Best Practices for Understanding the Bible

When Reading Scripture: 7 Questions
  1. Who — Who is speaking? Who is the audience? Who is being spoken about?
  2. What — What is being said or not being said? What is the overall idea the author has in mind? Ask, “What is the passage talking about?” and “What is the passage saying about what it is talking about?”
  3. When — Are there any time references in the passage? Do the verb tenses give any idea as to when something has happened, is happening or will happen?
  4. Where — Where will an event or change take place? Is there a reference to a particular change in location?
  5. Why — Are there reasons given for an appeal the author is making? Does the author state his purpose for writing?
  6. How — Is there a means by which such and such will take place? If the text says I’m to do something, does it explain how it is to be done? Is there a basis upon which something has happened in the past?
  7. How much — Are there any references to quantity or quality?
When Interpreting Scripture: Guidlines

  1. Do look for the clear, straightforward statements of the passage. In other words, don’t get caught up in the details.
  2. Do your best to keep personal, subjective meanings from interfering with your straightforward observations. God doesn’t need any help in inspiration.
  3. Do remember that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not a book about you. Although there are wonderful and important things to learn and apply from the Bible, it is primarily God’s Word to us, not our word from us about us.
  4. Do distinguish between what Scripture is teaching and what we can learn from it.
  5. Don’t create some deep, far-reaching meaning from the passage. Scripture has enough profound ideas in the text. A passage can never mean what it never meant. It is the author who gives it the meaning, not the reader. Your quest is to discover the author’s meaning.
  6. Don’t take a verse or passage out of its context. Content without context is pretext. Context is the primary tool to discover the meaning of a passage. Typically, within any given context there is a single idea or concept that the biblical author is seeking to communicate. Discovering the big idea will be the foundation of a correct interpretation. Remember: The main idea is what God is teaching us.
  7. Do recognize that there are multiple genres or literary styles used in the Bible. For example, the Bible uses prose, poetry, prophecy, history, symbolic imagery, etc. While it’s more important to identify the purpose of a text than its literary style, the type of literature being used is key to an accurate understanding of a text’s intent and significance.
  8. Don’t assume you have observed all there is. KEEP LOOKING! Set the study aside and come back another time for more discoveries.
  9. Do pray before, during, and after your study. It is vital that you bathe your study in prayer asking God to illuminate his truth to your mind and heart.
  10. Do know that authority is in the text, not in the interpretor (this includes the pastor or teacher as well as the reader). In so far as the interpretor has accurately understood the meaning of the text, then and only then do his/her words used to convey that meaning have authorial import.
  11. Do understand that the personal significance of a passage/text is only present when you’ve properly understood and interpreted it. So don’t be hasty in application but take time to reflect on your findings before applying them on your life.

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