3. The Best of Both Interpretative Approaches

➡ Average Reading Time: 2 minutes

We need to take the best of the historical and individual devotional approaches and marry them. If we end up with the historical approach only, we will not quickly find ourselves living in an erroneous story, which the individual devotional approach often provides. But, when we stress the historical approach only, we can end up with a study of ancient historical writings with information that may have no current usefulness to us. Congregants will grow weary of pastor-teachers who follow the strictness of this approach with cries of “who cares!” On the other hand, if we stress the individual devotional approach, we will often end up with a distorted message. Deformed messages from Scripture produce deformed followers of Jesus.

Deformed messages from Scripture produce deformed followers of Jesus.

As an illustration: when a reader reads the word “hell,” she/he is much more likely to be influenced by the individual devotional meaning of “hell” that some Christian pop musical artist may have presented than the biblical meaning of “hell,” thinking that the first is the same as the last. To understand the word “hell,” a reader must turn to the biblical specialist, steeped in the historical method to discover what that word might have meant to the first readers. This will alleviate believing some unhistorical concept, which the text does not say. Because God gave his word to us in a specific historical period within a certain cultural timeframe, it seems best to honor him by interpreting the text within its historical and textural context. Being informed historically will help us be better devotionally informed. We need both!

We need to hear the text in the way the first hearers heard the text.

We need to hear the text in the way the first hearers heard the text. To do so, we need to use all the tools available to us to accomplish that goal. Why is that important? Because whatever it meant then, it means now. The message does not change with time; neither does it present timeless truths. God did not present us with a multiple choice Bible. There are not multiple stacks of meaning hidden in the text waiting for each new generation to discover as if they were on a scavenger hunt.

Finding inspiration from the text is important, but so is comprehending what God has said so we can better live into his story in our current world. This may be best accomplished by the body allowing the parts of the body called to practice scholarship help all of us practice and find respect for each other.

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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.)