Are you ready to study a new book of the Bible? Be sure to ask these five questions first!
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The Bible is meant to be read theologically. This means it is meant to be read with a focus on God.
The Old Testament tells the story of creation, of the fall of humanity into sin, and the history of God’s people leading up to the coming of Christ.
The New Testament recounts Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven along with the history of the early church and the principals on which we live Christian lives today until Christ returns once more.
All 66 books of the Bible tell the gospel story of how sinful man can be reconciled to a Holy God, and all 66 books of the Bible were written with a specific audience and purpose in mind.
Several weeks ago I was talking with a new friend. About mid-way through the conversation I realized that she had totally misunderstood something I had said. She took me to mean one thing when I had meant another.
As I thought on this later I realized it was because she didn’t know my background. She formed an opinion of what I meant by a simple statement that wasn’t true because she didn’t share my perspective.
We simply hadn’t known one another long enough for her to understand my heart for a specific topic.
Just as we can misunderstand one another in our conversations today, we can misunderstand what a particular portion of scripture means if we do not take time to gain the right perspective.
There are five simple questions we can ask to help us read the Bible in context in order to understand the original meaning of the text so we can rightly interpret the scripture for today.
5 Questions to Ask When Getting Started in a New Book of the Bible
1. Who wrote it?
Even though all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, God chose a particular person to write a particular book of the Bible. This brings an element of human-ness to the table because each writer is uniquely fashioned by God with a specific personality, writing style, and even relationship to God.
This means that when we read the book of James, we are able to keep in mind that he was a half-brother to Jesus. He had a front row seat to the life of Jesus as He grew up and matured into manhood.
2. When was it written?
Knowing the approximate date of when a book was written helps us to consider the cultural factors that influenced the writing.
This is important in order to understand gender roles, social structures, political influences, etc. surrounding the audience for whom the book was written.
3. To whom was it written?
Every book in the Bible was written to a specific audience in history.
We know from our study of history that things change through the years, and we know that archaelogists have worked to uncover the past to help us understand how people in various parts of history lived, dressed, worked, etc.
It’s in this question we tend to stumble most often to interpret the scriptures for today because we don’t understand the orginal audience and the times in which the writing is set.
4. In what style was it written?
This might seem strange to consider, but it’s not because the Bible is a work of literature which means each book of the Bible utilizes various styles of literary genres. Each literary genre uses language in a different way.
The two primary literary genres used in Bible is narrative and poetry. But we can also break the genres down this way:
- Historical narrative – Factual retelling of events
- Parables/Storytelling – Stories with characters and a setting used to illustrate a point
- Law – Codes of conduct
- Poetry – Symbolism and metaphors paint word pictures
- Wisdom Literature – Communicates principles that are generally true (not to be taken as promises)
- Prophecy – Telling of what is true
5. Why was it written?
Each book of the Bible was written for a specific purpose. We determine why a book was written by considering the themes within the text.
It is amazing how the Bible was originally written to others, but it applies to us today.
It is a marvel that the Bible is primarily about God, but He chooses to use it to draw us in.
Second Peter 3:16 tells us that there are some things in the scriptures that is hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction.
Therefore, before embarking on a new book of the Bible, be sure you do the work of placing that book in its proper historical and cultural context. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to dig up the treasure this ancient text holds for you today.
What about you? What other questions do you think are important to ask at the start of a new Bible study? Have you found reading with the right perspective helps you rightly interpret scripture?
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