Teaching

Modern scholarship points out that to study Scripture, a person would do well to take into account the historico-cultural, literary and theological contexts and not leave out any of the three. This allows for excellence in interpretation and more intimate knowledge of God. Couple that with study which is in the name of Christ and Spirit led and these are those things that 5-14 strives for in its teaching.

For example, the Hebrews were found to write in a style in which the center of the writing has something about it that calls the reader to pay special note such as in Psalm 19:7-12. In verse 7 and 8, four statements concern the laws and statutes of the Lord, and in 9b - 11 four more statements are about the decrees, or instruction of God. Verse 9a, however, is set off from these eight related points. It is in the middle of the eight and says, "The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever." Since the writer placed it in the middle, it was to have a special place in the hearer's ear.

Another example of literary context is found in the book of Job. Chapter 28 occupies a central place in the book. It follows the speeches of Job's older friends and precedes the speech of a younger friend. This chapter heralds the desirability of wisdom and understanding. There is nothing that can be desired more than wisdom, and this is the fear of the Lord, as is the shunning of evil. There are plenty more examples of this literary feature of the Hebrew Bible where the writer places something special in the center of a group of words, be they a book, a paragraph or sentence.

As far as the historico-cultural context, in the book of Ruth, the cultural issue of protecting and elevating one's reputation or the reputation and name of the family are of prime importance. This makes it striking to the original readers that Boaz and Ruth each risked their reputations. And they did so by faith in God. In another example, Jacob asks Joseph to put his hand on Jacob's thigh and swear. This would mean culturally that the oath taker is saying, "On the name of all children who come out of my thigh, on our family name, we are staking our whole reputation. Jacob is asking Joseph to swear to bury him in the Promised Land; and the reputation of the family name, for all history is at stake. As far as Greek writing, when the Apostle Paul says that we are to clothe ourselves with compassion and so forth, he and his listeners would pick up rather quickly that clothing is that which protects a person from shame. And so it is likely he is saying that compassion brings dignity to a person.

Studying the historico-cultural and literary contexts help us understand the theological. When Paul says, in the gospel a righteousness from God that is by faith from first to last, he means that it is by faith alone. This is literary context, taking in the meaning of "faith from first to last." He also says that he wanted not to have a righteousness of his own that is by law, but that comes from God and is by faith. Any righteousness we can produce by law or think we can produce by law is not the righteousness to aim for. The righteousness to aim for is that which comes from God, and is by faith. This is some of the theological context of Scripture. Paul used theological terms of his historic era.

One way to study Scripture is to study the whole and then the parts, for instance reading the whole Bible to get an overview and then study individual books to compare to the whole. Some people more than others may have to work up to this.

Groupings of books can be studied, i.e. the Prophets, the wisdom books, the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Paul’s letters, etc. Each of these can be treated as a whole and then the parts studied in comparison and contrast to the whole.

Studying the words of a particular author and seei ng how they relate to words of another author is good. A long-term goal can be to learn the biblical languages which can help to clarify the meaning of the author.

Lexical dictionaries and exhaustive concordances are useful. With care and caution, reading and analyzing commentaries of others can help. Consulting spiritual leadership in this, pastors or other spiritual leaders, is recommended as commentaries are not canon. But keep in mind, they are often written by professional theologians who have studied the material for many years. Some of those are Spirit-led Christians, but others may not be.

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