If I were asked what one thing every believer should study, it would be hermeneutics. What's hermeneutics, you might ask? It's the study of biblical interpretation. It’s about learning the proper principles to help you understand what God is saying in his Word.
Last week, I wrote an article where I demonstrated how a single Bible verse that is misinterpreted by skeptics can be clarified by three keys to biblical interpretation: context, history, and genre. It was meant to show how important careful Bible study can be for understanding Scripture.
The follow-up question, then, is how does someone study this subject? Let me suggest a few resources.
First, there are several good books that are available. Never Read a Bible Verse is short, affordable, accessible, and written by our very own founder of Stand to Reason, Greg Koukl. If you want a more rigorous book, I suggest How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth or Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul.
Second, there are several articles that we (STR contributors) have written. All of them are free, of course.
- Coffee Cup Christianity
- Twisting Jesus’ Words
- Never Read a Bible Verse
- Reading the Bible Requires Rules We Already Know
- Silly Putty Bible Study
- Misquoting God – Part 1
- Misquoting God – Part 2
- Putting Words in God’s Mouth
- My Most Controversial Teaching
Third, there are some free video resources. Two of them are available right away. The first is an informal 10-part video series I recorded. You can watch that here. The other resource is Walt Russell’s hermeneutics course, taught at Talbot School of Theology (the seminary at Biola University). Walt Russell was one of my teachers at Talbot, and his class on the subject was the class to take. The third resource is currently in production. It’s an STR U course I’m creating, and it will be available on our website in the next few months.
In addition to learning hermeneutics in general, several people have asked about the best way to learn the history behind a passage. That’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t know of a single, easily accessible resource that can provide background information. I typically turn to several resources with the hope that one or more of them will tell me about the history behind a passage. Here are a few.
A Bible background commentary set is helpful. These can be expensive, though. If you have the money, it’s a great resource that will last you a lifetime. There are smaller and more affordable ones, however, like The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament & the Old Testament.
Sometimes, I also turn to my study Bibles because they often have a page or two at the beginning of each biblical book that provide some historical background. Depending on the study Bible, it may also include minimal commentary at the bottom of each page that provides insight into the biblical text.
Finally, I research online for articles that can help me understand the historical context of a passage. There are many excellent scholars who have written about Bible passages. I’ll admit, though, this can be dangerous because it’s sometimes difficult to know whom to trust. That’s the case with any resource, though, including Bible commentary books.
Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting the Bible is a mysterious book that requires a scholarly deep dive into its history every time you pick it up for your devotional time. Most of it is clear if you read it in context. There are some passages, however, that can be better understood with a little historical clarification, and that’s where these resources can help.
As Paul exhorted Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, make every effort to accurately handle the word of truth. Why? It’s the very words of God given to us. What a priceless gift!