“The Bible is exciting. It takes a preacher to make it boring.” -Howard Hendricks
The Bible is more than a book. It is in fact 66 books, written over a period of about 1500 years by 40 different writers. More than that, the Bible is sacred, being the very words of God Himself. So to the Christian, there is no higher authority by which to define and live out our faith than the Bible itself. Yet even with this understanding, few Christians regularly read their Bibles and even less know where to start.
Have you ever read a page in the Bible only to reach the end and not remember a single part of how the passage began? Have you sat down with a pen and paper and struggled with what actual notes should be written? And have you ever wrestled with the meaning of a story or a chapter or verse? If so, here is a way to study the Bible that I learned from the great Howard Hendricks at Dallas Theological Seminary.
In seminary I learned about the Inductive Study Method to reading and studying the Bible. In another series I will break this all down into greater detail, but for now, here are three elements of Bible Study that can revolutionize not only your ability to understand and apply the pages of the Bible, but to discuss it with someone else.
Start with prayer to not just understand what you’re reading, but for God to change your life. Don’t lose sight of that.
Observation: This is the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?” of the passage; these are the sort of questions to be asked and answered in the known context of the passage. What do you observe about the actual words on the page in front of you? Who is the original recipient and intended audience? Who is writing? Who are the people mentioned in the passage? When is this happening? Are these words pertaining to something in the past, the present, or even future events?What is known about the time period and people who lived at that time? What was happening in world events in relation to this passage? Why was this book or passage written? Why were the issues being addressed relevant to the ancient audience? These are all examples of the type of questions to be asked about each passage in Scripture. These are the keys to historical observation.
Interpretation: Interpret what we know from careful observation. This is where historical contexts are translated to timeless truths. The original context may at times be a mystery or no longer exist, but what is it about these words that is always true? What about this ancient book of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) or the Greek text (New Testament) offers a timeless principle or command? What is timeless about this passage and not limited to the original context?
Application: How will today’s 21st Century audience apply these timeless truths to their lives? What is the direct relationship between the timeless truths of the Bible and my own life? My family? The way I conduct myself at work and in the neighborhood? How do these universal commands and truths apply in today’s real world?
Try this for a week of of consistent Bible reading. Pick a short passage, and use a journal or notebook to write first your historical observations, timeless interpretation, and then concrete applications. I would suggest you use a different page for each (Observation, Interpretation, Application) at first to simply help yourself learn how to approach Scripture this way. Do this consistently and watch your understanding, interest, and ability to apply what you’ve learned increase.