To read the bible we have to understand the way it was constructed and what it contains. The bible is not a single book but a collection of books written by many different authors over time. (Fischer & Hart 2013, p. 33).The bible is human literature, written by historical individuals in a particular cultural context. The bible is divided into two major parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. (Fischer & Hart 2013, p. 33)
Jews and Christians turn to the bible for inspiration, values and purpose that governs their lives for religious instruction. The bible is God communicating to us and it is a record of the relationship between God and the people of the culture of that time.
The Old Testament can be also named the Hebrew Scriptures. A significant figure is Moses who led the people out of Egypt liberating them from slavery. Their belief is through the things God has done for them and Moses is composed as a figure and likeness of God.
The sacred readings of the Old Testament have been categorised into three groups with headings of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. (Fischer & Hart 2013, p. 35) It is their belief that God is calling them into a covenant relationship in which protection and guidance is provided. This faithful God gives them the law to serve as the rule of their lives.
The New Testament can also be names as the Christian Scriptures. The Christian scriptures contain twenty seven books and the well-known among them is the four Gospels. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Compared to the Hebrew Scriptures the main stand out is the figure of Jesus Christ. The earliest writing began 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It also good to be aware when interpreting the Gospels that Matthew wrote for the Jewish turned Christian community, Luke writes for not for the Jews but for the Gentile converts and Mark writes for a non-Jewish audience. (Fischer & Hart, 2013, p. 40)
The process for the Gospels coming together was at first nothing had been written down and Gods words and deeds were passed down orally from original eyewitnesses. The Gospels writing is where it provides narratives of Jesus’ teachings, miracles, parables, disciples, public life, death, resurrection and Holy Spirit. The four gospels can also be seen as the bringer of Good News. As a very special kind of literature governing their selection of incidents and teachings of confessional documents in history that sustain the life of the Christian faith. (Fischer & Hart, 2013, p. 42)
The bible is a record of scriptures written in context and culture of the Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus and The Church. To interpret the bible correctly we have to understand the first part of the bible is the religious experience of the Hebrews. The second part is the Christian scriptures that records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and is the beginnings of his church. We have to be aware of the way the bible was composed in the way its literary forms where written based on the cultural time of the people and who it was written for. To read the bible intelligently we have to remember that the bible it has been written in different forms and getting across the idea to it intended audience using the cultural influences and use of agricultural symbols to express a point in that time.
The explanation of the different methods of interpretation available
The understanding of the place of interpretation for reading the bible is to get the plain meaning of the text and to make good sense of the text being read. We have to understand the nature of the scripture written of God communicating through the bible and also reflect on the culture of its time, by then bringing to the scripture our very own experiences and prior understandings.
To interpret the bible correctly we have to consider the culture, language, laws and social hierarchy of its time when it was originally written. We have to understand the historical context, look behind the text and the literary context. In addition we have to think about the author’s perspective and background and what it was meant to them during their cultural time.
A method of interpretation is the Historical Criticism Method which can be used in both Old and New Testament. Using this method we can based the literature context and intention in which the author wrote and the historical circumstances of the time rather than ours. The three major critical approaches while using this method is source criticism, form criticism and redaction criticism.
Is the analyse for any material with in it which is not original, but of which the author incorporated from other sources. Source criticism examines what other sources did the author use to write and if the author modified the other sources in any way to produce the biblical text. Fisher and Hart state that source criticism has discovered for example stories like the creation, the fall and the flood already existed in other religions know to the Hebrews. (Fischer & Hart, 2013, p. 36) The biblical authors used these stories because they were familiar to those who they were writing for, so they modified the stories to highlight their own theological principles.
Is the literary form in the text being analysed. Form criticism seeks to determine the original form and the historical context of the literary tradition. It traces the history of the many biblical genres such as parables, hymns psalms, poems, letters and other literary forms. (Lennan, 1998, p. 98) As the traditional stories where communicated firstly orally and passed down, the different literacy forms can be placed in to units and then traced back to original form and oral tradition. For example when using form criticism in the New Testament we can draw conclusions on what Jesus really said and meant in the parables and how oral tradition had led to the written accounts. (gotquestions, p. 1) We as readers of the bible must identify literary forms if we want to read with understanding.
Is the focus on the editorial process is accepting the written sources and the various forms behind them. It examines why certain sections of traditional material where selected into the text and why other forms where not. (Lennan, 1998, p. 99) It analyses any modifications that were made to the source and why the author may have chosen to arrange the text in this particular way. For example Fisher and Hart state the redaction criticism has shown us that there are two accounts of creation in the opening of Genesis (Ch. 1 and 2). (Fischer & Hart, 2013, p. 36) Accounts were originally interlinked together as if they were the one account. If to explain that the creation in Genesis 1 is explains that humanity is the pinnacle of creation and it is Gods greatest work. In Genesis 2 God is at work each of the days of creation and creating a human.
Redaction regards the author of the text as the editor of the source focus on the editor has shaped and modelled the story to shape is theology. The choice the changes made by the author to adhere to the beliefs of that time. The goal is to reconstruct each author meaning of the final form. What is different and why did they author choose to change that or was it change for the audience theology. Jesus can be describe different ways in each of the gospels. We can compare the gospels and see the differences. (Pateras, 2015, 0.49)
The clarity of expression of your own theological and personal response.
From my readings and research I believe the very first step is to use the Exegesis strategy. By using this skill I can study the scriptures by understanding the original intended meaning. It is to have the awareness of the language and circumstances of the text when it was written in the historical time. To be Exegesis we have to remember and interpret our reading and by being familiar of how the word of Jesus was communicated in society and which was then spoken and written. Also we have to think about the translation of the meaning and language from one culture to another. To enhance our reading a valuable thing is to know the customs and cultural when Jesus was living on earth. As I am no expert and just learning about these matters, to further my understanding when interpreting my readings I can use additional resources such as Bible dictionary, listen to the commentaries and read the bibliographies if reading a book or an article to gain more understanding of when it was written. An example of this would be when reading the parable of the Good Samaritan it is worthy to know that the Samaritan people were hated amongst the Jewish groups. Having this knowledge helps the interpretation process of the scripture with more clarity. With this information also we take into the background of the author and cultural existence at the time.
My theological and personal response is to have a well-developed understanding of the Bible. To discover its nature and purpose and use a variety of methods to interpret. It is God at the heart of this faith and the bible can be used to guide and shape our faith as well as the foundations of the church. The bible is God communicating to us and the relationship between people and God. How do I see God in this and how do I see my relationship with God? How God is at work here and what is the core message?