Why Word Studies are Useful in Bible Study

Dive deeper into your Bible study. Dig into the Scriptures word by word. 

The Bible is the very best book in the world. There is none like it, for it is the very word of Almighty God. Therefore every man, woman and child should immerse themselves in it. There are several levels at which we encounter the Bible.

1. Read the Bible
2. Study the Bible – carefully examine every passage and the interaction between them set against their historical backdrop in language and culture.
3. Memorize the Bible – commit large portions of God’s word to memory, hiding it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
4. Meditate on the Bible – ponder each concept and statement deeply and ask the Lord to reveal His meaning.

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Hermeneutics – The Art and Science of Bible Interpretation

How do we interpret the Bible? Literally? Allegorically? It depends on how the Author wants each section interpreted.

Hermeneutics, defined as the science of interpretation, is important in every field of endeavor (1). People working in law, philosophy and religion use hermeneutical techniques to interpret communication, whether written, oral or otherwise, but so do friends arranging a party, and even lovers proclaiming their everlasting devotion. Biblical hermeneutics applies the art and science of hermeneutics to gathering meaning in the Bible.

When a book is written and subsequently read, information and emotion are transferred from author to reader, and both have an important role in the process. Things become more complex when the reader is not the reader that the author was writing for, as is the case with the Bible. The role of the author is to assemble his ideas in a coherent fashion and then decide how best to communicate those ideas to his intended audience. He may use different languages, different genres (narrative, poetry, law, prophecy, wisdom, letters, and apocalyptic), different words, and different stories to illustrate his points (2). The author then puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write his work.

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Literary and Historical Criticism

We can learn a lot from literary and historical examinations of the Bible, as long as we remember that we are students of the Word and children of the Living God. 

Classic Biblical criticism, the kind that gave us the JEDP in the Torah, deutero- and even trito-Isaiah, and the “historical Jesus” is criticism focusing on the historicity of Biblical events and teachings. It was influential in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but towards the end of the 20th century theologians had pretty much divided themselves into two groups, the liberals who doubted the historicity of almost everything in the Bible and the conservatives who affirmed in the historicity of almost everything in the Bible. Once specialists in Greek and Hebrew had parsed every word in every manuscript and made their decisions, the field reached an impasse. This seemed especially true in relation to the study of John’s gospel.

As a result, and with the rise of the postmodern disbelief in objective truth, literary criticism, analyzing the book of John (and the entire Bible) as literature became more popular. The literary critic studies, evaluates and interprets literature, often with regard to how the author supports or opposes the critic’s ideology. He searches for the natural structure of and divisions in the work, and may analyze literature by comparing it to various genres, whether novel, poetry or history.

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Critical Methods and the Bible

Historical, literary, and form criticism can help us understand the Bible if we use them as tools and see ourselves as students, not judges.

Christians brought up believing that the Bible is not only a valid historical document but also the inspired and inerrant word of God may have a natural tendency towards disgust when they think about “higher criticism” of the Bible. “Higher” critics’ dissection of the Bible and search for the “Historical Jesus” seem to really have been an attack on the faith by godless men who in their vainglory thought that they were smarter than millions who had accepted the Bible for the previous 1900 years.  Looking through a paradigm of antisupernaturalism, Darwinism, mechanistic rationalism, and humanism, and knowing that these charlatans had derailed the Christian faith of many over the centuries, many may feel that these men who had caused so many to stumble would be better off having “milestones around their necks” and “being dropped into the depths of the sea.”

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