Not an exegetical question

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Oct 31 2011 1:03 PM

In one thread recently, a poster commented that they would use a device for reading but not Bible study. In another thread, there was a request for more examples of the use of Logos for exegesis. Since I am interested in methodology, that lead to an interesting question with no right or wrong answer, simply personal answers:

How would you study Scripture if all that you had was Scripture (and, perhaps, your own notes and friends)?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rich DeRuiter | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 31 2011 2:09 PM

MJ. Smith:

In one thread recently, a poster commented that they would use a device for reading but not Bible study. In another thread, there was a request for more examples of the use of Logos for exegesis. Since I am interested in methodology, that lead to an interesting question with no right or wrong answer, simply personal answers:

How would you study Scripture if all that you had was Scripture (and, perhaps, your own notes and friends)?

Really good question.

What I do, is try to remain curious: What does it actually say? Why does the author say it that way? Why are these details included, and not others? How does this fit in with what is going on around the passage I'm looking at? How does this fit with the rest of the Bible? What would we miss, if this passage were removed from Scripture? What do these various elements in the passage really mean? Is anything here meant to be taken symbolically? What is the purpose of this passage (to teach, to warn, to encourage, etc.)?

I would also ask some intentionally subjective questions, such as, what do I find interesting, curious, helpful, encouraging, disturbing, etc.

For narrative the actual questions would be different from poetry/wisdom literature, epistles, apocalyptic, etc.

 Help links: WIKI;  Logos 6 FAQ. (Phil. 2:14, NIV)

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DIsciple II | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 31 2011 2:18 PM

An inductive approach... ask questions of the text and make notes on my gleanings.

If the scriptures I were using had a concordance or cross-references then these would be the secondary helps after gathering my own thoughts to see if other parts of scripture match up with what I had gleaned.  Of this would need to be guided by context.

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Michael Anda | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 31 2011 2:19 PM

Here are some books on the subject…

How to study

 

 

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 31 2011 5:03 PM

Michael Anda:
Here are some books on the subject…

Thanks you. I have two of these. French appears to meet my conditions but MacArthur uses books beyond the Bible.

I thank all of you for your answers - definitely thought provoking. Live in fear of the day when I ask the same question for the majority of Christians over space and time - not owning a printed Bible (before printing, no Bible in their language, illiterate ...) where one has to rely on memorized Scripture or paraphrased memories.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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DIsciple II | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 1:33 PM

MJ. Smith:
where one has to rely on memorized Scripture or paraphrased memories.

I don't think any of us mentioned memorised scripture but that is also a useful tool in the context of your original question - even just a knowledge of say chapter x in the this book deals with the topic of y can be of great assistance - but in the scenario you just suggest our memories will require more than this, but even if our memories of specifics fade, what will never be taken away form us is God's words written on our hearts!

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 1:46 PM

MJ. Smith:

In one thread recently, a poster commented that they would use a device for reading but not Bible study. In another thread, there was a request for more examples of the use of Logos for exegesis. Since I am interested in methodology, that lead to an interesting question with no right or wrong answer, simply personal answers:

How would you study Scripture if all that you had was Scripture (and, perhaps, your own notes and friends)?

That would almost be a question of simply making it up out of your own imaginings unless you at least had the scriptures in the original, but then you would need to have a most excellent knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  I say you would need a most excellent knowledge since you aren't even allowing lexica and grammars.  Even then you would be mostly just making it up without some historical and archaeological information as well as documents which elucidate the context of the writings.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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DIsciple II | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 2:01 PM

George Somsel:
That would almost be a question of simply making it up out of your own imaginings unless you at least had the scriptures in the original, but then you would need to have a most excellent knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  I say you would need a most excellent knowledge since you aren't even allowing lexica and grammars.  Even then you would be mostly just making it up without some historical and archaeological information as well as documents which elucidate the context of the writings.

I agree this is a danger, particularly if you were to sit down and get to it with no 'training' or 'guidance from another suitable person on some sort of structure methodology,  and this extra information is helpful - that's why we are all using Logos in the first place  - but at same time scripture is often best interpreter of scripture  along with my three friends - context, context and context.

