Summer Series

Bible 101: Week 4 – Say What?

Bible 101: Week 4 – Say What?  

Welcome to week 4 of the #livesaltedsummerseries. Last week, we looked at the ring finger of the Whole Hand Metaphor: Read.  This week, we will begin diving into what the middle finger represents: Study. There is SO much helpful information that can fit in this section, so buckle up for the next few weeks as we study together!


The Whole Hand Metaphor Recap

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Continuing with our “Whole Hand Metaphor,” this week we will be giving new meaning to the middle finger – Study. If you missed last week’s post on Read (the ring finger) check it out here!


Studying Scripture – The Middle Finger 

During the next couple of weeks, we’ll linger in the subject of studying the Bible and you will be provided with a ton of practical ways to do so!

That said, it is time to nerd out!  Today we hit translation, exegesis and hermeneutics! I can just feel how pumped you are… even though you have no idea what I just said. Stay with me… you are gonna get fit from the inside out!

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So as you were gliding across the surface of the word and letting it flow into you as you read, you may have hit a few bumps along the way – words you did not know or understand, or concepts that made no sense.

When we run into these sort of roadblocks, there  are two ways we can respond:

  1. Close the book, feeling frustrated and discouraged
  2. Ready to do work, feeling challenged and perhaps a mix of skeptical and curious

Which category did you see yourself  falling into? Are you happy with where you are, or do you want to change your reaction when you hit mental roadblocks?

One of my dear friends is the most inspiring teacher, and she always tells her students when they are getting frustrated, or when something gets too hard, to get excited! “Imagine you are rock climbing and you get to that overhang and you’re fatigued and your muscles are shaking… Keep going! Fight through it! You are in fact getting stronger!  And great views await you!” She gets super amped and intense and her whole body exudes this joyous belief in her students that at that very edge of difficulty, they are getting smarter and can do it! I love her. And I echo her words to you today.

You may feel like your brain is tired and your hands are raw from wringing them in fear or frustration; you may feel like you don’t have the strength or the time to keep up on this faith journey. But I want to let you know, you can do it! You are growing and your faith is getting stronger! You contain the living God! His Holy Spirit, your Helper, has promised that He will never leave you.

You have all that you need.

Memory Verse #4

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After Jesus was raised from the dead, he met two men along the road. These two disciples were perplexed about Jesus’ death and were confused about their faith, “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45).

You know what ladies? You can do the same thing. If and when you get confused or frustrated, ask Him to open your mind and He will do just that!

So… let’s get to it!

Hopefully, as you are reading along you are marking up your Bible. If that weirds you out, buy a Bible you are okay with writing all over, or print out the scripture on Bible Gateway and get to work! I can’t stress enough the value of having Scripture in-hand that you can physically engage with…

Last week I suggested picking a color to highlight the things that leap out at you and resonate in your heart, and another color that denotes the need for further study. You can also underline words that don’t make sense, and circle phrases or concepts that need clarity. These are just some ideas to get you started!

Look back over those to select a passage you want to “unpack”. Once you have selected the passage you want to work on, you’ll want to do a little exegesis… sounds super cool, doesn’t it? Read on…


Translation, Exegesis and Hermeneutics

Say WHAT!? What do those words even mean? Before you freak out, and check your Facebook- let me be the first to tell you that there is nothing hotter to a dude who loves Jesus, THAN a woman who knows her Bible and delights in the Lord. Take this guy’s word for it. {And let me tell you, that doesn’t change after you get married!}

You can thank me later 🙂

So before we pick apart that verse, you must know the elements of a good Bible study:

A Brief Overview

  • Translation: According to Mr. Webster, translation is the process of translating words or text from one language into another. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, by over 40 authors over the span of about 1600 years.  It goes without saying that culture was just a little bit different then than it is now.
  • Exegesis {eksiˈjēsis/}: In order to understand what the Bible is saying to us in our day and age, it is imperative that we do a little exegesis. This is the effort to study definitions, grammar and historical context to determine what God was trying to communicate to the text’s original audience. Words in our own language have drastically changed in meaning over time, so it goes without saying that when we are jumping centuries and languages, there might be a lot lost in translation!
  • Hermeneutics {hərməˈn(y)o͞odiks/}Once we have determined what the original audience might have heard, we then are challenged with determining the modern day equivalent for how that same phrase or message would apply to us. Simply, this is known as hermeneutics. It takes into account the kind of literature {ie: the Psalms, being songs and prayers, are interpreted differently than the Gospels, which are the stories of Jesus’s life} and also considers literary devices such as metaphors, parables, proverbs, hyperbole, similes, etc. {ie, when the Scriptures say we should forgive our brother 70 times 7 times, this hyperbolic statement is not suggesting you keep a tally of the times you give your ridiculously flawed friend another chance!}

Now that you have a general understanding of these topics, let’s dive deeper!

Translation

Perhaps when you first began this whole adventure you dug up your little white communion Bible, dusted off that adventure Bible you first received at camp, opened your Bible App, or jumped on BibleGateway on your beloved MacBook. Depending on which way you accessed the Bible, you maybe reading from a slew of different translations of the text. You might be asking yourself, why so many translations!? Which one should I use!?

