Your Bible study group needs sound biblical hermeneutics. It doesn’t need the latest home group fad or a set of new Bible study books every month. You need to learn to interpret the Bible. Because the success of your Bible study group depends on that.
Every time you meet at a Bible study, someone have a pressing question. They come to the Bible study looking for answers. Because they know that the Bible is God’s word through which the meaning of life is revealed. But a Bible study that lacks good biblical hermeneutics is useless. Instead, it could hurt the faith and wound the already bleeding heart of the Bible study member.
Anyone who one had a Bible study with someone with depression knows the importance of sound Bible interpretation. What is the verse you go to when you’re talking to a person battling depression? Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
This verse couldn’t comfort me when I had mild depression. It only brought guilt and shame. I strongly believed my prayers were selfish and wrong. If you quote Philippians 4:6 to someone struggling with depression you might be inflicting them with more pain.
Without proper biblical hermeneutics, everyone in the Bible study would think Sarudzai is depressed because she doesn’t pray enough or correctly. This could be true but it doesn’t help Sarudzai or anyone else attending the Bible study.
People like Sarudzai can benefit from a Bible study that is grounded on good biblical hermeneutics. Quoting a verse in isolation like Satan hurts, but reading in context may encourage and comfort the wounded. Therefore, how do you incorporate sound biblical hermeneutics in your Bible study group?
7 Great Bible Study Tools That Don’t Work In Africa
They’re several Bible study tools and activities that can improve how people interpret the Bible in a Christian community. I have used several of them and I can attest to their usefulness. Sadly, most of these tools don’t work in most African nations because of cultural, social and economic reasons.
Most of the best Bible study tools are like a fleet of fancy cars in the middle of Sahara Desert – valuable but useless. And it’s frustrating trying to use them for a group Bible study. I wish developers of these tools knew this.
1. Go to seminary
Getting a seminary education is wonderful because it equips you to be a tool for Bible study. After taking classes in biblical hermeneutics and Greek, you become a great steward for your Bible study group. But in Africa we don’t have that privilege. Seminars are expensive, burdensome to family persons and mostly inaccessible to everyone.
2. Take free or cheap online classes
They’re many great online classes on Bible interpretation that are free or cheap. I took classes from Zondervan Academic and I enjoyed them. But when I arrived in Zimbabwe I had to stop. In a month, a high school teacher needs half her salary for internet fees if she wants to complete only one class.
3. A Bible study guide or workbook
They’re Bible study guides for almost everything. How to fight debt the biblical way, how to be a godly wife and how to survive college. But Bible study groups in developing countries don’t have the luxury of buying these books. After all, most of these books come with a copyright warning that prohibits photocopying.
4. Bible Study Videos
The Bible Project offers the best Bible study video that helps you to understand the background and context of the books of the Bible. I believe that the videos can greatly improve your biblical hermeneutics skills. But with each video at least 1.5 gigs, I need $50.00 to download less than 10. Most people can’t access these great videos because of poor internet connection and the cost.
I am looking for anyone who could download these videos and send them to me in a flash disk. Please, contact me if you can.
5. Biblical hermeneutics books
Most of the Christian bookshops in Zimbabwe don’t sell books on biblical hermeneutics. They prefer 5 Love Languages, Jesus Calling, Heaven Is For Real and books on how to be rich. Learning how to interpret the Bible is considered taking the job of the Holy Spirit. It is mocked upon and highly detested.
6. Bible Concordances, Commentaries and Dictionaries
They’re several arguments against using Bible concordances, commentaries and dictionaries for Bible study. But these tools can be useful in understanding the background, context and meaning of Bible passages. Only church leaders serious about biblical hermeneutics own these resources. They’re expensive and out of reach for people who might benefit from them.
7. Bible study software
I have eSword on my computer. It’s one of the best Bible study software around. eSword contains several Bible translations, concordances, commentaries and dictionaries. In developing nations, a few people own computers, therefore Bible software like eSword are of little use in learning how to interpret the Bible.
