Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Open That Commentary (Yet!) Twelve Basic Questions for Biblical Interpretation

Some of my best friends are dead. But don't send me flowers just yet. I mean that some of the people that have impacted my life greatly are the Biblical scholars, theologians, and commentators who have gone before me in generations past. 

I cannot underestimate the value of a good commentary on the shelf of a pastor (or better yet, laid open on his desk!) 

But before we just head straight to the wisdom of the scholars, any diligent student of Scripture can do the work of Biblical exegesis on their own. True, our learning can be greatly enhanced by our Biblical reference tools (they are virtually unlimited online today). But that doesn't mean I can't (and shouldn't!) do some heavy lifting of exegesis myself. 

If you are responsible for teaching the occasional adult, youth, or even children's Bible lesson (or even if you just want to improve your own personal devotions) here are 12 good questions we should ask of any text we are examining:
What is the author’s central or main point in this passage?

Why does the author include this material?

Why is this material placed here in the book, rather than in another location?

What comes immediately before or after this passage that may help explain it?

What words, customs, places, or practices in this passage need to be explored?

How would the original hearers/readers have been moved by this passage (gladdened, surprised, offended)?

What response(s) is the author trying to elicit from his readers by including this material (i.e. conviction, fear, joy, dread, obedience, repentance, evangelism etc.)…

What other passages or parallel texts might highlight themes or motifs similar to those in this passage?

Is the author drawing from other literary sources (such as the OT)? Why does he use them?

What does this passage teach about the nature of God? The condition of man? Of Christ?

What major doctrines are to be found in this passage?

What apparent contradictions (if any) may need to be resolved?
Finally, I'm ready to ask: What light do the commentaries shed on this passage? 

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.  

1 comment: