Friday, October 27, 2006

Exegesis:Step 3: Literary Context -

a) identifying the literary type and appropriate interpretation method.

To follow on from the last post I will give an example of how to approach the gospels:

The gospels are complicated because they contain reported speech of what Jesus and others said, but they have also been written from the persepctive of the gospel writer.

Because of this we need to look at two things:
1) What Jesus was saying to the people around him,
2) What the gospel writer is trying to communicate to his readers.

The need for this two pronged approach is made clearer when we look at a gospel story in a synopsis (a book that puts all of the gospel accounts in the same page in a parallel format). Each gospel writer tells the story of what Jesus said and did, however each writer gives different emphasis.

We want to know what Jesus was communicating to the original audience that was listening to him, but we also want to know what particular emphasis any one gospel writer was trying to push in his gospel.

This means that when I am studying Matthew, and I reach step 3 of the exegetical process, I open up a synopsis, and see in which ways his account differs to Luke or Mark.
=> this may help me to understand the main point that Matthew is trying to make.

With this approach we're not then looking at teaching a sermon which involves every single aspect of all of the four gospel accounts, but instead we're looking at the main point that Matthew was making in this story (whilst at the same time looking at the main point Jesus was making).

This part of the process is a bit like being a detective, and is very interesting, and avoids the muddle that sometimes comes when we try to just squeeze all 4 gospel accounts into one sermon.

This is the approach for the gospels, there is a different approach to Acts, the letters, and Revelation.
I won't write about these now, but you can read about them in Fee's book.

I will soon however post a video I have on how to interpret Hebrew narrative, specifically on Genesis. I know this is Old Testament and we're talking about New Testament exegesis, but it will give you a flavour of how much information there is to learn about different genres in the Bible (and it may be helpful with understanding narrative in the New Testament).

Peace D

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Testament Exegesis Step 3a

So far in this blog I've talked about the first 2 steps of NT exegesis:
1) Spiritual preparation.
2) General introduction.
the next step is:
3) Literary context.

This last step can be broken up into 3 sections:
a) identifying the literary type and appropriate interpretation method.
b) identifying the limits of the text.
c) identifying the text's role within it's context.

For now I will just talk about
a) identifying the literary type and appropriate interpretation method.

The New Testament contains many books, and these books are not all in the same genre.
The gospels are different to Acts, which is different to the letters, which are different to Revelation.
All of these different genres need to be handled in different ways.
The way that we approach the gospels in exegesis is quite different to the way we handle the letters. This doesn't just apply to Bible study, but also applies to studying English literature - for example if someone is studying a poem, they will approach it in a different way to a historical document.

So once we have identified which type of genre we are studying (Gospel, Acts, Letter, Revelation), we then need to find out the correct way of approaching the particular genre.

For this I have found the following books very helpful:
(in order of usefulness)
"New Testament Exegesis" Gordon Fee
"How to read the Bible for all it's worth" Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart
"Playing by the rules" Robert Stein
All of these were written by top evangelical scholars, and are easy to understand.
"New Testament Exegesis" is more thorough than the others, and has more focus on writing exegetical papers, whereas Fee & Stuart's collabo is designed more for lay people, and Stein's is more of an introduction on hermeneutics.

I'd say buy them all! But if you're strapped for cash then get the Fee one - you won't regret it and you will never get rid of it!

One example of the usefulness of Fee's book is it's tips on the literary content of the gospels. Fee recommends using a synopsis to compare the different gospel writers accounts of the same story in order to see which emphasis a particular gospel writer was making compared to his counterparts.

I will write more about this later.

Peace D

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Myths about Jesus

Here's a video about common assumptions people make about Jesus.
I've put this up for my friend Justin B, who I was talking to last week about Jesus.
Have a watch of this, and let me know what you think.
Peace D

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mistakes in the Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci code has just come out on DVD, so I thought it would be worth posting this video which shows key mistakes made in the both the book and film.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Testament Exegesis Step 2:

We looked at step one last week, now I'm gonna talk about step 2.

1) Spiritual preparation.
2) General introduction.

Imagine if someone sent you an important letter, and instead of reading the whole thing, you just read one sentence in the middle of the letter! How well would you then understand the meaning of that one sentence?

Many of us have misunderstood scriptures because we have remembered verses, but not remembered the context they were given in, hence the phrase " taken out of context".
At step 2, we want to look at the context of the book in which the verses we are studying were written in.

The obvious way to do it to read the book!
Last year when I was about to start teaching through 'Matthew' I sat down and read through the whole of Matthew, I also listened to it on mp3. I have the New testament in mp3 format for the New Living Translation and for the NET bible (which is now available free on-line through Next bible).

During this time you can take down notes, but don't go too in-depth.