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 2:15 PM

George Somsel:
That would almost be a question of simply making it up out of your own imaginings unless you at least had the scriptures in the original,

Actually, a Catholic bishop imprisoned in China went 20+ years on the Psalms he had memorized from the Breviary - a common requirement for ordination in the past. He had no access to any Christian text.

And about 10 years ago, I had an African graduate student in a Bible study class. In his homeland, there was rarely more than one Bible - and sometimes only a hand copied section of the Bible - yet they managed to have meaningful Bible study.

So I know that my conditions are realistic. However, there is a huge gap between what our "how-to books" prescribe and what is possible for a large number of Christians. I'm trying to wrap my mind around what scripture study means when stripped of its academic/library resources and is focused on the text/Christian community.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 2:22 PM

Andrew McKenzie:
if you were to sit down and get to it with no 'training' or 'guidance from another suitable person on some sort of structure methodology

which is what we Catholics refer to as the magisterium, the teaching authority of the church. When you strip away the tools with which we are familiar and take for granted, all that you have is the text, prayer and your trust in your teacher.

Andrew McKenzie:
but at same time scripture is often best interpreter of scripture  along with my three friends - context, context and context.

While my "context" is probably broader than yours (think liturgical context, ecclesial context ...) I agree completely. It's hard to strip down to the absolute minimum, yet that is what many now and throughout history have had.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 2:47 PM

MJ. Smith:

George Somsel:
That would almost be a question of simply making it up out of your own imaginings unless you at least had the scriptures in the original,

Actually, a Catholic bishop imprisoned in China went 20+ years on the Psalms he had memorized from the Breviary - a common requirement for ordination in the past. He had no access to any Christian text.

And about 10 years ago, I had an African graduate student in a Bible study class. In his homeland, there was rarely more than one Bible - and sometimes only a hand copied section of the Bible - yet they managed to have meaningful Bible study.

So I know that my conditions are realistic. However, there is a huge gap between what our "how-to books" prescribe and what is possible for a large number of Christians. I'm trying to wrap my mind around what scripture study means when stripped of its academic/library resources and is focused on the text/Christian community.

I assume your Catholic bishop had some training prior to ordination so he was not without resources except that in this case the resources were commited to memory.  Your African bible study either has some guidance from those who have had training and resources or they are simply making it up.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 3:36 PM

MJ. Smith:

In one thread recently, a poster commented that they would use a device for reading but not Bible study. In another thread, there was a request for more examples of the use of Logos for exegesis. Since I am interested in methodology, that lead to an interesting question with no right or wrong answer, simply personal answers:

How would you study Scripture if all that you had was Scripture (and, perhaps, your own notes and friends)?

http://www.logos.com/product/9374/grasping-gods-word-a-hands-on-approach-to-reading-interpreting-and-applying-the-bible

YesYes

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 4:34 PM

Joshua, the forum won't let me quote just a link but:

While I like this book very much as it has some very good explanations that stick in the student's mind, it's got one looking at outside sources far too quickly to count as "Bible text only". But it's nice to be reminded of this resource.

 

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Nord Zootman | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 5:04 PM

I certainly recommend the use of whatever tools and training that one can obtain, but I also instruct people that two important tools are just a pen and paper.  I suggest they draw two lines down the sheet to form three columns. The first is observation (what do I see, what does it say), the second is interpretation (what does it mean), the last column is application (how do I apply this to my life).  Studying texts in their context, including the context of the entire scripture, is certainly a major part of that as well.

I'm not suggesting that this simple method replaces other tools and training, but it complements them and if all one had was the scripture it would still be the structure I would suggest.

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 5:39 PM

Nord Zootman:

I certainly recommend the use of whatever tools and training that one can obtain, but I also instruct people that two important tools are just a pen and paper.  I suggest they draw two lines down the sheet to form three columns. The first is observation (what do I see, what does it say), the second is interpretation (what does it mean), the last column is application (how do I apply this to my life).  Studying texts in their context, including the context of the entire scripture, is certainly a major part of that as well.

