How on earth do I study my Bible
How on earth do I study my Bible?
Psalm 119:11; II Timothy 3:16-17
Exegesis: “a careful, systematic study of Scripture to
discover the original, intended meaning.”
Studying A Bible Passage
Systematically (purposefully regular) read the entire Bible
Read verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph
Read in digestible portions
It is not a race to complete
Actively engage the mind with the Word - Ps. 1:1-3
Turn it over and over in our minds
Ask questions as you read
Write down thoughts and lessons learned
Read the book through in one sitting – this helps establish
the context (the statements surrounding a text which help determine it’s meaning) of the passage
NOTE: Context is very important. Listen to this. “I crouched down so as not to be noticed, all the while still with finger on the trigger, waiting until the time was right. I had a shot and took it. The bullet flew straight and pierced the heart, which immediately stopped pumping blood. A life had been taken.” Where was I? (the woods, crouched behind a tree) What type of gun was I using? (a rifle) Who was I try to avoid being noticed by? (the deer) Whose heart did the bullet pierce? (the same deer) Context is important!
Read the chapter of the passage several times
Read the passage several times
Difficulties in Interpreting
o The Bible is an ancient book that was written over a 1,500 year span, being completed in A.D. 90. We cannot ask the human authors what they meant or even be present to hear or read it in the same setting, with the understanding that the first hearers and readers possessed.
o Language Difference – the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. There are peculiarities in each of these languages that are unknown in English. The Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament manuscripts only used consonants. Vowels were simply understood and not written. They also read from the right to left and there were no spaces between words. There are idioms and expressions that are obscure. There are also many words only used once in the whole Bible.
o Historic Distance – the Bible finished just about 2000 years ago after having been written for 1,500 years.
o Culture Difference – people groups during the time of the writing of the Bible did things differently than we do today.
NOTE: II Cor. 13:12 – “holy kiss”
o Geographic Distance – we don’t understand the geography of Bible accounts because we don’t live there and also things have changed over the many years.
o Theological Distance – the Bible was written by about 40 men but it has only one author – God! He is infinite (having no limits) and we are finite (limited in our knowledge, strength and ability), therefore we cannot understand all that God communicates to us. The Bible also speaks of many difficult truths such as the Trinity , the two natures of Christ and the eternality of God. These and others add to our difficulty in totally understanding all that the Word teaches. Ephesians 3:8
Qualifications for Interpreting
o A Regenerate Life -
The unregenerate man is spiritually blind - 1Cor 2:14; 2Cor 4:4
The unregenerate man is spiritually dead - Eph 2:2
o A Reverence for and Interest in God & His Word
The Word is called holy and should be handled in that way - 2Tim 3:15
o A Prayerful Attitude & Spirit of Humility
o A Willingness to Obey the Word - 2Cor 3:18; Jas 1:22-25
o A Dependence on the Holy Spirit
This does not mean that one’s interpretations are infallible
This does not mean that He gives certain interpreters a “hidden” meaning different from the literal understanding
A Believer that is in sin is susceptible to coming to inaccurate interpretations
The Holy Spirit guides us to all truth - Jn 16:13
The Holy Spirit does not normally give sudden intuitive insights into the meaning of Scripture
The Word was given to be understood by all Believers
o A Use of Sound Judgment & Reason
Discernment is vital the vibrant spiritual walk and growth of any believer - Prov 2:3-6; Heb 5:14
Rules for Interpreting
o The Univocal Nature of Language - is meaning in front of or behind the text?
o Interpret Using the Golden Rule
If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense. God says what He means and means what He says. (Good Samaritan - get from Dad)
o Interpret Literally – Most often the Bible uses literal terms. We must let the Bible speak for itself. The ordinary or commonly known meaning of a word is the literal meaning.
NOTE: Unless it is completely clear that the passage is figurative (Revelation) then we should interpret it literally.
o Interpret Historically/Culturally – The Bible means what it meant to the people it was originally written to. What is going on during the time it was written is very important to the meaning of the passage. The Bible can never mean what it never meant! John Phillips, in his book Bible Explorers Guide says, “for and intelligent understanding of some parts of the Bible we need to know something about the geography and climate of the country and the customs and history of the times. The Bible was not writeen in the twentieth century, nor was it written in the West. It was written over a period of 1,500 years in places as far apart as Persia in the East and Rome in the West and it was written by people drawn from many walks of life. Moses and Daniel were statesmen. David, Solomon and Hezekiah we kings. Amos was a cowboy, Joshua a soldier, Ezra and Ezekiel were priests, Matthew was a tax collector. Peter and John were fishermen, Luke a doctor, Paul a scholar. The cultural background of Exodus is quite different from that of Hosea. Almost a century separated Jeremiah from Isaiah. During that century a whole new international situation arose. Four hundred turbulent years intervene between Malachi and Matthew…some understanding of the times in essential.