Once you've done this it's a good idea to read an introduction to the book by well known scholars.
'Introduction' by the way is a technical term referring to matters of authorship, date, purpose etc. So don't look at a book that says "Introduction" and think, "Well I've been a Christian for years, I don't need that!"

A book that I have is called "An Introduction to the New Testament" by D.A Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris, published by Zondervan. The authors of this book need no introduction from me!

Some study Bibles also have introductions (although these will not be so in-depth). The NIV study bible has introductions written by some very well known and respected scholars, including William Mounce in Revelation.

Step 2 is a good way to get a feel for the book, and missing this step out could lead to some disastrous mistakes later (when you realise that the point you made in chapter 2, is totally contradicted in chapter 10!)

Next time it's step 3 - Literary Context.

Peace D

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Boarding school renunion:

Big up to everyone who came to the Christ's Hosptial renunion tonite, and especial big ups to Charlie for organising it.
I feel priviledged to have spent 7 years growing up with you lot, and priviledged to be invited to the renunion as well.

If you've come here to check my blog then thanks. I appreciate that it might not be the kind of blog you're used to seeing.
The main emphasis of this blog is on how to study the Bible.
But you are more than welcome here anyway, and I hope that you would all read the Bible for yourselves someday - it is the greatest book in the world.
Peace D

How to Survive In London Col1:9-14

Here's an expository sermon on Colossians 1:9-14, the Theme is "How to survive in London" and contains applications for how to cope in London with the many challenges it poses today. This was a joint service with Calvary Chapel South London.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Different translations

In the last video you would have seen using the NET bible's translation of the text, which is quite different from the traditional translations of the Lord's prayer.

Apparently in the past translators have been encouraged to stick to a more traditional (well known) translation because it is one of those favourite pieces of scripture that people don't like to hear changed - If you change the Lord's prayer slightly then not as many people will buy your translation.

Here's where the NET Bible comes in: It was never created to make money, but to be a ministry tool, so the translators had the liberty to translate how they wanted to.

Some people might not like hearing the Lord's prayer in the NET bible translation, but I hope that my teaching in this video will demonstrate some of the arguments in favour of their translation.

Here's a little test for you: When you hear something translated differently to what you're used to, how do you react? Do you say, "No that's wrong because my favourite translation says something different!" or do you say, "Hmmm, I wonder what the original language says?"

Hopefully you think the later, but often translations are judged by what people are used to hearing.
Many people (without knowledge of the original languages) say, "I think the such and such version is a better translation." But without comparing the translation to the Greek or the Hebrew or Aramaic they are not really able to have an authoritative opinion about which translation is best. That is not to say that people cannot have informed opinions without knowing the original languages, but those opinions are not authoritative opinions.

Often the more people study Greek, the more they appreciate the various translations of the New Testament. There is a saying that 'translators are traitors', because they always either over translate or under translate. This is why you sometimes find one translation to be superior in it's translation of one verse, but another translation superior in another verse!

If you'd like to know more about all the different translations then I cannot reccomend enough Mounce's "Greek for the rest of us" book with comes with a multimedia CD-rom of his lessons where he gives many examples of where different translations have either hit the nail on the head, or missed it slightly. I found it very informative, and as a result I found that I appreciated different translations all the more.

The Lords Prayer

Here's some exegesis of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 5:9-15.

Here you will see me using the NET bible's translation of the text, which is quite different from the traditional translations of the Lord's prayer. For more information in this check the next post.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Greek Word Studies Tips

For anyone who wants to jump ahead to step 7 and learn about word studies (this is normally what people want to know first!) here is a 20 minute video of a lesson from my Greek for the Street series. This is part 1 of the Word Studies DVD.
All the DVD's are available to order on our church website.
BTW the decor of the DVD's gets slightly better later on in the series!
Peace D

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Exegesis Step 1: Spiritual preparation:

There are two common imbalances made in studying the Bible, one is to believe that because we have the Holy Spirit there is no need to use exegetical tools and methods to study the Bible - and the other is to believe that because we have good exegetical tools we have no need of the Holy Spirit.

The first approach is a problem because the books of the Bible were not originally written to us Londoners in the 21st century, and so were not written with words and concepts that we easily understand today.

The second approach however ignores the fact that we have the Holy Spirit as a helper to us, and furthermore that any study of the Bible should lead us to walk more closely with God, and so therefore should start with us walking with God.

Before getting the books open, it is worth (even essential) to spend time praying, praising, and asking God to help us to understand what he meant when he wrote the text, so that we can now learn to obey it correctly.

