I have a confession to make. One of my pet peeves is out of context scripture. It literally makes my eye twitch. Particularly when it’s a fragment of a verse being used way out of context. It happens in news and opinion pieces, too, quotes blown out of proportion.
Sometimes it’s innocent, they don’t know better because they didn’t fact check. That’s why I stress being a noble Berean. You have to check for yourself. How though?
Two Approaches To Bible Study
Exegesis: Finding the explanation of the text, from the text, by careful, objective analysis. God speaks to you through it.
Eisegesis: Interpretation of the text by a subjective, non-analytical reading of the text. You’re putting words into God’s mouth.
A good example is ‘eye for an eye’.
“Woohoo! Sweet revenge here I come with the blessing of God!”
Actually, it was for the judges of the newly created nation of Israel. A check against overreaching with punishment. Crimes are punishable up to taking an eye for an eye in recompensation.
How To Properly Study the Word of God
I used GotQuestions.org for my resource on the following principles. The WHAT Method that Pastor Randy taught and I mentioned in Going Deeper Into the Bible and Its Cultural Relevance use these rules.
- The Grammatical Principle. Nay constantly reminds me that grammar matters, and it matters in the Bible as well. Make sure you define the words in the passage according to their original intent. It may require using a Hebrew or Greek dictionary.
Look at the syntax, check for parallels, find which ideas are primary or subordinate.
Discover actions, subjects, and modifiers. I’ve had to break up verses to milk the meaning out of it like Ephesians 2:8-10 in the previous post.
- The Literal Principle. Assume that each word has a normal, literal meaning unless there’s a good reason to see it as a figure of speech. Jesus isn’t a literal wooden door, for example. Don’t go out of your way to add meaning that isn’t there.
- The Historical Principle. Remember, the book is thousands of years old, and written in the context of that time. When we forget to, we miss the significance of Jesus not washing his hands in Luke 11:38. Was it just bad hygiene or something more?
Then there’s the consideration of geography, customs, and the current events of the time. That’s why I encourage you to read the Bible chronologically at least once so you can see what was happening when David wrote his psalms or which prophets were active during a certain king’s reign. Bible Gateway can give you free and paid access to Study Bible notes, commentaries, dictionaries, and encyclopedias.
- The Synthesis Principle. Verses get twisted when this principle isn’t used. You have to examine a passage in relation to the surrounding verses, the wider context of the book (Historical Principle), and the Bible as a whole.
- The Practical Principle. Now that we can understand the intent, meaning, principles, commands, and the spiritual and theological implications, we can apply it to our lives. We adjust our lives to what God intended, not adjusting God to what we want.
It’ll Protect You From Bad Theology
Doing this will protect you from false teachers, bad doctrine, and wrong theology; like ‘name it and claim it’, or the prosperity gospel. Then the next time someone says you “have to call things into being” you’ll know they’re twisting Romans 4:17.
As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.