Chapter 6 - Order of the Elements
Bible study serves as the link between the Bible and the use of the
Bible (application and service), as illustrated below. Not only are
all twelve elements important, their order is also important.
The Holy Spirit and the Production of the Bible
The Holy spirit inspired each book of the Bible as it was originally
written so its contents would be completely reliable. In general,
the Old Testament books were originally written in Hebrew, and the New
Testament books were written in Greek.
The Holy Spirit also preserved these writings (the word "Scriptures"
simply means writings). He guided the believers both before and after
Christ in their recognition of the inspired writings and in their rejection
of other uninspired writings, so that only inspired writings were included
in the canon (the list of inspired books). Although we do not have
any of the original manuscripts today, many ancient copies of those originals
have been preserved for us. Those copies are not identical, so specialists
in textual criticism must analyze and compare them to determine which wordings
most accurately represent the originals. (Textual criticism is also
called lower criticism and should not be confused with higher criticism.)
The Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament that result are thus
nearly identical to the wording of the originals. The textual critics
tell us that the variations between manuscripts do not affect any teaching
of the Bible.
The Holy Spirit further guides men as they translate
the Hebrew and Greek to give us our present English Bible. (We say
more about translation in chapter 16.)
Each book as originally written
|Recognition of the Canon
Hebrew OT & Greek NT
Guidance & Illumination
Our English Bible
|Service (Evangelism & Edification
The Holy Spirit and our Use of the Bible
The Holy Spirit continues to work as we study, apply, and share the
When a person practices Bible study, he will follow a certain procedure,
either consciously or unconsciously, based on a set of principles and rules
(hermeneutics). This set of principles and rules is derived initially
from one's common way of reading any piece of literature, and then is modified
as he observes what the Bible itself says about how it should be interpreted.
(We discuss these principles of interpretation in chapters 10 through 13.)
The theory of Bible study then becomes Bible study in actual practice
as the person first observes what the biblical text says, then interprets
it, and then integrates his interpretations into a systematic statement
of the Bible's teachings known as theology. The Holy Spirit's ministry
of illumination applies to each of these elements of Bible study.
Then the Holy Spirit empowers the person to apply those teachings in
his life and to share and exemplify those teachings with both non-Christians
(evangelism) and Christians (edification).
Observation and Interpretation Must Precede Application
There are three elements in the practice of Bible study that are often
taken out of order: observation, interpretation, and application.
Personal application should come only after you are certain that your interpretation
is sound. An incorrect interpretation applied to one's life can have
tragic results. Thus, any so-called devotional approach to the Bible
that stresses application to the neglect of sound interpretation is quite
Also, one's interpretation must be based on thoughtful, thorough, and
intense observation. You need to know precisely what the text says
(and what it does not say) before you try to decide what the text means.
Thus, the logical order of these three elements should always be: first
observation, then interpretation, then application.
In a nutshell: Go directly to the biblical text and carefully
observe what it says. Then interpret its meaning, apply it in your
life, and share it with someone else.
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