Bible Study – (How To)

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Worksheet For Bible Study

Have you ever wanted to know how preachers go about studying the bible prior to giving a sermon?  Below is a technique used by many in sermon preparation.   Even if you are not preparing your own sermon the questions below will aide your in your studies.

After completing the steps you will have performed your first exegesis.

Begin at home:

  • What is the readers’ context?
  • What group perspectives are represented?
  • Which ones are missing?
  • What are factors in the news that give shape to this moment (globally, locally and within the congregation)?
  • What personal issues, joys, concerns, crises have touched members of the study group or others on whose behalf you are reading the text?

Read the text and surface questions, feelings, and reactions and identify previous experiences with the text.

  • Identify points that are not clear, words that need definitions; customs, practices, roles, titles, or locations with which your are not familiar.
  • What feelings do aspects or portions of the text evoke?
  • What have you been told or assumed that the text means (e.g., in Sunday school, in sermons, n classes, or in your own study)?

Read the text again, in several different translations.

  • Elaborate on your list of questions and observations.
  • Did you find significant differences in translations?
  • Do you get a different sense of the meaning or felling of the text in the different translations?

Analyze the structure of the passage: how does the passage “work”?

  • Where does it begin, where does it end. And what are the steps by which it gets there?  For narratives, look at what characters are “on stage” at the various stages of the account.  For arguments, look for assumptions by the author about what author and readers hold in common, and about the nature of the differences between them.
  • What are the author’s techniques for winning over the audience?
  • For poetry what sort of parallelisms, images, metaphors, etc., does the poet employ?

Analyze the literary context of the passage.

  • Where does the text occur in the biblical book of which it is a part?
  • What major blocks have led up to it, and how does it move us forward into subsequent sections?
  • Look with greater detail at the immediate surroundings of the passage, as well as at its general setting.  (Note that this is not an issue for the Book of Psalms.)

Analyze the social context of the passage.

  • Do you get any clues from the text about the customs, culture, economic conditions historical settings ect., assumed by the passage?
  • For narrative passages, what are the circumstances assumed within the passage, and what seems to be the context of the writer?
  • For a letter or prophetic oracle, to whom and from whom is it addressed, and what are some of the main characteristics and historical circumstances of the community to which it is addressed?
  • (You might need to do bit of research at this point: that will move you into the next step of the process.)

Enter conversations with other readers.

  • Take your list of questions to Bible dictionaries, commentaries, journal articles, or other sources to see if the other interpreters can help you with the questions of the text has evoked.
  • Also read to learn what the other interpreters see as important about the text.  Try to read as diverse of a group of interpreters as possible, Jews and Christians, Catholics and Protestants, women and men, people form the “first world” and from the “two-thirds world, scholars and “popular readers.”
  • Remember that they are conversational partners about the meaning and implications of the text, not purveyors of right answers!
  • Be aware of whose voices you have not heard (poor people, the very young, the very old) and work at ways to get at their perceptions of the text.

Sit in silence, allow what you have seen and heard sink in.

Return to your readers’ context to consider the implications of the text.

  • This is where you ask the questions “so what?”  Does it seem to connect to your context at all?
  • Remember, “no!” is a legitimate answer.  It should evoke the subsequent questions, “why not?”  What makes it not connect?  Have circumstances or your world view made it simply not appropriate any more?
  • If the passage does intersect with your context, what do you hear as a challenge from the text?
  • What words of blessing or comfort does it convey?

(Basded on Biblical Interpretation: A Roadmap, by Frederick C. Tiffany and Sharon H. Ringe [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996])