Last week I introduced 3 steps for interpreting the Bible.
Step one was Ask Questions of Your Observations:
Take your observations and ask questions of them. Lots of questions. Tackle those observations from every direction.
Be as inquisitive as possible. Get better at asking questions, and you’ll get better at interpreting the Bible.
Note that your questions should be about your observations of the text. Don’t ask just any old questions. Don’t feel the need to be particularly clever. Your job is not to innovate, but to uncover. (Note how the disciples didn’t observe well, and so asked the wrong questions in John 21:22-23.)
The main questions to ask are What? Why? and So What?
- What? questions define the terms. (“What did he mean?”)
- Why? questions uncover the author’s purpose. (“Why did he say that?”)
- So What? questions draw out the implications. (“So what does he want me to do about it?”)
For example, let’s say you’re studying Luke 2:1-21. You just observed that there’s a repeated idea of power and authority. You saw lots of words like, “Lord,” “governor,” “decree,” “Caesar,” and “glory.” Now it’s time to ask questions:
- What kind of authority is Luke concerned with? What was a “governor” in Ancient Rome? What was the extent of Caesar’s power? What will Jesus do that’s different? What are angels?
- How questions often fit into this category as well: How long was the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem? How did people view shepherds at this time?
- Why is Luke so concerned with power? Why did Caesar make this decree? Why does the author contrast baby Jesus’ glory with the Roman leaders’ authority? Why were the shepherds filled with fear at the sight of an angel?
- So what does this mean about where true authority lies? So what should we believe about Jesus? So what should we expect when Jesus comes into conflict with the world?
What other questions can you think of from your observation of Luke 2:1-21? See if you can identify whether your question is a What? Why? or So What? question.