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Engaging With God's Word

The Bible is God’s Word, and it is precious. We neglect it to our detriment. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Every word of Scripture is God-breathed. It is breathed out by him, spoken by him, given by him. Even once we have become children of God, God is not finished with us. He wants to lead us deeper into our knowledge of him and our relationship with him. He is leading us into his holiness and perfecting us.

How We Got the Bible

How did we get the Bible?
Divine Author

God spoke through the human authors in such a way that his words were simultaneously their words, and their words were simultaneously his. This is the double authorship of the Bible. Scripture is the Word of God through the words of human beings.

Original Text

God’s work through human authors resulted in an inspired original text.

Critical Text

Textual criticism (or analysis) is a technical discipline that compares the various copies of a biblical text in an effort to determine what was most likely the original text.

English Translation

A.K.A. the Bible you hold in your hands.

Human Author

God worked through the various human authors, including their background, personality, cultural context, writing style, faith commitments, research, and so on, so that what they wrote was the inspired Word of God. 

Copies of the Original Text 

In time people wanted to make copies of the original documents of Scripture. Then copies were made of those first copies, and so on.

Translator or Translation Committee

A translator (or translation committee) will translate the Bible from the source languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) into the receptor language (in our case, modern English).

Modern Readers

Here you enter the picture. As a reader you pick up your English Bible and begin to read and interpret.

Adapted from Hays, J. Daniel, and J. Scott Duvall. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Zondervan, 2012. 

The Interpretive Journey

We read the Bible because we believe that in the Bible, God speaks to us through written words. Some parts of the Bible are easy to understand, but much of it is not. We are separated from the biblical audience by culture and customs, language, situation, and a vast expanse of time. Scripture must be interpreted in order to be understood.

Some Christians employ the intuitive or feels-right approach. If the text looks as if it could be applied directly, then they attempt to apply it directly. Others take the spiritualizing approach. With this approach, the reader looks for symbols and parallels between scripture and modern life and makes an interpretation based on those observations. Neither of these approaches will lead us to good interpretations of scripture.

Therefore, we must embark on the interpretive journey (pictured below).

The Interpretive Journey

The Five Steps of the Interpretive Journey


  1. Grasping the Text in Their Town

    • Question: What did the text mean to the biblical audience?

  2. Measuring the Width of the River to Cross

    • Question: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?

  3. Crossing the Principlizing Bridge

    • Question: What is the theological principle in the text?

    • Formulating a Theological Principle
      1. The principle should be reflected in the text
      2. The principle should be timeless and not tied to a specific situation
      3. The principle should not be culturally bound
      4. The principle should correspond to the teaching of the rest of scripture
      5. The principle should be relevant to both the biblical and contemporary audience

  4. Consult the Biblical Map

    • Question: How does our theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible?

  5. Grasping the Text in Our Town

    • Question: How should individual Christians today live out the theological principles?

Adapted from Hays, J. Daniel, and J. Scott Duvall. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Zondervan, 2012. 

What To Look For

Things to Look for in Sentences

  1. Repetition of words - Look for words and phrases that repeat.

  2. Contrasts - Look for items, ideas, or individuals that are contrasted with each other. Look for differences.

  3. Comparisons - Look for items, ideas, or individuals, that are compared with each other. Look for similarities.

  4. Lists - Note where the text mentions more than two items.

  5. Cause and effect - Look for a stated cause and then look for the effect of that cause.

  6. Figures of speech - Look for expressions that convey an image, using words in a sense other than the normal, literal sense.

  7. Conjunctions - Notice terms that join units like “and,” “for,” “but,” “therefore,” “since,” “because.” What are they connecting?

  8. Verbs - Note whether a verb is past, present, or future; active or passive; also look for imperatives.

  9. Pronouns - Identify the antecedent for each pronoun. (An antecedent is the word that a pronoun replaces or refers to. Any time that you have a pronoun, you'll have an antecedent, even if it's not in the very same sentence.)

