So last week I went over my three essentials of the Basic Bible Study Questions.
This week I have seven more questions to offer you to assist in your Bible study. These questions focus more on the specifics of the content and the structure of the passage itself. Often we miss wonderful blessings in our Bible study because we read over the passage too quickly. We know, or thing we know, basically what the text says already, so we think we already know what we are going to get out of it. Therefore, we don’t slow down and read the passage as if for the first time.
If you read my article “Pictures from Micah: The Mountain”, you might remember that I spoke of spending nearly three weeks pouring over Micah 4 through 7. That is approximately 21 days to cover just 64 verses, or 3 verses a day. That is a slow-motion Bible study for me, but the details and connections just kept leaping off the page. Generally, my study is nowhere near that slow paced; but it gives you an idea of how looking at details can reduce the amount material you will cover at a given time.
So here are my 7 Basic Bible Study Questions:
- What does the historical background add to the essential questions? (Last week’s big three.) I enjoy studying history, but knowledge without a deeper application is just trivia. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you must know all the historical context to really understand the text. Yet the historical context can be a great benefit to understanding the text and even, with the epistles, the purpose for the text.
- Are there any repeated or unusual words (names of places or people out of context)? This is a bit more exacting practice to Bible study, one I will explain and describe in greater detail in a future article. For today, just be more aware of the words the author used. Look them up in the concordance and original language dictionary. Count the number of time the word is used — repetition indicates emphasis. If a proper name is used (e.g. Jezzabel) outside of its historical context (e.g. Rev. 2:20), look up the first use of that name and study the story/circumstances surrounding the person or place.
- What is the big picture of the passage? Your first response to this might be, “What do you mean the ‘big picture’?” Well, if you are looking at a passage, how does it fit with the surrounding passages? What is its context? Many people find passages and use them to “prove” something that the passage, in context, is not even talking about. So keep the “big picture” in mind while you study.
- Are there any important but small details? Often we rush through our reading or study and miss details that reveal amazing truths. (e.g. David selected five stones before encountering Goliath, see I Sam. 17:40.) You’ll never see all the details, especially the first time you read/study a passage. Don’t fret. Keep your eyes and heart open. Don’t miss the details.
- What do other people say about this passage, and do I care? Sometimes when we study, we come across a passage that intrigues us, but we don’t understand it. Rather than doing the digging with the concordance and original language dictionary, we just pull a commentary off the shelf to see what some theologian says about the text. It is fine to see what others say about a text, but don’t let it replace your personal search. I’ve read several book on the book of Daniel and have learned things that I never would have found on my own. I’ve also listen to others preach/teach on the topic. We can learn great and beautiful things from others. But make them part of your study, not a replacement of your study.
- What doesn’t the text say? And what does the omission of that information tell you? This is a rather new question for me and a little unusual. “How am I supposed to know what is missing?” you might ask. Well, I don’t mean to look for verses that have been left out during translation. Let me give you an example. Daniel and his friends were of the tribe of Judah, but no other genealogy than that is included anywhere in the book of Daniel or in the entire Bible for these four men. Now this might not seem strange to you, but just a glance through the first five books of the Bible should be enough to show you how important genealogy was to the Jews. So it is odd for a Jew not to include it. So why didn’t Daniel include it? Ah, that is your question to answer.
- Why did he bother to tell us that? This is a bit like looking for details, but there is a difference in my mind. Details are things I notice and that I find interesting. These are details that make me stop because I ask, “Why is that bit even included?” For example, there are several references in the book of Acts about someone quieting a group with his hand or raising his had to quiet a group. Why? What is the significance? There must be some significance because it’s such seemingly trivial information that it could be omitted, but it wasn’t. Another type of curious detail like this is the information that Jesus’ burial shroud was folded. Why include this?
Well that is it. Those are my basic questions for Bible study. As far as I’m concerned, all other questions derive from these or are variations of these or the essential questions from last week.
So open your Bible and start asking question. If you’re not sure how to begin, pretend you’re a two or three-year-old and have just learned the word, “Why?”