If you are like me, you have a great desire to learn more about God. And there is no better way to learn more about God than to study the scriptures.
Jesus rebuked people for not knowing the scriptures. He slapped them with “Have you not read…?” time and time again. It is obvious – Jesus expects you to read, understand, and obey the scriptures. But reading the scriptures can be a very daunting task. Yes, reading the Bible can be a very daunting task. So many “books”. So many authors. So many variants of context. So many years. And to add to the confusion, most Bibles are not compiled in chronological order!
Alas! What shall we do? How do we grasp this vast library of knowledge?
I have composed a list of 10 questions you should ask when reading any book, or portion of scripture. Some of these questions may not be answerable. But most of them are! And when you find the answers, step back, and look at the “big picture”, you will suddenly attain to a new level of knowledge and understanding – increasing and strengthening your faith beyond the limits that you presently know.
10 Questions to a Deeper Understanding of the Scriptures
- Who is the author?
This is the first question we must ask. Who actually wrote what you are reading?
- How much authority does the author have?
Many people do not think about this. And many people do not acknowledge that some authors have more authority than others. In spite of the fact that the Bible teaches this concept, it goes right over the head of most people.
What difference does it make?, you may ask.
It can make a lot of difference. If there are any discrepancies between texts, we must accept, believe, and obey the higher authority over the lower authority. If you want to know what book of the Bible you should give priority to, then you must know where the book, or rather, the book’s author stand in the hierarchy of scripture. Thus you can make an informed decision, and prioritize the most important books.
We must acknowledge the fact that all scripture was either written and/or preserved and/or delivered to us by the Jewish people. In order to understand the scriptures which the Jewish people gave us, we must understand the Jewish mindset, and the Jewish perspective of those scriptures.
The Jewish Bible is know as the Tanakh, which is an acronym. TNK. Which stands for Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim – in that order.
The Torah as delivered by Moses is at the top of the hierarchy of scripture. Why? Simply stated, the scriptures teach that Moses was closer to God than any other prophet (except the Messiah, Himself). Numbers, chapter 12, details this. Miriam, and Aaron thought that God could use them just as He used Moses. After all, they viewed Moses as a “retarded” man who couldn’t speak well, and besides all that, he married an Ethiopian woman. They looked down on him for a period of time… until… God set them straight. God came with hard rebuke, and punishment, and God left Miriam leprous. God said, more or less. “Who do you think you are? I speak to Moses face-to-face. Not like any other prophet, to whom I speak in riddles, visions, and dreams!”
Therefore, Moses carries the highest authority in the Tanakh.
The Nevi’im are the prophets, which carry lesser authority.
The Ketuvim are the “writings”, such as the historical books, and such… which is at the bottom of the hierarchy of scripture.
You need to know what authority the author has!
- How did the author obtain this knowledge?
Many times throughout scripture we see the phrase “The Lord spoke to me, and said…”, or “Thus saith the LORD…”, or something to the tune of “God showed me this vision”. Therefore it is clear how some of their knowledge was obtained – directly from God.
But there are many times when no such declaration is made. No source is quoted. Therefore, we must ask, did the author obtain this knowledge directly from God? from another author? from another person, or from another source?
You’d be surprised how much of the scriptures contain information that came from from other sources, other than directly from God.
Please note: Just because some, or most, of the information recorded in a certain book is not directly from God does NOT ipso-facto make it false.
- In this passage, who is speaking?
I am amazed at how many times someone said, “Jesus said….” but they actually quoted Paul. Somehow they think that what Paul said is what Jesus said.
You need to be sure you understand who is speaking. Is it the author speaking as a narator? Is it God speaking? Or is it a third party?
- Who is the audience?
There are many times I see people take a certain scripture as speaking directly to them, when in fact it is speaking to another person, or another group of people.
Sometimes although a certain passage was originally addressed to another party, it can also apply to us. But then again, sometimes it doesn’t. Take it all in context.
- What did the author say?
After all that, let’s look at what the author actually said. All too often, this is the only thing that is considered when reading the scripture.
- What did the author NOT say?
In a court of law, evidence is given. Some of that evidence can be presented as what a particular person actually said. But some of that evidence can be what is NOT said, given the circumstances.
Sometimes, what you do not say can actually speak louder than what you do say.
- What is the context?
Most times when I hear someone refer to the “context” of scripture, they are simply talking about reading the surrounding verses. But context means much more than that. It means reading the surrounding chapters, books, and culture.
Understanding the culture in which a book was written can be a task, albeit a rewarding task. Scriptural context means a lot. But cultural context can make all the difference.
- Is this passage prophetic?
More often than people realize, “Old Testament” passages are actually speaking of the Messiah. For example, Psalm 22 “they pierced my hands and my feet” is prophetic of the Messiah.
Whenever reading any scripture written B.C., you should always ask yourself, is this passage prophetic?
Because if it is, it can give you a very important glimpse into the REAL personality of the Savior – thus opening another whole world of knowledge and understanding.
- What, if anything, is God speaking to me?
This may be a no-brainer to many. Some of you may be thinking that everything written is actually God speaking to you. And perhaps, to one degree or another, this may be true. But this is more true in certain passages, compared to others.
For example, you may be reading about a genealogy. Perhaps God is not really making it personal to you.
But on the other hand, you may read Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness, which you should take personal. God may be speaking direct to you!