Investigate related passages
Investigate the background
Investigate to draw a conclusion
Investigate words to help you understand what message the author intended his original audience to receive.
- Identify words whose meanings are essential to understanding the intent of the text.
- Use a lexicon to help you determine what the words mean.
- Check to see if your investigation into important words has helped you resolve any more of your questions.
Investigate The Background
Investigate the background of your text to help you understand what message the author intended his original audience to receive.
- Google®, “ESV Introduction to book of _________,” for the book of the Bible your text is housed within.
- Read the introduction to find out as much as you can about the background your text is set in.
- Check to see if your investigative findings into background information provided answers to some of your questions.
Investigate to draw a conclusion.
Combine your investigative findings from Steps 1-3 to draw an informed conclusion about what the author intended his original audience to understand.
- Determine what you already know about the author’s intended message.
- Check your conclusion to make sure that it is an informed conclusion.
- Need help getting started? [Link to Draw an Informed Conclusion Chart.]
- Write your conclusion by completing this sentence, "I think the author was saying..."
Practice using a concordance
- Go Biblia.com; they have a good, easy-to-use hyperlinked concordance for the ESV and NASB versions.
- Choose either the ESV or NASB version, and enter the reference for your passage.
- Identify a word or phrase that you want to know more about and that has a superscripted letter (a-z) before it.
- Click on the superscripted letter, and notice the Scripture references that appear.
- Click on one of the Scripture references, and read the linked passage.
- Notice how the word or phrase is used in the linked passage.
- Ask questions about the relationship between the related Scripture and your text that will help you understand the connection between them.
- Use the back button to repeat steps 3-7 above.
Nine Questions to ask about Related Passages
- What details about people, places, things, or events do I see that will help me understand my text?
- Do I see a comparison or contrast that will help me understand my text?
- Are there similar words, phrases, or language structures that add clarity?
- Is the context the same or different, and what additional information does the context provide?
- When in history, and under which biblical covenants, are the related passages located, and what difference does it make?
- What broader or clearer understanding of who God is; of who I am; or of the relationship between God, the world, and me does this passage provide?
- Is the author the same or different and what difference might it make?
- What else do I see that will help me understand my text?
- What does this passage tell me about my text?
Seven Principles To Think Through Scripture
- Look for the author’s intent even if he uses creative language structures to express it.
- The text must mean the same thing that it meant in the original context to the original audience.
- There is one correct interpretation because there is one intended meaning.
- The meaning must come from the text, not from your personal experience.
- The original language takes precedent over any translation.
- Later revelation clarifies, completes, and supersedes earlier revelation.
- The meaning of any text must be in harmony with other texts because there is One Divine Author.
Help Me Use a Lexicon
Discover what the word could mean:
- Go to classic.studylight.org
- Type your text reference in the nav bar, choose the New American Standard Version, and then click “Search”
- Click on "Original Hebrew” for Old Testament texts or“Original Greek” for New Testament texts
- Then clock on “Side-by-side”
- Then click on “Strong’s Number” to see possible meanings
- Write down the Strong’s Number (e.g. for “of Life” write down Strong’s Number 2222)
Decide what the word actually means
- Click on “Lexicons” from the sidebar options under “Study Resources
- Click onor “Old Testament Hebrew” for Old Testament texts and “Old/New Testament Greek” for New Testament texts
- Type the English spelling of your word in the “Search This Resource” bar.
- Click on the Strong’s Number you wrote down earlier.
- Click on some books under “Verse Count” “NAS” section at the end of the page
- Notice if the word is translated differently in these texts
- Notice the different contexts that the word is used in
- Notice that your study of the word is limited since the Old/New Testament Greek Lexicon only gives NT results and the Old Testament Hebrew lexicon only gives OT results.
- Decide which Strong’s Number meaning best fits the word in your text.*
*A word used more than one time in the same text may have a different meaning each time.
Find out even more about the word
- Choose: “Dictionary” from the sidebar options under “Study Resources” the dictionary you want to use
- Enter or choose the English word you’ve been investigating, and press “enter.”
- Read to see how the word is used in different texts
background information to I look for
Look for information about:
- The culture;
- What type of literature (narrative, law codes, psalms, wisdom, prophetical, letters, apocalypse) describes the book that contains your passage;
- What type of genre (drama, hymn, oracle, allegory, parable, prophecy, poem, greeting, salutation, doxology, genealogy, etc.) describes your passage;
- The literary context;
- How the geography and climate affected living and travel conditions for the writer and their audience;
- How the geography and climate affected the understanding the writer and their audience had about the world;
- The geography and climate;
- The kind of government in place;
- The political leaders;
- What the leaders were like;
- How the leaders’ rule affected the writer and their audience;
- The political situation;
- Biblical covenants (the covenant with creation, the covenant with Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses, the covenant with King David, or the New Covenant) connected to the writing;
- Prophecies, promises, judgments, and/or oracles the writer’s audience expected to be fulfilled;
- What God had revealed about himself to the audience;
- The redemptive-historical period;
- Whether the book covers a long time period, or is concerned with a specific historical period;
- Historical events happening when the book was written or received;
- Enemies the audience may have had;
- The historical period;
- Traditions the writer’s audience kept;
- The values and beliefs of the audience;
- The audience's beliefs about God;
- Their audience's relationship to God;
- Non-Jewish or non-Christian thought systems that may have influenced the audience;
- Non-Jewish or non-Christian religious systems that may have influenced the audience;
- The gender roles the audience saw as “normal”;
- The types of freedoms the audience enjoyed; and
- Adverse conditions the audience may have had to endure.
Resources for Investigating Background
- Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias are good places to look up important terms; you can find lots of good free ones online.
- There are free apps for Bible maps.
- There’s lots of online information about the latest archeological findings related to the Bible. You might glean some good background from these finding.
- Commentaries are great too, but don’t use them until after you have been through the inductive Bible study process. Remember that, even though commentators may have more training in original languages, they have to go through the same study process that you are going through; therefore, your understanding may be just as valid as theirs. Also, realize that commentators come from different theological perspectives, so if you use commentaries, use more than one to get a balanced perspective.
Three Questions to Ask
- What message was communicated through the language structures I identified and through the relationship graphics I created?
- What did the information I gained from my investigation into related passages, important words, and background information add to my understanding of the intended message?
- What else did I learn about the author’s intended message from the questions I asked and answered?