I’ve been thinking about how to best encourage others to become better readers of Scripture. The goal of becoming a better reader of Scripture is of course to understand true things about God that you may love him more. We need to turn our knowledge about God into the knowledge of God for worship and mission.
When reading the Bible, there are three movements one has to take. You need to observe what is going on (observation), determine the meaning (interpretation), and then apply it to your life (application). People typically run straight to the third movement without first crossing the former two. This can become dangerous because you can begin to misapply Scripture or even harm your daily walk with the Lord by believing false things about him. From the above list of questions, there’s a host of things to observe in any given passage. Noticing these things will help you understand the text. In contrast, there is only ONE meaning. The text means what the author intended it to mean. There is no “it means this to me but it means that to you.” The question is always, “what did the author intend for me to learn?” The text can never mean what it never originally meant to the author. After that, you are free to apply the text in any area of your life that it is needed. While there is only one meaning, there can literally be thousands of applications where the text can encourage you. How does this text speak to area X or area Y in my life?
In an effort to encourage you, I sat down and wrote out some questions that will help illuminate the Gospels as you read them. I pick the Gospels because they tend to be easier to interpret compared to prophetic literature (Isaiah, Jeremiah), epistles (Romans, Ephesians), and apocalyptic (Revelation). They’re a good place to start to follow Christ with our whole lives. I typically ask these types of questions as I read in order to better understand the text. It looks laborious and time-consuming but it becomes easier as your life in God’s word grows. I hope this helps you.
- Where is the beginning and the end of the episode/story?
- Where are they located?
- Who are the main characters?
- What do we know about them?
- Who is speaking?
- How did they get there?
- Why are they there?
- What time of the day is the story taking place?
- What are the commands in the passage?
- What are the problems in the text?
- What types of problems are there in the story: person vs. person, person vs. nature, person vs. society, person vs. self, and person vs. God?
- Where are they going?
- What is the emotional state of the person (s)?
- What is Jesus doing?
- What is going on in the passage?
- Is the scene tense or calm?
- Why is it tense or calm?
- Who is writing?
- When does this episode take place?
- Why does the speaker say/write what he does?
- What are some repeated words or phrases within each text?
- Is anything out of place within the passage?
- Do words appear in the text that are used elsewhere?
- Is there something mentioned (concept, word, idioms) that is not used in our culture today?
- Is this episode/scene repeated in the other three Gospels?
- Why would they leave it out or include it?
- How does this scene move the story forward?
- Whose point of view is presented within the text?
- What do we learn from the characters from their words?
- What do we learn from the characters from their actions?
- Does the writer quote, cite, or allude to a passage from the OT?
- What does the OT citation or allusion do in the text?
- What sort of feelings is elicited in you as you read the episode?
May God bless the reading and study of His Word. The Word of the Lord is more to be desired than gold, even much fine silver; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (Psa. 19:10).