Always start your study by spending time in observation. This is a step that students of the Word tend to rush through, because we are so interesting in finding a meaningful interpretation (and then application.) The Bible is written so that we can apply its words to our lives, right? The problem is, when we rush through what is actually there in black and white, we miss important details that unlock the passage’s intended meaning.
In order to keep from moving into interpretation before you are ready, stick to the exact words that are in front of you as you work through the passage. Don’t interject meaning into what’s there in black and white. Not yet, anyway. There is work to be done before you jump to the next step! If you do have an inspiring thought, feel free to jot it down. But don’t let those thoughts keep you from thoroughly observing what’s in front of you!
I have found many tools that aid the observation process. They aren’t hard—anyone can use them! Today’s tip:
Look for Repetition
Learning to look past the surface starts with taking a good look at what is in black and white. A great place to start is to find repeated words or phrases. When something is repeated, the writer is drawing emphasis on that thing. It will impact a good interpretation down the line.
Luke writes of Jesus’ teaching in the home of Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50. Read through this passage. What words do you see repeated? Make a list.
Now, go back to the passage and note the details (using the exact words from the text) that describe how each word is used. For example, the word debt/debtor is used in v.41 of two different men. What do they owe? How does that make them different from each other? How are they alike?
Do this for each repeated word.