I was going to look into a second aspect of confession in this post, but I will have to put that off until next time because of an interesting email I received in regards to my last post. I was asked why I say I believe in the Bible alone as authoritative and yet I seem to accept so many other people’s opinions on the Bible as authoritative?
That is a good question and deserves an answer and a number of other readers might be thinking the same thing. Let me begin by saying that I have always been a reader and before going into the ministry studied Literature in University. My appetite for reading began on my mother’s knee and both my brother and sister have similar memories of mom reading poetry and children’s stories to us. All I know is that as my mother read I was transported into a different world. I could picture in my mind everything she spoke and it was as if I could see myself walking through Wordsworth’s England or sailing with the Ancient Mariner.
My interest in books has never left me and if anything it’s become stronger as I’ve grown older. During one ten year period I managed to read a little over a hundred books a year in everything from gardening, Antiques, literature, science, bird watching, natural history, nautical history, travel adventure, mystery and of course Theology.
It is natural for me to turn to Christian literature for support and clarification in what I study. You could say it is in my DNA. With this said let me give you a quick outline on how I study and come to the conclusions that I do.
I begin by praying about what I am about to study. I have a background in Theology and Pastoral Ministry but I believe the first place to search for truth is through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of you might think that is dangerous ground because what is to stop someone from believing their own ideas and thoughts are those of the Holy Spirit? That is a danger if you don’t have an idea of how to study the Bible and that is where exegesis comes into play.
So what is exegesis? The word itself means explanation, and Biblical exegesis simply means the examination of a particular text in order to properly interpret it. Exegesis is part of a process called hermeneutics, which is the science of interpretation. Writing to Timothy Paul tells him, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 What we are doing in exegesis is using Biblical tools under the direction of the Holy Spirit to understand a certain passage of Scripture.
This would probably be a good time to explain some of the tools of exegesis so we get a better understanding of the process. The New Testament was written in Greek and the Bible’s we use are translations from the Greek into English. One of the first things we can do is compare a number of Bible translations to see how certain words are translated. That gives us insight into what the translators were thinking the Bible writers were getting at in the passage. There are Bible’s that have the English translation under the Greek passage. Then with the help of a Concordance you can look any word up that pricks your interest and find out its original meaning.
Exegesis also looks at a passage in context of the verses around it as well as the chapter and the book that it is found in. This study of context takes time but really helps in understanding the flow of the verse and keeping us from making rash conclusions based on a verse taken out of context.
Another important aspect of Exegesis is to understand something of the historical context of the verse. We should always ask, “What did these verses mean to the people that they were originally written to?” A little prowling around the Internet or the purchase of a couple of good books on Biblical archaeology or Biblical customs really helps bring the texts alive.
Exegesis also helps us from spiritualizing much of the Bible. Books like Revelation are symbolic in nature and that’s a different study, but as a whole in the Bible when you read that something is a horse, it is a horse. As well exegesis should always lead us to ask the final question, “What do these verses mean to me and what impact do they have on my life?” After studying, reading, and meditating upon a verse the ultimate question is simply, “God what do you want of me in light of this verse?”
There are many concepts to exegesis such as the study of grammar and so forth but this gives us an idea of what is going on in the process. Now, to the question why do I quote so many books? The answer is that they are aids in helping me understand the meaning of the text more fully than I would otherwise. Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and historical documents from early Christian writers give insight into what is going on in the text. I read Christian biography as well as early church history and reformation theology but I especially enjoy works by pastors who, like John Stott and Timothy Keller, are known for their exegetical and expository approach to teaching.
People have asked me why I don’t quote certain authors and the answer to that is simple. Anyone who claims to have special revelation or a hot line to God doesn’t find space in this blog. On many Mormon sites for example you find the texts of Scripture being interpreted through the eyes of Joseph Smith instead of using exegetical principles. The writers I quote are all fallible and those still alive would gladly affirm that. I do not quote them as infallible sources but simply sources that present well thought out and enlightening commentary on passages of Scripture that bring encouragement and knowledge to us.
I’m not sure this answered the inquirer’s question but it gives you a bit of an insight on how I think and work through the process of writing the blogs. A final thought on the topic is that sometimes I will be reading a very enlightening and encouraging book and will use the material I have been reading as an outline or framework for the blog such as I did in the last post. Again let me say the sources I quote are not considered the final word or infallible by me, they are simply good resources that I believe have great insights into the nuances of Scripture, but do not claim to have divine revelation for their work.
* Many people around the globe are currently experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death, for the love of their God. They need our support and prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…