Studying God’s Word is aided in increasing measure as one considers important points as:
1. Understanding the context
2. Theology of the passage
3. Pertinent questions raised by past interpreters
4. Bridging of any cultural practices or figures of speech
5. Proper ways of applying the text to one’s life.
Bible students have consulted various resources over the years in achieving greater competency in their use and application of the scriptures. Today’s post will briefly consider the main tools used in developing proficiency in one’s interpretation of the Biblical text, with the ultimate goal of encouraging readers to consider adding theological journals to their Bible-study repertoire.
Drilling deeper into the Biblical text
When it comes to drilling deeper into extracting the meaning of the Biblical text, the Bible student has several options. No matter what level of study one pursues, prayer is the very first practice one ought to undertake. We can think of prayer as “sticking the bit of the drill” into the soil of our hearts as we prepare to explore the scripture.
Following prayer, we are ready to begin journeying into the text of God’s Word. Certainly there are Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias that give the back grounds and summaries of any questions one may have about cultural practices or meanings of terms in the Biblical text.
A second-level (if we may call it that) of study involves consultation of commentaries or what other reputable interpreters of scripture have had to say in recent times or in centuries past.
The bed-rock or deepest level of study into the Biblical text entails exploration of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words, grammar and expressions of the given English translation. Most Christians may not have had the opportunity to learn the original languages of the Old and New Testaments. Thankfully, the next best tools for accessing the mines of the original language texts behind our English translations comes in the form of concordances (like Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or The NIV Exhaustive Concordance) and word-study materials (older reference works such as “Vine’s word-studies” or newer works produced by AMG Publishers). For those who have had opportunity to study the original languages, humility and dependence upon the Spirit of God is especially needed. No matter what level one may be at in their exploration of the scripture, prayer before, during and following one’s study bridges the interpretive process to life-application.
It’s is after drilling down through these “three-levels” that the Bible student needs to come back up to the surface and to consider all that they have observed.
The importance of theological journals in sharpening one’s study of the scriptures
In so far as all of the above tools are important to one’s growing competency in the study of the Bible, one set of tools needs to be included: theological journals. A theological journal is like a monthly or quarterly magazine that is pumped-up on steroids. Theological journals give the reader the latest and most-cutting edge discussions on any theological or exegetical subject being considered by scholars and researchers in a given field. Such theological journals as “The Journal of the Evangelical Society” (nicknamed “JETS” and produced by the Evangelical Theological Society) and “Biblica Theca Sacra” (the journal publication of Dallas Theological Seminary) can be subscribed to through the academic groups producing them.
Thankfully, there is another option that enables readers to access past issues of journals like these for as little as $5 / month. If one clicks on the website: http://www.galaxie.com and follows the instructions for subscription, instant access is granted to explore their incredible archives (with the most recent issues being up to November of 2016). For anyone desiring to expand their understanding of God’s Word, getting the opportunity to stretch oneself in reading an article in a reputable theological journal will prove beneficial.