15 June 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context

Dear Lissy,
We spent all afternoon at the lake -- bliss!  I make an effort to have the housework done for the week and dinner ready before we leave so that I can relax after a day of sun and fun.  After many years of arriving home tired, gritty, and hungry, I've learned that 90 minutes in the morning before we go makes a world of difference when we return.

At this point in our study we're 3/4 of the way through the race.  Let's take a minute to look at the next several points in our chapter analysis:

Chapter Analysis
  • Create a chapter summary
  • Observe the passage carefully 
  • View the chapter in its historical/cultural context
  • Correlate the chapter with similar passages in the Bible
  • List your conclusions and check with a trusted commentary
  • List applications and create meditation prompts
  • Create paragraph and chapter titles

We're going to move quickly through three of the steps today.  They may take you 30 minutes or three days depending on the passage.
A forensic scientist's portrait of Jesus based on skulls from an archaeological dig and information about the people dwelling in northern Israel at the time.
View the chapter in its historical/cultural context.
I've spent my entire life in church, but learned more about the culture of the Bible in one year teaching the Tapestry of Grace Year 1 curriculum than I did in the 35 years since I entered Kindergarten.  This one source provides a mountain of maps, history, cultural information, and thought provoking study all designed for students of the Word.  I recommend the digital version, but the print edition is available used through many home schooling sites.
Why bother?  A year ago, I would have told you that studying history and culture enriched the study.  Now, I would tell you it's indispensable.  Virtually every "sin" recorded in Bible stories was culturally acceptable and expected.   Studying the situations that caused God's people to choose worldly wisdom allows us to spot situations where we may easily fall (or have already fallen!) into worldly choices.  Almost every book of the Bible is written in the style of literature prevalent at the time, but in every case it is radically different in content.  Tapestry shows you the style similarities, and then shows you what makes the particular portion you're studying the holy, inspired, Word of God, and not just another religious or historical document.

Correlate the chapter with similar passages in the Bible.
Context is king in inductive study.  We need to spend a few moments and verify that all of our work is in context and balance with the rest of the Word of God.
How does this chapter expand the theme of the book?  How does the theme of the book fit into the overall theme of redemption in the Bible?
Are there other passages that are similar to this passage?  Do they have additional information that will shed light on your study? Can you think of Bible stories that illustrate this particular truth?  
The TSK, or Treasury of Scripture Knowledge by R. A. Torrey (free on most Bible Software Programs) or the Thompson Chain Bible are excellent resources for finding parallel passages.  A topical Bible, like Nave's, can also be a big help.

List your conclusions and check with a trusted commentary.
At this point you've amassed quite a collection of study notes.  Take the time to read through a trusted commentary or two on the chapter you're studying.  I regularly use Matthew Poole's Commentary, a favorite of Charles Spurgeon.  Barnes' Notes and  Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown are other good sources.  Your purpose is to find thoughts you may have missed, and to correct any place that you may have misinterpreted.  It is very common to be almost blind to the faults of your own generation's thinking.  Reading commentators from previous centuries is a valuable tool for checking your blindspots.  These men aren't perfect, but they're very, very good.  Don't read them until you've finished your own work, though, or you'll find yourself gliding over material that should be studied.
"A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. "  ~Spurgeon
We're getting very close to the end of our inductive study. . .hang in there!


Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b:  Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation 
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

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