Howard Hendricks’ 4 Bible Study Steps
- Monday, April 15, 2013
» Prayerfully. Don’t copy others; ask God to reveal things to you.
» Imaginatively. Think about how you might write the verse.
» Meditatively. Reflect on the words.
» Purposefully. Understand that the author used structure to send a message.
» Acquisitively. Attempt to retain the text.
» Telescopically. Understand the significance of the text in light of the entire Bible.
Under Hendricks’ rubric, once the steps of observation are completed, interpretation can begin: “Grasp how the context fits with literary genres, history and culture. Also, what does the context say about the writer’s relationship with God, or even about the natural world?”
“Work to compare words, themes, phrases and styles of the text with other biblical texts,” says Hendricks. Then examine “the cultural setting of the book.” This will tell you if your observations fit the culture. Hendricks warns, “Don’t lose sight of the value of consultation in the process—using other resources to ensure your interpretation is accurate.”
Application is about what the text means to you. Before we can be certain our application is correct, Hendricks says that each person “needs to know the text, relate it to life, meditate on its meaning, and then practice it.” Hendricks has created nine application questions to consider:
» Is there an example for me to follow?
» Is there a sin to avoid?
» Is there a promise to claim?
» Is there a prayer to repeat?
» Is there a command to obey?
» Is there a condition to meet?
» Is there a verse to memorize?
» Is there an error to mark?
» Is there a challenge to face?
The correlation and communication step is simple. As a Bible teacher, it is about understanding and reading the audience you are speaking to.
If you haven’t practiced Hendricks’ method, it may seem stilted or philosophical. To fix this problem, Hendricks starts new students in the book of Mark because it is simple. But if the length of Mark is overwhelming, he suggests a shorter book: “Take a book like Jonah, for example, that has only four chapters. Take a good amount of time with it. Get so deeply involved with it that you can hardly wait for the next chapter.”
For small group Bible study, Hendricks suggests studying “individual books according to the group and its needs. If they ‘take off’ with it, even having never done it, their motivation keeps them going. I get them into something easier to handle and prove to them that they can study the Bible. Generally speaking, I find people at varied levels are not convinced they can do it. But in our classes at Dallas Theological Seminary, people who have never done this in their life come out with A-level grades.”
For veterans of Bible study, Hendricks recommends they learn to use the biblical languages. “Get Greek and Hebrew resource tools that tell you what a word means. For some people it is not important, but if you can weave that into your understanding, you can increase the value of your study. You can’t lose with that.”
Anyone Can Understand the Bible
Understanding the Bible like Howard Hendricks might seem like an impossible feat. But like everyone else, Hendricks’ biblical understanding started with simple hard work and dedication. In Hendricks’ second year of seminary he pledged to study the Bible for an hour every day. He has. Using the pattern he teaches his students, Hendricks works through one Bible book per month, hitting all 66 over a six-year span. While the hourly study is for his own spiritual walk, he says that what he learns often emerges when he speaks, writes and teaches.
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