Robert Stein writes about how although an unbelieving scholar can understand the meaning of a text well, and even understand implications from it - they will have no significance to him.
NET 1 Corinthians 2:14 'The unbeliever* does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.'
*Grk "natural person." Cf. BDAG 1100 psuchikos "an unspiritual pers., one who merely functions bodily, without being touched by the Spirit of God."

A believer however can understand a number of implications from a text, and the Holy Spirit can make one of those implications in particular jump out and have important significance for that believer.

If you want to read more about this then Stein's book is very easy to read and informative (especially his definition of implication rather than application), it's called "Playing by the rules: A Basic guide to Interpreting the Bible" Robert Stein.

Each week when I'm preparing sermons I find a number of implications in the text, but I'm hoping the Holy Spirit will give one of them significance to me where I have a life changing experience. I'm also hoping the same to happen for the congregation - and for this to happen I need to be led by the Holy Spirit to know which implications to make known to the congregation.

So even though we have many exegetical tools at our disposal, we still need the Holy Spirit's help so that our study of the text results in life changes.

Another important part of spiritual preparation I believe is to place ourselves under the authority of the text. Sometimes when appraoching exegesis we can feel that we are mastering the text, instead of realising that what we should be doing is understanding the text so that we can come under it's authority.

I also sometimes find it helpful to view exegesis as part of my worship to God. Sometimes I play a worship CD in the background and break into a song everynow and then during my exegesis - try it some time.

Peace D
Next time Step 2: General Introduction

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Exegesis is the term used for finding out the meaning of the text. When Bible students attempt to find out what the Bible text means, they are doing exegesis.
To be able to do exegesis correctly is important so that we avoid doing eisegesis - which is when we read into the text what we think should be there, rather than trying to discover what the Holy Spirit and the human author meant when they wrote it.

2 Books that I would recommend on this subject are, "New Testament Exegesis", G.Fee, and "Biblical Greek Exegesis" by G.Guthrie & J. Duvall. The last book is only useful for those who know (or are learning) New Testament Greek.

For those interested in exegesis I have outlined below 12 steps to take in exegesis (these are straight from "Biblical Greek Exegesis"):

1) Spiritual preparation.
2) General introduction.
3) Literary Context.
4) Provisional translation.
5) Grammatical Analysis.
6) Semantic Diagram and Provisional Outline.
7) Word and Concept Analysis.
8) Broader Biblical and Theological Context.
9) Commentaries and Special Studies.
10) Polished Translation and Extended Paraphrase.
11) Application.
12) Preaching/Teaching Outline.

I will write more on each point later.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Gospel Nite:

On Friday nights we do an outreach called "Gospel nite" on the Alton Estate, Roehampton. There we do bible studies for urban youth to get away from street life for the evening and learn about Jesus instead. Tonight a 10 year old boy came and proudly told me that he knew the golden rule, and then explained it to me.
I was surprised not just that he knew it, but that someone had bothered to explain it to him.

Often people assume that the youth in council estates wouldn't be interested in the Bible, and so arrange entertaining activities for them instead of teaching the Bible. From my own experience as a youth in Roehampton and from my brothers and sisters in our small urban church, it seems that young people from council estates love to study the Bible.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14 NIV

I hope that we don't hinder them.
Peace D

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Unity at any cost?

The book of Deuteronomy could be seen as the consitution of Israel, and it shows us what an ideal Israel would look like.
One of it's themes is oneness - one people, in one land, under one God.

How did Moses promote this unity? Was it by pleading that everyone would just get along with one another? Was it through a prayer meeting? Was it through 2 services, one for the older folks and another for the youth? Was it through suggesting that everyone avoid discussing the fine points of the law?

No! It was through 3 sermons that he preached which emphasised the stipulations of the covenant God had brought them into.

This makes sense because if everyone is told the rules, and subsequently plays by the rules, then everyone can have unity as one people under one God.

The application for today is obvious, but sadly has been clouded by the many aforementioned 'unity' efforts that we have become accustomed to. If we as Christians devoted ourselves to reading and studying God's word, we would find a common ground that has been lacking for so long. If we devoted our lives to living out the Bible's teachings we would be players on the same team playing by the same rules.

Unfortunately the message that if often promoted today by us Christians is, "Unity at any cost!" "Leave out the doctrine that divides!"
- but none of us are wise enough to choose what to leave out, as Moses made clear:
Deuteronomy 4:2 'Do not add a thing to what I command you nor subtract from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I am delivering to you.'
Furthermore when we throw out doctrine we throw out the very means by which we can obey God.

Last week some of us met to play monopoly, as soon as the game had started we realised that we all had different ways of playing the game. We had a choice, to either argue about it, or to get the rule book out and read it.
Some people would argue for a 3rd option which is to ignore the fact that we have different rules, and to just try and have unity.
If that's you, then why don't you try that next time you play monopoly!