Bible Study

Does it matter how a person approaches the word of God, if so why? There are many books to day addressing the subject of hermeneutics, or how to study the Bible. Yet there is less Biblical knowledge it would seem than at any other time in history. If this subject is vital than one must demand accuracy and truth in our approach if it is unimportant let us move on.

What does it matter how one approaches the word of God? It matters because scripture clearly illustrates the importance of God’s word. Psalm 138:2 says, for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. It sounds as if the Lord considers His word very important if he lifts it above his name. Consider this also Psalm 19:7 says, the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. According to this verse the Bible can lead us to salvation, and gives us the wisdom to live the redeemed life.  I would say a book that God exalts above His holy name, and lead sinners to eternal life is worth taking notice.

There is more though 2 Timothy 3:16 states emphatically, all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. The word inspired comes from the Greek word theopneustos Wuest says of this word, “Inspired of God” is theopneustos , made up of theos, “God,” and pneustos, from pnein, “to breathe.” The compound word means “God-breathed.” The statement therefore is, “Every scripture is God-breathed.” A word breathed out by God that instructs, reproves, corrects, and gives us good doctrine is word that must be heeded.

There is also negative aspects to misusing the Bible 2Pe 3:16 speaks of men misusing scripture,  as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

This is a serious warning that the scriptures should not be misused or it will lead to destruction.??It is clear then that it is very serious how we approach the word of God. What is less clear is what is the proper way of approaching the word of God. There are several basic approaches that have been popularized throughout the history of Bible study. The first approach that is taken grammatical-historical exegesis in this system the makeup of words and there interaction is studied to determine a basic meaning of the text. The history of the author and the period in which the book was written are also weighed in the analysis of a passage. This method tends to be very inductive, and is considered to be almost an exact science by those who champion it. In there way of thinking it almost requires no spiritual discernment just an empirical inductive approach to arrive at a coherent system of doctrine that reflects the absolute truth.

Another approach is the critical approach to the scriptures. This form of interpretation has several schools of thought, form criticism, redaction criticism, and form criticism which are all forms of so called “Higher Criticism.”  The primary idea to this approach is that the Bible is just like any other piece of human literature, and should be analyzed as such. The proponents of this school of thought consider the exact text of scripture to have been lost. So that they must through analysis of the grammar and sources of a document and tries to determine the authorship, date, and place of composition of the text.

A third approach is more abstract that is the Existential scheme of interpretation.  This basically entails ignoring the historical, grammatical, and verbal elements of a text to find out what the author experience was with God, or what he’s was really trying to convey as a message. This has variously manifested itself as Gnosticism, or allegorical interpretation, and also existential interpretation. These are technical different schools as are some of the forms of critical interpretation, but they fall into the same basic root or family of interpretation. The core idea is not accepting the scripture at face value and searching for deeper wisdom between the lines.

The best method of Bible study is a Christ centered, contextual method that is to say approaching the Bible with a view to its complete context, and constantly looking for Jesus on every page. Webster’s defines context as: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.

The key to the contextual approach to scripture is to look at not just words but to look the chapter, section, and book it is from. To also determine what section of books it is in what testament it is in, and even it whole relation to the rest of biblical revelation.  This method tries to understand the great underlying theme of the Bible and interpret each portion through that theme. That theme is Christ He is the center of Biblical revelation. This is a far superior way to approach the scriptures in the view of the writer. It takes the focus of turning hermeneutics into a science, or looking for a deeper truth that really isn’t there. It then puts the focus squarely where it belongs on Christ.

Even if the contextual approach is superior is it vital, and is it Scriptural? I believe it is vital I don’t think we can understand the scripture fully unless we understand it as a whole. One author defined context thus, the surroundings of a portion of a word, a word, or a group of words. This does not specify the size of the environment. It is all the elements (parts of words or larger) that precede or follow a segment, as well as all that writer/speaker and reader/hearer may consider relevant to their interaction by means of language, such as knowledge of the world, awareness of possible responses to the message, etc. This is equally true of the biblical text. A biblical context can be a small amount of text, or the whole Bible.  Actually, all of the Bible is relevant in some way to every other portion. So knowing the whole context helps you interpret the immediate context.

Another reason why this approach is very vital is because it was the approach of Christ and the Apostles. They constantly refer to the messianic prophecies throughout the Old Testament often stringing quotations from different books together like pearls. They did not see fragmentary scrolls forced together about a nomadic people and their tribal God. They saw an ongoing drama of redemption played through the annals of history centered in a redeemer Christ Jesus.

For instance Jesus taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus about himself in the Old Testament Luke 24:27 says, And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. It appears that Jesus considered it vital to consider the whole context of Scripture with Himself as a centerpiece. Further in the chapter he is exhorting Peter that the crucifixion was part of God’s plan Luke 24:44,45 says, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. If we are going to understand the scriptures we must understand their proper divisions and the underlying Christ centered focus.

Many good men through the centuries have attempted the study of the scriptures with various approaches. However the best approach to take toward the study of the scriptures is the approach that places Christ at the center, and considers the whole context. This approach was used by Christ, and should therefore be used by the church of today.