10 Ways To Improve Bible Hermeneutics In Your Bible Study
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The popular answers to sound biblical hermeneutics in Bible study might not work for you. You might have poor access to internet, low income or no access to good theological books. But do not despair.
In the first Century, there were no seminaries, online classes, Bible study videos or even the internet. Yet, the Christ’s followers grew in the knowledge and the spirit. Although you’re separated to them by time and culture, you can learn something from them.
1. Pray before, during and after you read the Bible
You need to study the Bible prayerfully. The cultural and historical chasm between the human authors of the Bible and you is too wide. No Bible study guide can adequately bridge that gap. Only the Holy Spirit can help. This is why Paul prayed for the recipients of his letters.
2. Read the Bible at home
It’s dangerous to try and read a Bible passage for the first time during group Bible study. Biblical hermeneutics is not an activity it’s a lifestyle. Before you meet for Bible study, try reading the Bible at home. Reading the Bible aloud during family worship time will help you understand the application of the passage in your life.
3. Read the books of the Bible in whole
During a Bible study, someone said, “It doesn’t matter if I read one verse per day. The Bible is powerful and is God’s word. One verse is enough.” Sadly, such an attitude may cause you to quote the Bible like Satan. Passages in the Bible are best understood when read as a whole and not as haphazard notes from a fortune cookie.
4. Learn the origins of the Bible
The Bible is a sacred book in Zimbabwe. The Bible was not written in English. Every Bible translation is an interpretation of the Bible manuscripts. The Shona, Venda and Ndebele translations are interpretations of an interpretation. And sometimes the vernacular Bible versions offer translations that are closest to the meaning of the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic words.
5. Dual authorship of the Bible
Knowing that the Bible has dual authorship, human and divine, will help you appreciate the need for biblical hermeneutics. You need to understand the background of the author and the audience to understand the human intent. However, through prayer, you can learn God’s intent by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
6. Biblical hermeneutics is best done in a Christian Community
Theology is best done in a Christian community. However, one of the main problems troubling Bible study groups is they’re more of cliques. It’s rare to find a Bible study that has poor and rich people sitting side by side. But it’s the difference in perspectives and backgrounds that helps in biblical hermeneutics.
7. Expository preaching help improve Bible study
According to Lawrence W. Wilson, they’re four types of preachers: homileticians, sermonic essayists, exhorters and Bible teachers. Exhorters are the most common in Zimbabwe but sadly such preaching cannot sustain vibrant Bible study groups. As a result, Bible study becomes an exercise of recalling what the preacher said and not what the Bible says. Expository preaching helps to reorient believers to Christ and not the pulpiteering or pulpitainment of the preacher.
8. Ask questions during Bible study
Bible study groups fail because members don’t ask tough questions. My wife is not ashamed to ask questions. On several occasions, her questions changed the direction the Bible study and led to a much more engaging discussion. Your questions might be the key to unlock the meaning of the Bible passage.
9. Be honest and trustworthy
I noticed people freely talk about the meaning of a Bible reading. But most don’t want to discuss the word as a mirror of their private life. You need to be honest with your fellow Bible study group members because they can help you understand how to apply the Bible reading to your life. Therefore, honesty and trustworthiness are pivotal in understanding the meaning of the Bible.
10. Bible interpretation is not the goal
Bible interpretation is not the goal of Bible study but it’s a critical tool that can help you to fruitfully and effectively grow on your knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore, you need to apply everything you learn about God to your personal life. It’s pointless to know the Bible without living it.
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Although they’re several good Bible study tools that are not accessible to people in developing countries, they’re several practices that you can use without hurting your wallet.
It’s hard to sustain a good Bible study if the word preached every Sunday is reactionary and exhortations with the altar call as the goal. The church also needs expository preachers who thoroughly teach the word and essayists who write sound theological books that are accessible to all believers.
Sound biblical hermeneutics should be central in your Bible study. And theology begins at home. You should not snack on the sexy Bible verses but gnaw on every word because the Bible was written as whole books. A successful Bible study is one in which every member reads the Bible.