I'm not suggesting that this simple method replaces other tools and training, but it complements them and if all one had was the scripture it would still be the structure I would suggest.

The problem of such an approach for the average person is that these documents were written in a different time and under different circumstances.  What they might seem to mean to us may not be what they meant to those present at the time they were written.  We do not even use the same language and are thus dependent upon learning the language ourselves — in which case we generally still need certain aids such as lexica and grammars — or we must rely upon the hopefully good offices of translators (with the old adage that the translator is a traitor).  Even once we can read the documents in their original languages we need to have some understanding of the cultures under which they were written including the literature and folktales.  Sitting down and simply spinning ideas regarding it out of our imagination is no guarantee that our ideas based on our own situation will bear any resemblance to what they meant in the beginning.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 6:19 PM

Thank you, Nord - that seems to be a practical approach.

I'm a little surprised that the few methods that came to my mind - Swedish method, Lemko method and lectio divina - have not been mentions, But I'm getting more interesting and useful responses than if they were.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 6:44 PM

George Somsel:
The problem of such an approach for the average person is that these documents were written in a different time and under different circumstances. 

I agree to a point. On the other hand, I trust God to keep the text meaningful and accessible at some level. And historically in both Judaism and Christianity this has normally meant hearing the Word read, and seeing the Word in art I'm still struggling with how to make various pieces that I believe to be true fit into a coherent whole.What I do know is that I see people (particular friends) whose Bible study spends far more time with reference works than with Scripture.That makes sense in an academic or teaching role but not in personal Bible Study IMHO (okay, omit the H)Wink

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Nord Zootman | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 6:47 PM

George - note that I was by no means suggesting that one should not study the languages and cultural/historical setting in which scripture was written (I'm not ready to suggest I've wasted years of study).  I was answering the question of what I would recommend if all one had was the Bible itself. 

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 7:00 PM

MJ. Smith:
I'm a little surprised that the few methods that came to my mind - Swedish method

What Swedish method? Confused

"The Christian way of life isn't so much an assignment to be performed, as a gift to be received."  Wilfrid Stinissen

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Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 1 2011 7:06 PM

George Somsel:

Nord Zootman:

I certainly recommend the use of whatever tools and training that one can obtain, but I also instruct people that two important tools are just a pen and paper.  I suggest they draw two lines down the sheet to form three columns. The first is observation (what do I see, what does it say), the second is interpretation (what does it mean), the last column is application (how do I apply this to my life).  Studying texts in their context, including the context of the entire scripture, is certainly a major part of that as well.

I'm not suggesting that this simple method replaces other tools and training, but it complements them and if all one had was the scripture it would still be the structure I would suggest.

The problem of such an approach for the average person is that these documents were written in a different time and under different circumstances.  What they might seem to mean to us may not be what they meant to those present at the time they were written.  We do not even use the same language and are thus dependent upon learning the language ourselves — in which case we generally still need certain aids such as lexica and grammars — or we must rely upon the hopefully good offices of translators (with the old adage that the translator is a traitor).  Even once we can read the documents in their original languages we need to have some understanding of the cultures under which they were written including the literature and folktales.  Sitting down and simply spinning ideas regarding it out of our imagination is no guarantee that our ideas based on our own situation will bear any resemblance to what they meant in the beginning.

Every passage has a underlining theological principal that is not culturally bound. Such principals are timeless and relevant to both the original audience and us (the contemporary audience). The main point of basic inductive bible study is to establish what this theological principal is. To quote the resource I mentioned in an earlier post: "As God gives specific expressions to specific biblical audiences, He is also giving universal theological teachings for all of His people through the same texts." 

Determining such principals does not require a scholarly commentary, Greek lexicon, or Bible dictionary. It only requires careful observation, while asking the right questions.

What did the text mean to the original audience?

What are the differences between that audience and us?

What is the common theological principal? 

How should Christians today apply that theological principal in their lives?

 

EDIT: I should also mention this should be done with a literal translation (ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc.) that has good cross references. Wink

 

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