Tools for Interpretation: Ask & Imagine

Tools for Interpretation: Ask & Imagine

After talking about Biblical Interpretation this past Sunday, I want to offer you some practical tools to use in your Bible study than can aid in your interpretation of scripture. To begin, I want to return to the image I used on Sunday about studying and interpreting scripture.

Scripture should be studied as though it were a precious gem. When you look at a gem, the light refracts off of every face of the gem. And every gem has many, many faces. So, as you study it, you turn it around and around, over and over looking at each side, each face. As you turn the gem, you notice how the refracted light moves and changes. Sometimes there are spots, lines, or dashes of light spattered in patterns upon the wall. Sometimes there are rainbows glistening upon the face of the gem.

Like the changing patterns of light from a gem, what we see and hear within scripture changes as we look upon it from different angles, perspectives, and contexts. Let me offer you an example. Read the parable found in Luke 15:11-32, often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

First, read the parable and imagine you are the younger son who leaves, squanders his inheritance and returns to his father. Think about the meaning of the parable from the perspective of this son.

Next, read the parable again, but this time imagine you are the father. Think about the meaning of the parable from the perspective of the father. What is different when you think about the father? What new insights do you see from the perspective of the father that are different than that of the younger son?

Next, read the parable and imagine you are the older son who stays and works hard right beside his father. Think about the meaning of the parable from the perspective of this son. Again, what new insights do you see from this perspective? How does the meaning of the parable seem to change when you consider the experience of this son?

Try reading one more time and imagine what the mother (who is not even mentioned in the story) must be going through. What might her perspective be? And how does imagining her response change your thinking about the story?

Finally, try to imagine how the story might go if you knew a few more details about this family. The story does not tell us everything. And we could ask lots of questions about each of these characters. Such as:

  • What if the younger son left because of physical or emotional abuse he experienced from his father or brother?
  • What if the older son had a medical condition that prevented him from leaving like the younger son?
  • What if the mother was not in the picture and the younger son left to try to find his long lost mother?
  • What if the story spanned only a few weeks? What if it spanned 10 or 20 years?
  • What if …(fill in the blank)?

With each character and each question, we turn the story on another angle and examine it further, deeper, more fully to find the depths of its meaning. Sometimes we speculate. Sometimes one question leads to another and another. Sometimes we realize we have to do some research to find out more about something within the story. And with every turn, we learn, we grow, we mature, we discover more about God and God’s way in the world.

This is Bible Study! And the answers and perspectives that you arrive at today may be different than those you discovered yesterday or last year or those you will discover tomorrow or next year. With each discovery and insight your interpretation changes, matures, and blossoms into an ever-deepening relationship with God.

So, ask questions, use your imagination, think critically, and keep turning the stories of God and Jesus over and over. It’ll take a lifetime just to scratch the surface of the beautiful gem that is the Bible!

  • Reflect: How do you practice Bible study in your life? What tools (books, commentaries, authors, scholars, podcasts, radio shows, dictionaries, language translations, etc.) do you use as you seek to understand the Bible? What tools might you need to add to your Bible Study Toolbox?
  • Practice: Pick a story from the Bible to study this week. Spend at least 20 minutes each day this week studying that passage. Use a variety of tools in your study as you turn the passage over and over for deeper understanding. Try not to set different interpretations at odds with one another. Instead, look for something more by synthesizing the best of what you discover each day.

Click here to read or hear this week’s sermon:  The Bible: Something More than What You Read

This Week:

Tuesday, August 13th, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm – DUMA Food Pantry Open, Volunteers needed
Wednesday, August 14th, 1:30 pm – Prayer & Inspiration
Wednesday, August 14th, 6:30 pm – Choir Practice Begins
Thursday, August 15th, 2:00 pm – Ladles of Love, Meal preparation & delivery
Sunday, August 18th, 9:45 am – Sunday School Series  on Apocalyptic Literature
Sunday, August 18th, 11:00 am – Worship
Sunday, August 18th, 3:00 pm – Back to School Pool Party for ALL ages at Glenn Eagle’s Community Clubhouse; Hot dog dinner provided.  Bring chips or cookies to share.


School Supply Drive

We are providing some of the school supplies for students at Wayne Ave. Elementary School.  We want to provide supplies to as many children as possible.  We are focusing our attention on three supplies for students and one for teachers.  We are collecting:

  • packs of wide-ruled paper
  • #2 pencils
  • large wedge erasers
  • Expo dry erase markers

Donations can be brought to the pool party or to the church at any time.  There will be a collection box outside of the children’s classroom.


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