So far we've looked at
1) Spiritual preparation.
2) General introduction.
3) Literary context.
- a) identifying the literary type and appropriate interpretation method.
- b) identifying the limits of the text.
and now we will look at
3c) identifying the text's role within it's context.
This is where we look at the text we have chosen to study and try to work out how this piece fits into the rest of the puzzle.
This means that we don't treat our text as a text we have found in the middle of a black hole, but instead a text that is surrounded by other texts.
To do this we ask ourselves questions like,
"Why did the author put these verses in this part of his book?"
"How do these verses add to his argument?"
"How does this fit in with the section before or after?"
Often this stage is missed out because it's tempting to just dive into the text we are studying and just understand it on its own merits. The problem with this is that its like ripping open a letter someone sent to you, and just trying to understand one paragraph within that letter without reading the whole thing - it will be easier to understand any given paragraph when you see how it fits in with the other paragraphs.
I've been writing a paper on Romans 7:14-25 recently, and it appears that some have tried to understand what it means without looking at how it fits in with the sections before and after it. This approach makes the task much more difficult, and increases the possibility of getting it wrong.
If however you look at chapter Romans 7:1-13, and then Romans 8 - You can ask the question,
"Why did Paul put in 7:14-25?"
"How would his train of thought have worked without it?"
"How would the listeners have understood the Paul's point it without it?"
then it becomes much easier to ask,
"What is Paul's train of thought in 7:14-25, as it relates to 1-13 and Chapter 8.
B.T.W it can be helpful to write down headings for each section of text to help you follow the train of thought.
Next time we'll look at Step 4: Provisional translation.