Bible Study That Works Overview Thesis

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Observing the literary type (fourthly) also provides clues as about meaning -- whether the work is a parable, law, a prophesy, or a song will determine if the passage should be read allegorically, literally, as foreshadowing, or as a form of celebration (Thompson 36). Finally, making a chart to look at while reading the Bible can be useful: it allows us to better understand characters' extended relationships when we are interpreting the passage.

Thompson's stress upon asking questions is also revelatory of the inductive nature of IBS -- the more fully we ask questions, the more actively we enter the Biblical world and mindset. Questions such as who, what, and why, are important, observational questions. So are questions about what is implied, rather than directly spoken as in allegorical passages like the Song of Solomon and the parables of Jesus, as are asking questions about the speaker's historical context. What was going in Israel when this prophet was speaking or when Jesus was preaching?

When interpreting Paul, for example, Thompson notes that Paul preached a simple method of 'Christ crucified' and that Christ preached to be understood. Yet Paul also preached more secret and hidden aspects of Christ's words to more mature believers. Hence, the famous quote about putting away childish things, as one matures in understanding the divine (Thompson 52). Defining what Paul means in our evaluation of the text, rather than what we mean when we use Paul's phrase colloquially, is essential. We must understand what Paul truly means when he speaks of love and compassion, and his expression of different levels of understanding. Love in Paul's vocabulary does not mean the same thing as when we say that we love our pet or we love soccer, for example.
His words must be placed in a greater understanding of Christian love and compassion. Of course, we are at a disadvantage because we read the Bible in our own language, and not in the original language, which is why secondary sources can be so valuable to support our study.

The final steps of applying the Bible to our own lives can only be achieved by being rigorous in these first steps -- Jesus must be the first judge, not our own beliefs and needs about what we want Jesus to say to us. We must separate the local or mundane concerns of daily activities from the common universal principles articulated in the text. Again, Thompson says, do not get bogged down with details -- what is more important, that your son does not fold his laundry, or what you feel about his actions in terms of the respect you believe he needs to show to you, in honoring his father and mother? Finding a path of peace in the world, and understanding the smallness of so many of our modern obsessions is possible through rigorous and objective distillation of principles -- and achieving the final step of IBS, of correlating the seemingly far-off words and actions of the Bible with today.

IBS is a living form of Bible study. On one hand it takes us back into the past, as we strive to read and comprehend the words and actions of past, Biblical actors on their own terms. On the other hand, it takes the Bible's words and spirit into the present, by encouraging us to see the universality of Biblical messages that are not bogged down by the details of our own moment in time.

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