Sunday, August 30, 2009

Really Studying the Bible vs. "What Do You Think?"

Ever been involved in a "Bible Study" like this? You gather together, open to a passage of Scripture and say, "What do you think?" Honestly, that's a terrible way to study the Bible. If you've ever been in a study like this with someone who knows the Bible very little but has a lot of opinions you know why it's terrible. Who determines what the text actually means? When everyone just says what it means to them, it's really hard to correct an off-the-wall or even slightly wrong interpretation.

The best place to start is by asking these questions:

  • What did the author mean when he wrote this text?
  • How would the original audience understand the text?
  • Why did God include this in the Scriptures for us?
The first two questions probe the author's intended meaning. The text was written in a specific time, language, culture, and setting. What was it? What was the author intending? How did the recipients understand it in their setting? Remember that God guided the authors of Scripture to write to a specific audience at a specific time, insuring their words were inspired and personal. In the last question, you are moving toward application (i.e. what does it mean to me?), but only after you have first asked what did it mean back then.

So this all leads to a final question: How do you find out what the original setting was? And for that we need resources. See the next entry, "Bible Study Resources."

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