Bible Study Approach

“Entering the textual world through the implied reader community” — this two-page guide, outlines and diagrams how to approach the study of a passage.

  • Historical Background
    Reading the Bible as history.
    1. Critical (history of the text); Questions of authorship—author, recipients, origin, date, and occasion; give attention to both internal and external evidence; give thought to the historical-critical consensus; cf. “Critical Method Sheet.”
    2. Descriptive (history in the text). Illustrative, not polemic; place the priority on a floating rather than an absolute chronology; i.e., the “world of the text.”
      • Political. The question of time: political affairs, government institutions, and military events; cf. timeline.
      • Geographical. The question of place: topography, climate, and other environmental questions; cf. map.
      • Cultural. The question of being: intellectual, religious, social, economic, demographic, technological development, etc.
  • Literary Foreground
    Reading the Bible as literature.
    1. Genre. Outer form: The literary type it belongs to and the characteristics of that type; cf. form criticism.
      • Primary. The overriding genre; cf. comparative literature.
      • Embedded. Sub-genre or forms; cf. poetry, prophecy, speeches, annals, records, genealogies, etc.
    2. Rhetoric. Inner form: the rhetorical structure the author uses to communicate his message, noting its unique stylistic techniques and aesthetic qualities; cf. speech-act theory.
    3. Composition. Surface structure; cf. outline.
      • Narrative Context. Book, discourse, section, paragraph; cf. intra-textuality, where it is in the narrative account or argument; cf. Discourse Analysis.
      • Canonical Context. Bible, testament, writer; cf. inter-textuality, how it is used in the rest of Scripture, i.e., the use of the OT in the NT.
  • Exegesis-Theology
    1. Diagram the syntactical structure. Resolve any textual problems, parse all finite and non-finite verbs, and lay out relationships between principle, coordinate, and subordinate clauses. Cf. verbal spine and subject change.
    2. Construct a tentative outline. Sketch the basic structure of the author’s train of thought, with special attention given to genre, literary conventions, and rhetorical rhythm.
    3. Interpret the clauses. Define the key words, make grammatical / syntactical observations, and note such features as word order and emphasis. Clauses must be understood in light of sentences, sentences in light of paragraphs, and paragraphs in light of larger wholes.
    4. Re-engage the historical and literary context. Correlate the contextual materials. There is no meaning apart from context, only several meanings; we must grasp the whole before we can make sense of the parts.
    5. Survey the secondary literature. Note its contribution to a clearer understanding of the text. Cf. reference works, commentaries, journal articles, etc.
    6. Develop the theological meaning.
    7. Establish the dispensational context, interact with the meaning matrix, and re-contextualize the literary shape for its theological significance.
    8. Prepare an exposition. Design it around the theological meaning; include an introduction, transitions, and a conclusion. Feel free to interact with your faith tradition. Cf. historical, biblical, and systematic theologies.

PDF ver. 2014-03-01
2pp 4.67 x 7.08″ .23 mb

PDF version history:
2014-03-01: Updated SKU
2013-01-22: Added ‘cf. Discourse Analysis’
2012-2008 (7x): Changes to text and SKU
2007-11-28: New on site

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