5 Ways to Dissect a Scripture Verse
The Author. Who wrote the passage? What is his background and upbringing? What was his job or mission? Where did he live, what was his family like, what do we know of his life outside of what he wrote in the Bible? What were his personal circumstances at the time he wrote the book? How might these things influence his writing?
The Time. When was the passage written? What were the social, economic and political issues of the time? How were people governed? How did they express their faith? What were the social customs of the period? How do these things help us understand the author’s original meaning and intent?
The Language. Pull out the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. Look at each word and its original meaning. Look at verbs, adverbs and their tenses. Is there anything about the original language that was lost in translation? How does knowing the original writing enrich the study of the passage? Is there culture of the time reflected in the text? Look at how the Word is translated in various reputable translations: NASB, NIV, ESV, KJV. Then look at paraphrased translations for hints at putting the verse in today’s language.
The Context. What about the passages just before or after what you are studying? Does the Bible book itself have a broader theme that is reflected in this particular passage? What was the purpose of this particular book or chapter? What precept or characteristic is God communicating through the particular actions, teaching or story being told?
The Meaning. Finally, what does the verse actually mean? Note that the vast majority of the time the verse means what it says. If the Bible says, “Do this,” it means do it. If it says, “This displeases God, then it does.” Be careful not to layer extra meanings on instructions, commands or examples unless there is clear evidence for taking that liberty.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.