How to Study the Bible Session 8

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How to Study the Bible Session 8

Bible Study VIII

We said last week that interpretation was discovering what the text means. The text can never mean something it did not mean to the biblical author. Therefore, interpretation is trying to uncover what the biblical writer was saying. After all if there is no meaning or understanding of a text there can be no application. We are going to learn five keys or five basic principles of interpretation. The first key is one you have already learned.

There is a direct relationship between content and meaning. The content of a passage is the raw material in that passage of Scripture. We have already learned quite a bit about content in the step of “observation – what do I see?”Remember? We asked a series of questions of the text. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? We looked for things that were repeated, emphasized, related, alike, unlike, and true to life. In short we asked “What do I see?”If we do our homework well the first key in interpretation is already done. The more time you spend in observation the less time you will have to spend in interpretation.

The Bible is a 66-book collection but it all hangs together. It is a unified whole. That is the principle on which the 2nd key of interpretation hangs on. Context refers to that which goes before and that which follows after. One of the major complaints of professional athletes involves reporters taking things said in an interview out of context and writing things about them in the paper that were never said. They take things out of context. That is what happens in a lot of bible studies. Remember our study in Acts 1:8. The word “but’ forced us to go back to the beginning of the chapter. We discovered that the disciples were asking Jesus a question about the kingdom. Verse 8 was part of that answer. Immediately following verse 8 is the ascension. That ended up having a profound effect on verse
8. Always consult the “neighbors” of that verse, paragraph, chapter, or book.

Remember, there are several kinds of context: literary, historical, cultural,
geographic, and theological (progressive dinner or progressive revelation).

Possibly, the third key of interpretation is the best insurance against distorting the Scriptures. In comparison we compare Scripture with Scripture. The greatest interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. Remember, the primary author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit and He is the one who co-ordinated the entire message of the Bible. It all hangs together.

One tool that will help you in this step is a concordance. Using a concordance can help you put things together that appear isolated in the text and they take on greater meaning in relation to each other. For instance the word “equip” in Ephesians 4:11-12 is used in other ways. Here the word is used for the equipping the saints to serve. The word is also used of the mending of broken nets. In the evening fishermen would repair (literally “equip”) their torn and broken nets so that they would be ready to go in the morning. What a beautiful expression of what a pastor is called to do. He is to repair or equip people. The word “equip” is also used of outfitting a ship for a journey. Good preaching and teaching of the Word of God should outfit people for their journey through life.

A comparative study goes beyond just studying terms. When you look up the name of Moses in a concordance, you find the bulk of his life in the book of Exodus. But there is also some insightful material on Moses in Acts7 and Hebrews 11. One of the keys of interpretation is comparison, and a good concordance will help.

It is also important to read the passage of Scripture in light of the book you are reading in as well as the whole counsel of God. For instance, the book of Ephesians gives instructions about how to live a heavenly life in a hellish world. How does equipping the saints for service fit into the theme of Ephesians? How does it fit into the message of the Bible? Comparison is a key to interpretation.

Homework – Acts 1:8
You have done the content already on this passage, you may want to review the context. Specifically look at the key terms in verse 8 and make some comparisons with the help of a concordance.