These are all great questions, and it can get a little overwhelming. A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject, so I am hoping to give you a very abbreviated understanding to send you on your way. If you want to read more, you can do so here!

The Background 

It goes without saying that the Bible was not originally written in English. In fact, it was written in Hebrew {most of the Old Testament}, Aramaic {a few passages of the Old Testament} and Greek {The New Testament}. While it is clear in Scripture that Jesus and Paul both knew the Hebrew language, the Hellenistic period had so affected the world that Greek was the preferred language of the day even amidst the Jewish people. Thus, the writings of the New Testament are primarily in Koine, or everyday Greek. That meant the words of Scripture, though packed with layer upon layer of meaning, were accessible even to the uneducated!

Word for Word Vs. Thought for Thought

Some people say that they want the most “literal translation” of the Bible. The issue with that is that there is no “non-literal” translation available. Every translation you will find was carefully developed, with the tools of exegesis and hermeneutics, with the idea in mind that the translator(s) {many translations are developed by teams of scholars} were attempting to get the most literal translation of Scripture into your hands.

There are two ways that translators will convert the original text:

  • Word for Word attempts to decipher of every word in the ancient text, and does its best to string those words together in a way that is readable. While there might be more specific language, some of the nuance can be lost where literary devices were employed.
  • Thought for Thought looks at the overall meaning of the ancient text and translates the thought or intention into modern language. As a result, paraphrased versions are typically more readable, but may have lost some of the richness or specificity of the original language. {the extreme on this side would be a paraphrase, like the Message}

The following image should give you a good idea of where several more popular versions sit on the spectrum!

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Which version is best? 

There is no real answer to this question, as it all is based on the reader’s preference, but here are some reasons/uses for a few of the specific translations:

  • To take in the arc of Scripture (like we talked about last week with reading the Word), and understanding general themes and context you may tend toward The Message or The New Living Translation (NLT).
  • When it comes to studying the word- I would suggest pairing those translations with a version such as the NASB or ESV that tend to the Word for Word translation so that you might have a more full understanding of the original author’s intent.

There are great study Bibles that use different translations but layer in maps, context info, and questions, are focused on different age groups or genders, which is why there are a million of options when you look at Amazon.

I particularly love The Voice which is a poetic version of the Bible in play-form that brings beautiful imagery and context to Scripture; the Quest Study Bible {NIV} is a fantastic Bible that gives context, maps and seeks to answer the most highly asked questions of Scripture. 

You be the scholar!

Now when you come up against a roadblock in Scripture, and your highlighter is going crazy, you have tools!  Consult numerous versions around where there is “tension” in a text {aka it doesn’t sit right, confuses or angers you}. Look not only at the particular verse but also the paragraph surrounding it.  Again, it is incredibly helpful to look at various translations {all while asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight!} to gain an understanding of what the text might have originally intended {exegesis!} so that you can figure out how it might apply to you {hermeneutics!}.

Sound fun? Let’s try it! 

Challenge #4: Comparing Translations for John 1

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  1. Go to Biblegateway.com and look up John 1.
  2. Click on the little button above the text on the right that looks like two combs facing each other. You can click this multiple times and have 2 or three different versions pop up side by side of the same text.
  3. Pick NASB, ESV, and The Message.
  4. Ask yourself these questions and journal about them:
    • What do you notice that is the same/different?
    • Which version does your “ear” prefer overall?
    • Are there certain phrases you like more than another?

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Like a diamond, the more “faces” we expose, the more brilliant, multifaceted, whole-picture we begin to appreciate of the Word of God!

Remember that verse that you chose back at the beginning? This is your chance to work it out! Pull it up in a few translations and see if you can answer the following questions –>

Tool #4: Exegesis + Hermeneutics Questions

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I encourage you to put these two concepts to work as you read through the Bible and really ask yourself those questions. If you don’t know the context, Google it, look it up on Bible Gateway, ask a friend or family member, discuss it with a friend! The text is meant to be scoured and explored and studied in community… So once you have digested it for yourself, share with others!

Recap

This week we dug in to the foundation of how to study the bible. We looked at the different translations of the Bible and briefly how they came to be. We looked at exegesis and hermeneutics, which are basically two big words embodying the idea of putting yourself in the shoes of who the text was originally written for {exegesis}, and then determining how we can apply that message to us today {hermeneutics}. Together, these two practices inform translation of the Bible into how it can be transformative in our current world and personal lives. We want to encourage you to ask great questions when you read so that you can grasp the fullness of what God wants to speak to you today!

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Final Thoughts 

What a joy it is to study God’s Word together!  I want to reiterate that there is something beautiful about drawing away with God, just you and Him on a “date”, asking Him to reveal His heart to you, to open up your understanding of Scripture, and to be filled as you “cook together”.  An added sweetness is gathering with a friend or two afterwards to discuss what you have learned. There is a particular richness to those friendships where we open the Word of God together!

I want to affirm that the more you study, the more questions will arise! I have found that the more I know, the more I realize that I don’t know. This following Jesus thing never gets old because our God is unsearchable, mysterious, extravagant and adventurous. So keep at it!

Please share what you are thinking below! Questions? Comments? What are you learning? I would love to hear from you!

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