Communicating the Bible Clearly (Precision Pt. 1)

The first element for communicating the Bible clearly is precision. When sharing and teaching Scripture, we are not to be giving people our opinions. Our primary task is to “cut it straight” (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). We are to speak the meaning of God’s Word with accuracy. This is important because when we do this, we are rightly representing our Lord God, and we are helping people hear the life-changing Word of the Lord. How is this done? In this section, we will consider three steps to communicating with precision: Investigation, Interpretation, and Compilation.

Investigation

In order for effective Bible study to take place, it is essential that you take time to investigate the text you are studying. In this section, we will consider three practical stages in which we can study the Bible with the purpose of effective investigation.

Reading

Before you consult commentaries or other Bible study resources, you should begin your examination of the passage by reading it repeatedly. There is no magic number, but depending on the size of the passage I normally find reading a passage at least 10 times is a great start. The key is to read, then read, and then read again. Keep reading until the passage becomes very familiar. It is also helpful to read it in other literal translations of the Bible (ESV, KJV/KNJV, NASB, CSB). After reading your passage multiple times you will begin to gain an understanding of what it says and its flow. You may even begin to anticipate what the next word or line is. This is a good indication that the passage is something you are now well acquainted with. Don’t get discouraged if you think the passage is unclear, in this stage your task is to keep on reading until you begin to become familiar with the passage and you start noticing things in the passage.

 

When it comes to reading, it is helpful to make use of variety. Our contemporary reading style is most often silent, swift, and secluded.[1] Interestingly, up until around the seventeenth century, reading out loud commonly co-existed as a normal way of reading.[2] Some studies have demonstrated that the mode of audible reading helps with retention. The main point I want to make is that the use of varying approaches to reading will help reinforce what we are reading. Read silently and read audibly.

Observing

After you have taken time to read your selected passage repetitiously, read it again, but this time start looking for things in the text. You have probably done this naturally as you read it multiple times, but this time you are being deliberate in your observation. The practice of observant reading is something that takes time and effort, but it is important if we are going to be precise in our communication of the Bible. Observation is more than simply seeing things in the passage. In one of his many exchanges with Watson, Sherlock Holmes made clear the distinction between seeing something and observing it.

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

“Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.[3]

When we learn the skill of carefully observing the text of Scripture, we will begin to notice things we have read before, but now we notice their significance. Some people spend lots of time trying to find hidden meanings in the passage. This is not our goal. As you start actively observing as much as you can from the text, look for obvious things like repeated words or phrases, keywords, the connection from one verse to another, and contrasts. 

Interrogating

The final step in investigating the text is interrogating the text. As you read through the passage, start asking key questions that will help provide a strong foundation for interpretation. Some questions to ask are, “What is the context?” “Who was this written to?” “What appears to be the main idea or theme?” “How does this relate to the previous passage?” Also ask specific questions in regards to interpretation, “What does this phrase mean?”. Ask lots of questions and ask the questions you want answers to! The more questions you ask, the more you think and carefully consider the meaning of the passage. You may find that you start answering your own questions because you have become so familiar with the passage. The more you do this, you will find that it becomes a normal part of your reading.

 

CHART 

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

  

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See Paul Saenger, Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading, Sanford University Press, 1997

[2] In earlier centuries, reading included the social element as audible reading would include public readings and group readings etc.

[3] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Chapter 1 “A Scandal in Bohemia”


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