In his classic book "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life," Donald Whitney says that discipline without direction is drudgery. Have you ever experienced that in your Bible reading? Sometimes we sit down to read and either we find ourselves just trying to get through the passage or five minutes after we're done we can't remember what we read (or both). Fear not! We have a solution.
Let us introduce you to the Seven Arrows method of study. Each arrow represents a different question to ask of Scripture. If you can answer those seven questions, you know that passage of Scripture pretty well.
This is what we call a hermeneutic method.
hermeneutic (adj.) - concerning interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts.
It is a process you can follow to help you interpret and understand a passage of Scripture. These seven questions are a great way to interpret a passage of Scripture. You may still need some help to answer some questions, especially the one about what the passage meant to its original audience. Pastors and scholars (should) dedicate a large portion of their studies to understanding the historical cultural context of Scripture. For these answers, we'd recommend a basic Bible commentary and perhaps a Bible dictionary.
To be thorough, we'd also add a couple of questions.
What type of text is this? We really need to know the answer to this question because it will change how we answer some of the other questions. For example, if it is a narrative story, we must remember that narrative is not always normative. In other words, we can't always expect a burning bush when God wants to speak to us just because there is a story in Scripture that shows God speaking to Moses that way. If it is poetry or wisdom literature, we need to understand that the author could be writing in metaphor or using some other literary device that doesn't call for a literal translation. For example, Proverbs frequently speaks of a rod for the backs of fools. We can't take that to mean that we should literally get a bunch of rods to start breaking over the backs of our children. It's a metaphor that shepherds would understand well, using the rod to hit the ground or tap a sheep to guide its direction. If it is apocalyptic like Revelation or parts of Daniel, we need to understand that the author uses a lot of imagery that cannot necessarily be taken literally. Satan is referred to as a dragon, but we can't exclude the fact that he is also a fallen angel, a serpent, and has taken other forms in Scripture.
What are the differences between the original audience and me? This question goes hand in hand with questions about what the passage meant to its original audience, but we can't really make full use of that information without understanding the differences between the original audience and ourselves.
We have a couple of recommendations if you'd like to learn more about how to read and interpret Scripture. Click below to get them for your library! As always, thanks for reading!