Understanding the Bible

On Friday mornings I have been helping teach a mens small group and we have been going through the book of Isaiah, which is not an easy book to get through. To help them out I put together a simple outline they can have to help them understand and apply the Bible as they read. This is not my work, it comes from Robertson McQuilkin’s book, Understand and Apply the Bible. One of the reason there is so much bad Theology and teaching out there is because teachers are taking things out of context and not interpreting the Scriptures correctly. Thought I would share.

Understanding and Applying The Bible

Most important thing when studying Scripture is: CONTEXT IS KING
•   Do not take anything out of context.
•   You want to study the passage piece by piece. Exam it!
•  The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. (What does another passage of Scripture say about the Scripture you are studying) Cross Reference!

Language – God is the sender through human transmitters.
•   To understand the meaning of a speaker or author, one begins with the ordinary meaning of the language
•   You must identify the type off language being used (poetry, figurative, literal)
•   Ordinarily, the interpreter is seeking a single meaning from what the speaker or writer has said. (One Meaning)
•  Exam the settings (Historical, Physical and Cultural) – Helps to understand the language.
•  Word Studies
•  What is the thought structure of what is being said
Historical Setting

•  Scripture is rooted in history; therefore we must understand it in the context of its history.
•  What is the personal situation of the author (The author’s situation often throws light on the meaning of the passage)
•  Often the historical setting can be found in Scripture itself (If we don’t understand the Old Testament about sin, judgment, faith, God’s healing, we would have a hard time understanding the New Testament)
•  Who is the audience
•  Extra biblical historical resources (Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks)

Physical Setting – Geography

• How does a river flow?
• What does a sea look like, how big is it?
• How does the land flow?
• Animal and Plant Life
• Where are cities in relation to one another
• Maps

Cultural Setting

• How did people live?
• Social Customs
• Religious Customs
• Legal requirements

Word Studies

• Research each and unclear and important word
• Have to study the word in the context
• Have to study it in the original language (this can be done without knowing the original languages)
• How is the word used in the rest of the Bible? (Concordance)
• Research the word
• Tracing the history of the word
• Comparing nuances of the meaning
• Method of a Word Study
o Immediate context
o Other occurrences within the book
o Occurrences in other writings by the same author
o Usage of the word by other authors
o Old Testament root concept of New Testament words
o Non-biblical usage

Thought Structure

• Two elements to thought structure: sentence and context
• Questions to ask yourself
o What or who is the main subject of the thought?
o What action does the subject do?
o What or who is the object of the action?
o How have the parts of the thought been modified by word or phrase?
o What are the relationships among the various parts of the thought?
o How does the key idea or thought relate to those before and after it?

Figurative Language – Any words that are used with a meaning other than their common, literal sense.

Reasons for Figurative Language:
• Is often used because all human language contains non-literate talk
• Is used to emphasize a point
• Can be used to move one to action
• May help with memory
• It is effective in illustrating
• Is useful for clarifying
• Can be used as a code
• The goal of studying figurative language is the same as studying literal language – to discern the meaning intended by the author and to apply the meaning to life. However the first step is to find out what is literal and what is figurative.


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