NOTE: When Christ came as the Messiah, the Jews did not believe he was the Messiah because of the many OT references to the Messiah freeing the Jews from oppression as their King, and at the time of Christ’s birth and life the Jew’s were under terrible oppression from the Roman’s. Christ didn’t come as that King in the Jews way of thinking, so they rejected Him as the Messiah.
o Interpret Grammatically – God has communicated His mind to us in words and He does not use those words arbitrarily. It is just the opposite, they are crafted with careful precision. A knowledge of the original words of the Bible can enrich one’s understanding of the Scriptures. Ex: 2Cor. 11:13-14
NOTE: John 1:1 – “the” replaced with “a” in the Jehovah’s Witness Bible.
o Interpret Consistently – The Bible does not contradict itself. If you interpret a passage and that meaning contradicts another teaching in Scripture, then your interpretation is wrong. That is why we must get to know the entire Bible!
o Interpret According to the Genre –
Today there are a variety of genre that are used in written communication - a letter, a journal, a newspaper, a novel, a biography, a blog, a tabloid
How on earth can you as a teenager overcome those five difficulties and follow those rules when you are trying to understand what something means in the Bible? Do you understand the original language of the Bible? Do you understand the historical context around a passage? If you answer “NO!” are you stuck? No, there is help!
Primary Helps for Interpreting
o The Holy Spirit – he guides us into knowledge
He is the author of Scripture – II Pet. 1:21
He is the teacher of Scripture to Christians – John 12:26, 15:26, 16:7-15; I John 2:27, 5:6
o The Bible
The greatest commentary ever written on the Bible is the Bible itself!
o The Local Church
Secondary Helps for Interpreting
o Study Bibles
Scofield, Ryrie, MacArthur, Thompson Chain
Those with an introduction to each book are very helpful, because they give you a “bird’s eye view” of the entire book and give the setting.
o Study Aides
Bible Dictionaries – Unger’s
Expository Dictionaries – Vine’s
Concordances – Strong’s
Topical Bibles – Nave’s
Three Questions to Ask While Interpreting
o What do we have here?
Who is the author?
Who is he writing to?
When was it written?
What were the circumstances surrounding the writing?
What genre of writing is it?
· Poetry, history, law, prophecy, gospel, epistle, narrative, proverb, parable
Is it literal or figurative in style?
Keep in mind that most Bible writing is literal.
If it is figurative, is it a simile (Matthew 28:3) (a comparison using “like” or “as”), a metaphor (Luke 13:32) (a comparison because of a similarity without using “like” or “as”), an allegory (Galatians 4:21-31) (a fictitious narrative to illustrate a truth), or a parable (Luke 15) (an allegory true to human experience)?
o What does it mean? (What is the big idea?)
Based on the entire Bible
Based on the book it is in
Based on the immediate context
Based on the grammar of the passage
o What is its significance for me?
How should I and will I change my lifestyle based on what I have learned from this text?
How should and does what I now know impact and change my life?
o John 13:17; James 1:22-25
o Write changes down and specific ways you can implement those changes.
o It doesn’t matter what we know if we don’t live out that knowledge!
**Much of the information in this study comes from reading and listening to teaching by the following men: Pastor Wagner, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Duane Morris, Dr. Ken Hay, Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer Dr. Ed Williams, Dr. John Phillips, Dr. Roy Zuck, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Gordon Fee and Dr. Douglas Stuart.
"When the Protestant Reformers spoke about the perspicuity of Scripture, they meant that the Bible was clear when it came to its central message. Contrary to the dominant Roman Catholic idea which said that the Bible was difficult and obscure, Protestants said that anyone who is literate could comprehend the gospel and the Scriptures. The Reformers were not saying that all of Scripture was equally understandable or even that scholarly study wasn't necessary, what they were saying was that the essential clarity of the Word of God was self-evident. Bottom line, they were saying that the Roman idea, that the Magisterium, (or the teaching office) of the church was the only one that could interpret Scripture, was simply in error. Responsible interpretation of the Bible by those in the pews was not only accepted, but also encouraged." - Hank Hanegraaff