August 06, 2010

5 Steps for Meaningful Bible Study

5 steps for Meaningful Bible Study: .This is not intended to make the Bible more "elusive" or difficult; rather, it's meant to bring responsible stewardship back to a text that is 2000 years removed from us today in almost every conceivable way culturally, perspectively, and in systematic thinking strategies.
1. Historical-cultural context - a lot involved in this for initial study. Once you learn it for a specific book though, you have it forever and just have to revisit every once in a while.
ex. political background at the time (national and local), philosophical influences of the time, major personalities that were influencing life at the time even though not mentioned in Scripture, church environment (age at the time, leader, founder, problems and strengths , specific history, etc.), cultural affluence and poverty demographics, cultural pastimes, geography, time space continuum, what do we know came prior to this point in history and after (did the original hearers have this insight?) all these help you later on being able to discern how the original audience "received" the text. This is the most important step in studying scripture - what was the worldview and understanding of the original audience. We say, "What it originally meant." "Scripture can never mean what it never meant to the original audience."
2. Literary genre - What type of writing is this text? There can be sub-genres within larger genres (ex. Genesis is historical but contains a lot of poetic, narrative, and prophetic genre as well which all serve a different purpose and affect the meaning of the text in question) Mostly, their is historical, poetic, wisdom, narrative, and prophetic. As you study, reference material sources will tell you what each genre is intended to do. The way the arab mind works uses tropes (figurative language) is vastly different than the way the western mind does, even more so separated by 4000-2000 years of cultural development. If the text in question is poetic, it is probably meant to do something very different than if it was written in narrative form, even if it contains the exact same information.
3. Literary context - What is the immediate context (purpose of the surrounding verses, the specific portion of that letter, the entire letter, the group of like letters (main emphasis of Pauls writings, Peters writings, etc.), the testament, and then the meta-narrative. [note: most parables are intended to create a conflict which demands a response from the hearers. The conflict that Jesus is trying to invoke is usually indicated by the question of the character or challenge of the Jewish leaders immediately before Jesus' parable.]
4. Possible applications of the original audience. Can't do step five without at least considering the importance of this first. (Can never mean to us what it never meant to the original audience.)
ex. Both times the word "pastor/preacher" is used in scripture, it is used in the listing of offices that elders are called to. It was never understood to be a separate superior eschelon in the hierarchy of church government, i.e. deacons, elders, pastor on top. Pastors are not equivalent to Apostles. Therefore, it can't be interpreted as that in todays contextualization that Pastors are supreme to elders - that is 20th century western evolution. This, by the way, indicates a higher standard/position of elders, not less responsibility for pastors.
5. Contextualization of that application. If the specific principle cannot be contextualized, climb the principle ladder until you find a principle that can be contextualized.
ex. Paul says that women are not to speak in church. Obviously that principle taken literally today would be naive and ignorant (we know that there were women teaching in their own house churches - not as elders though); so go up the principle ladder until something makes sense. The principle that we probably arrive at is the principle of propriety in worship through the interaction of the members whether it be emotional, social, mental, or spiritual.
Hope that serves in a meaningful way that promotes more edification.

With you for His glory