Things to Look for in Paragraphs

  1. General and Specific - A general statement will often be followed by specific statements that give detail or explanation to that statement, this can also be done in reverse.

  2. Questions and Answers - Occasionally an author will raise a rhetorical question and then answer that question.

  3. Dialogue - Broader than but related to Questions and Answers

  4. Purpose statement - Phrases that describe the reason, the result, or the consequence of some action

  5. Means (by which something is accomplished) - When an action, result or purpose is stated, look for the means that brings that about

  6. Conditional Clauses - Statements that present the conditions whereby some action, consequence, or result will happen.

  7. The Actions/Roles of People and the Actions/Roles of God - What does God do in the passage, and what do people do?

  8. Emotional Terms - The Bible is not a book of abstract, technical information, but a book about relationship, primarily between God and people.

  9. Tone - Once emotional terms have been noted, use them to find the overall tone of the passage

Things to Look for in Discourses

  1. Connections Between Paragraphs and Episodes - Look for repeated words, repeated themes, cause and effect, conjunctions between paragraphs.

  2. Story Shifts: Major Breaks and Pivots - Look for critical places where the story seems to take a turn

  3. Interchange - Look for the contrasting or comparing of two stories at the same time as part of the overall story development

  4. Chiasm - Look for a list of items, ideas, or events that is structured so that the first item parallels the last item, the second item parallels the next to last item, and so on.

  5. Inclusio - Closely related to chiasm, but not as complicated. Look for the same or similar word, statement, event, or theme at the beginning and the end of the passage.

See the video below that uses Romans 8:31-39 as an example text.

Adapted from Hays, J. Daniel, and J. Scott Duvall. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Zondervan, 2012. 

Greek Word Studies

Using BibleHub For Scripture Study

  1. Go to

  2. Type a verse or passage into the search box (e.g., ”2 Tim. 3:16”)

  3. Click on "Interlin" (light grey bar menu)

  4. Find the word "Scripture"' (in orange)

  5. Record the English transliteration of the Greek word (“graphē”)(second line from top)

  6. Record the "Strong's number" (1124 in this case) and click on it. This will bring you to the page for the Greek word.

  7. At this page you will find a number of resources (see descriptions at bottom)

    1. Strong’s Concordance

    2. HELPS Word-studies

    3. NAS Exhaustive Concordance

    4. Thayer's Greek Lexicon

    5. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

  8. Use the worksheet provided to collect clarifying information about each significant word in the verse using the resources (a) Strong’s Concordance, (b) Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, and (c) HELPS Word Studies.

  9. Once this process is complete, rewrite the verse using the expanded meanings of each word.

  10. Start the same process with the next verse.

Sample of a Bible Hub Page

  1. Strong’s Concordance
    The purpose of Strong's Concordance is not to provide content or commentary about the Bible, but to provide an index to the Bible. This allows the reader to find words where they appear in the Bible. It also lets the reader directly compare how the same word may be used elsewhere in the Bible.

  2. HELPS Word-Studies
    A more recent resource that is associated with the Discovery Bible which was edited by Dr. Gary Hill with contributions from Dr. Gleason Archer. It is helpful but is sometimes theologically biased.

  3. NAS Exhaustive Concordance
    This is the only Exhaustive Concordance based on the New American Standard Bible, known for its literal, word-for-word translation of the Bible. There are 400,000 entries that list every word in the NASB alphabetically, with each book, chapter, and verse where the word appears. Uses Strong's numbering system.

  4. Thayer's Greek Lexicon
    Originally published in 1841, Joseph Henry Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is a comprehensive lexical work with over 5,000 entries that are mapped to each Greek Strong's number in the New Testament. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon references scholarly works of the time, etymology, and provides both biblical and historical definitions and usage.

  5. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
    The Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is the most complete, easy-to-use, and understandable concordance for studying the original languages of the Bible. Combining the text of the King James Version and New American Standard Bibles with the power of the Greek and Hebrew Lexicons, any student or pastor can gain a clear understanding of the Word to enrich their study​.


See the video below that uses 2 Timothy 3:17 as an example text.

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