1. A Historical Approach

➡ Average Reading Time: 2 minutes

This approach to reading Scripture lays heavy emphasis on knowing the original languages, culture, history, and the theology of Scripture. Just reading that sentence probably runs shudders up and down your spine. It is the approach of professional theologians.

David deSilva, a New Testament specialist, suggests that a careful study of a text should include the following:

  • A detailed analysis of the text.
  • An examination of how the text converses with other texts in its own environment.
  • An investigation of the world that produced the text.
  • An analysis of how that text affected the world in which it was written.[ref]David deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 24.[/ref]

Sounds like an arduous task, one from which most Jesus followers shrink. In October 2003, in a personal conversation with Eugene Peterson,[ref]Winn Griffin, October 14-15, 2003, Personal Conversation with Eugene Peterson. Montana.[/ref] we talked about pedagogy. He told me, “There needs to be someone who is trained to provide instruction to God’s people.” The postmodern influence on the church often denies this possibility as it presents a “conversation” motif as its replacement pedagogy. He continued, “Mere conversation groups only produce no truth and no authority.” So the historically informed approach needs to be available for the “someone” to be trained in, so he/she can give instruction about Scripture to church congregants.

There needs to be someone who is trained to provide instruction to God’s people.” —Eugene Peterson

This approach seeks to come to an understanding of what Scripture meant to its original hearers/readers and what the intent of the author who wrote it might have been. Church congregants, it is safe to say, are not going to pursue this option. What is important is that those who are charged to teach a congregation should be involved in this approach. As feeder of the flock, this approach to study should be a vigorous part of the pastor-teacher’s “call.” How can one expect to say what the Scripture means without first understanding what it meant?

The problem in this approach is that everyone who is a follower of Jesus is not going to give the time, energy, and money to adequately interact with the original languages, culture, history, and the theology of Scripture. What has taken place has been the rise of the devotional approach to reading the text.

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)