clauses, sentences, and paragraphs
- Contrasts and comparison
- Questions and answers
- Purpose statements
- If you do, you will get
- And, but, therefore, and etc…
- Genre: Can change within the passage
- Dialogue: Who is speaking?
- Figures of speech. Simile, metaphor.
Who, What, Where, When
While you Observe
- Write down your own questions.
- Find a key word and do a word study on it.
Summarize your conclusions.
- The key is to ask questions.
- What does each verse mean?
- What does the paragraph mean?
- With a community of believers
Identify It: The primary truth statements to be found in your passage.
Identify what type of statement each is:
- Precepts: General or specific commands to be obeyed
- Axioms: Descriptions of the way of things in God’s order
- Promises: Assurances that God will or will not do something
- Examples: Specific cases and situations in which God and/or people interact
- Affirmations about God: Statements of truth pertaining to the person, character, purposes, plans, and ways of God.
- Is it timeless or does it have limits?
- Are there any dilemmas or conflicts?
- Is it confirmed or denied in Scripture?
- How does the text connect with my thoughts, behaviors, speech, value, attitudes, convictions, emotions, will, etc…?
- How does this passage instruct, confront, correct, or console me?
- Make it specific, personal; establish time frames.