Online Bible College. How to Study the Bible Pt. II
If we’re honest that’s how it can feel sometimes when we read the bible. Where are we? How did we get here? Where am I supposed to be going? And what am I even looking for? The scriptures can feel like a foreign landscape with an overwhelming amount of subtle and not so subtle nuances.
There’s at least 4 layers that affect how you read the text
1) YOU – the reader(and indirect audience) with your own worldviews, assumptions, presuppositions, predispositions mixed in with cultural, historical and ethnic background and upbringing
2) THEY – The immediate authors of the book(i.e. Moses, Prophets, Paul) with their own worldviews, backgrounds, etc.
3) THEM – The direct audience that the immediate author was trying to reach(i.e. The Nation of Israel, the Jews, the Gentiles, etc.)
4) GOD – the primary author, being God and what he intended to communicate from His heart and mind about His perfect will to an imperfect people.
Stop right there
That means in some cases the author(Paul for example) was writing to an intended audience(like the Corinthians) and each party had different ethnic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, educational backgrounds,historical backgrounds, worldviews, and not to mention the purpose behind why Paul was writing to them in the first place..
- Did the Corinthians warrant a letter from Paul?
- How or Why does Paul know the Corinthians to write to them in the first place?
- Was Paul writing the letter simply for the sake of keeping in touch?
I know, I know.
Just thinking about all of those unknowns sounds stressful, but finding these answerswill benefit us tremendously.
With authors we can’t relate too, speaking to an audience we aren’t kindred with, literary devices that are contextual to a culture we’re absolute strangers from, and historical context that we’d need research to understand, getting a grasp of what’s happening in any given book can be an intimidating task.
Needless to say, you’ll need a bit of help.
A good place to start is a study bible, a personal favorite of mine is the ESV study bible.It starts each book with a ‘book introduction’ that touches on:
- Place of writing
- Major themes of the book
- How the book fits in with rest of scripture
- Outlines of each narrative
- Notes from commentaries
Having these handful of questions answered, we can often approach the Scripture with a deeper enjoyment due simply to the fact that we have a better understanding.