As Christians we should all be students of the Word. We are often taught the Word, when we worship together, listen to teachings, read blogs, etc. How often are we taught to be students ourselves? What are the various steps to studying our Bibles? A simple definition of hermeneutics is: Greek hermeneuo, “to explain, interpret”; the science of Bible interpretation. Paul stated the aim of all true hermeneutics in 2 Tim. 2:15 as “rightly dividing the word of truth.” That means correctly or accurately teaching the Word of truth. The apostle boasted that he did not corrupt, or adulterate, the Scriptures (2 Cor. 2:17). A proper hermeneutical approach will enable us to say the same.
One thing that is important to remember is that we don't determine what a particular passage of Scripture means. As in what do you think this means? Or here's what I think this means, what we do is recognize that there is:
"One and only one correct interpretation for each passage of Scripture and that is... what did the original author intend to communicate (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to their original audience, in that time, and in that place. (That includes geography, history, perhaps ethnicity) and then we look at things like application. Relying on the Holy Spirit to give that application as he bridges the gap of what is now thousands of years. Between the writing of the Word and the receiving or reading of it for us. So we start with observation, then go to interpretation, and then application.
What differentiates one Bible student from another? Or better stated, one characteristic that makes a good Bible student better, is diligence in observation. This begins with prayer. Asking God to speak to you through His Word, giving you understanding of what you are reading. The Bible talks about some things not being naturally understood as they are "spiritually discerned." What better way to start than to ask the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures to illuminate them as we read them! So first things first, pray. Second, try to read the passage with "fresh eyes" as if it is the very first time you've read it. Perhaps in a Bible that is not all marked up, or a new translation, or audio Bible. Third, begin the process of observation. For the beginner, the familiar questions of who, what, where, why, when and how is a great place to start. As you progress, here's a few more questions to add to your list.
Observation (What do I see?)
Questions used to guide observation of Scripture:
• Who is the author of the passage?
• Whom is the author addressing? (God’s people? A specific church? Unbelievers?)
• What is the most important term and/or concept of the passage?
• What are the main verbs? What are the tenses of those verbs?
• Are there terms you need to define so you can better understand the passage?
• Are there people or places you need to identify?
• What do you already know about the people and places mentioned?
• Can you identify any cause-effect relationships in the author’s writing?
• In what ways does the passage apply to your own personal life? (If there isn’t an obvious application, is there a more subtle one?)
• What things from this passage might you want to study later in further detail?
Don't be lazy or skip steps - you lose!
What type of writing is this? History, Law, poetry, a letter?
May the Lord bless your study of His Word!
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