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Biblical Interpretation #3

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Step 3 - Study / Interpretation

Having carefully done all the observations, you want to study and understand the meaning of the passage.
The skill for having a better understanding to the meaning of the passage is by asking (good) questions. Although I am not suggesting you to be skeptical, you want to question everything that the passage is saying, even the ones that you presupposedly learned before.
The list of questions given in “step 3” is a good starting point, but the list is not exhaustive.

1. What Is The Context Of The Passage And Bible?

There are three rules for studying the Bible.
Rule #1: Context
Rule #2: Context
Rule #3: Context
Although it is important to understand the immediate context of the text that you are currently studying, you want to be sure to understand the wider context of the Bible.
Studying the Bible is like looking at the viewfinder. Studying the text is like zooming into the subject’s face. Zooming out of the subject’s face will reveal to you the subject’s clothing. Zooming out even more, you will see that the subject has others with him/her. Zooming out even more, you will see the environment where the subject is having the picture taken.
The main point is
The principle of Biblical Interpretation is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Because God inspired the Word of God, God never contradicts Himself; therefore, God’s Word never contradicts itself. If the Bible does have contradictions, then we are to conclude that God contradicts Himself; thus, He errs.
When studying the Bible, you must be aware that the meaning of the passage to which you are interpreting does not contradict other parts of Scripture. If there are apparent contradictions, then you would have to resolve the discrepancies.
Furthermore, understanding the text in its wider context helps you to understand how the text fits with the rest of the Bible.
False teachings, errors and bad theology happen when someone pulls verses out of context and make them say something that is different from the authorial intent.
Joseph Smith (Mormons) took out of context.
Liberation Theology took out of context.
is taken to mean any form of successes, achievements, and accomplishments.
Small Group Exercise (10 Minutes)
What is the context of the text? How does knowing the context add to our understanding of the text?
- Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

2. What Is The Meaning Of Words?

a. What do the words mean in their original usage?
Remember, the authors gave a normal meaning to the way they use their language. So, the task is to determine the meaning of the words in their specific cultural / historical context.
b. Words change over. Therefore, we must be careful not to define the word only by our current definitions. The way we understand the words in our culture may be different from what the word meant to the original audience.
c. Understanding the original language is helpful because it provides nuances to the meaning of the word. Get access to reliable sources and tools.
d. For instance, what do people nowadays think of the word, “church?” What did the original readers think of? How might it be different?
e. How is the word used in the rest of the book or how does the same author use the word in his books?
Tools:
e.
Tools
www.blueletterbible.org
https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/vot.html
https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved.html

3. Observe the sentences. How are the words related? (Grammar & Sentence Structure)

Words are words. They do not somehow change magically. A noun is a noun. A verb is a verb.
Words are knit together to form sentences. These sentences have rules of grammar that govern them.
What kind of sentence is it? Is the sentence making a statement, asking a question, giving a command, or expressing a wish?
What is the verb (action), noun (person, place or thing), adverb (description of action) or adjective (description of noun)?
What is the preposition (by, at, with, through, under, over, beside)?
Is there a possessive case? (e.g. MY brothers, the death OF his Son, obedience OF faith)
What is the core or centre of the sentence?
How is the sentence related to the sentences around it? Look at the connective words that you have observed.
Tense: Past, present or future.

4. What was the intent of the author? Why was this text included?

The goal is to understand the purpose of the author. Why did he write? What is his overall theme? How does this text help develop that theme? What would this theme mean to the original audience?
A text cannot mean what it never would have meant to its authors or his original audience.
While this doesn’t always help us understand what the text means, it will help us know what it does not mean.
Small Group Exercise (15 Minutes)
Sometimes, the authors would explicitly explain the purpose of the writing. Other books do not always explicitly tell us why the authors wrote the book, but reading the entire book should help us understand the theme.
What do the authors indicate about their purpose? How should it help us understand the theme of the book?
- Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life ain his name.
v
w
x See ch. 11:27
- Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
y See
z ch. 3:15, 16; 5:40; 6:53; 10:10
a [; ]; See
- I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
- I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
[14] I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, [15] if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (ESV)
[13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (ESV)

5. What is the historical, geographical and cultural background?

When is this text taking place? What does the passage fit into history? What else is happening in the world at this time? What were some of the social, political and technological influences on the writer and his audience?
Where is this taking place? What is the terrain like? What about the weather? How large was the town or city? What is this location known for?
What were the common customs of the day? How did the people live? What influence would their way of doing things have on this passage?
When studying culture, take note of (although not exhaustive):
Power - who is in charge?
Communication - How is information distributed?
Money - How do people typically earn money?
Transportation - how do people travel and how far?
Ethnicity - what people groups made up their society? How did they get along? Who is at the top or the bottom of the social scale?
Gender - what are the roles of men and women? How do they relate to each other? What problems confront gender?
Agriculture - what is the lifestyle of farmers? How do they cultivate plants and animals?
Family - how are families structured and relate to one another? What is the role of a child, parent, and elderly? When does a person go from being a child to being an adult? How does adoption work?
Education - How are people trained? What is taught?
Religion - what is the dominant faith system or religion?
Art - what kind of art is the culture producing?
Tools
The IVP Bible Background Commentary OT & NT
Small Group Exercise (15 Minutes)
Passage -
Observe and study the backgrounds found in this passage. What do you notice?
Where was Athens?
How does Paul usually evangelize? Where does he begin? What is the content of the message?
What idols did the Athenians worship?
How do the backgrounds impact the way Paul preaches the gospel to the Gentiles? In the way was his method of evangelism the same or different?
What was the Athenian culture? What was
How does the Athenian culture impact the way Paul preached the gospel?

6. What does the rest of the Bible say about this topic?

The theme is sometimes explicit in the text, but you would need to carefully study the passage and determine it.
If the passage is talking about mercy, you need to ask what the rest of the Bible teaches about mercy. Are there stories to illustrate mercy? Are there other passages that could explain mercy? Are there commands about mercy? Does the theme from other passages contradict itself?
If the passage talks about a character, you need to observe if this character appears in other texts and in what context. Is there a character development? If so, then how? What else can we learn about this character?
Tools
Concordance: https://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/
It is a list of topics and words that includes the Bible passages where the topic/theme and word are mentioned.
It is sometimes found at the back of the Bible.
Cross-References: https://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/treasury-of-scripture-knowledge/
Other verses that are connected to the text that you are studying. Sometimes, they are found on the side of the Bible.

Homework

Read Chapter 4
Continue with your assigned passage and work on point #1 - #6.

7. Special Features Of The Passage

NOTE: Not all texts have all the special features.
The NT usage of the OT.
Resolving Alleged Contradictions
Addressing Difficult Interpretations
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