Last week, I started my series on studying the bible. I share this, because it is something that has radically changed in my life, as a result of enrolling in seminary.
A common thought, when studying scripture is to ask “How does this apply to me, my life?” as we finish reading a passage. However, I would like to contend that that is the wrong question to ask, at first. The Bible, in it’s entirety, is the complete story of God’s Redeeming Grace. From Genesis to Revelation, it is about Jesus Christ.
The first, and most important question, is “How does this passage point to, or reveal, Jesus?”
Today, I would like to move on to the second question we should be asking; which is actually a two part question.
1. How does this passage point to, or reveal Jesus?
2A. Who is the speaker/writer?
2B. Who is the audience, at the time?
All scripture is the Word of God, written down by man. When we take the time to look at who is speaking, or delivering that message, it can reveal a lot of pertinent information to us.
Knowing WHO is speaking, or who wrote the scripture gives us a picture of:
* Time Period (what is happening in the world, during that time)
* History of the Person Speaking (what is their significance/authority)
Knowing WHO is being spoken to, gives us a picture of:
* Culture of the Audience (what is their current perspective, point of view)
* Significance to the Times (why does this need to be said right now)
Knowing this information helps us put a passage of scripture not just in context to the rest of the chapter or book, but also, in context to history. Understanding history, helps us to apply the lessons & wisdom to today.
Reading the scriptures themselves, won’t always give us that contextual information. For example, there are some books of the bible where the author isn’t directly identified in the verses themselves. However, from additional sources of information, scholars have been able to piece together information that does.
A resource, that I have found really helpful, in understanding these WHO questions is a site called Biblica.
On Biblica, every book of the Bible has an introduction; and Biblica is very careful to share differing opinions when they exist, as well as, the evidence to support the individual theories. Sources like this help us to get a better understanding of when the scriptures were originally written, in what context, who these people were in relation to God (Old Testament) or Christ (New Testament). Biblica also provides cultural backgrounds relevant to the scripture, important key players, and an outline of the book as a whole. Which I find really helpful to print up and save, for future reference.
Before we can understand how scripture applies to us today, we have to understand how it applied in the moment. Who were the people, what was going on, where did this happen, when did this take place, and how come it was important (or how was it relevant to the time.)
Biblica is not the only resource out there, but it is a great tool to have in your pocket. Many study bibles have introductions and reference culture and history related to that specific passage of scripture. There are individual studies and online classes too, both of which can help you grasp a better idea of the culture and climate of the scriptures.
It is through this deeper study of the history, that I am finding a greater understanding of the scriptures. It has helped to connect the dots between events, or clarify concepts. You will begin to see parallels between the Israelites, of the Old Testament, and the church today.