Vol.XVIII No.II Pg.4
April 1981

Paul's Lesson Comments

Robert F. Turner

Last month we presented a summary of the Galatian letter — a contribution to the interpretation of that epistle. We make no great claims for our outline, but are convinced that Bible study should be done along this line; (1) multiple reading of the whole letter, until its general content becomes familiar; then (2) outline the main points, seeking the logical train of thought of the writer; and only after this has been done and corrected by subsequent readings, (3) study particular statements in this context. When one really understands the content he should be able to read it aloud to a second party, and convey that meaning.

Are Scriptures intended as "texts" for our comments, or, do not the writers say something themselves? Do not the writers "comment" on various subjects? Of course they do, and it is our job to understand what they say.

Generally the very best of Bible Work Books used in class studies are content to examine our learning of the words found in isolated verses; or, if thought" questions are asked, the book (and the teacher) is looking for sermonizing application to baptism, instrumental music, or some current "issue." If you think I am critical of such application you are missing my point. I am saying we should first determine the thought of the writer, and the sermon he preaches. We frequently observe class members who have "looked up all the answers" and have written them out, word for word; yet could not give a summary of the writer's thoughts. Filling blanks is a poor substitute for learning. Sometimes when I say something on this subject I am accused of being "against literature." I am against poorly written literature, if that confirms your suspicion; and also anti the wrong use of well-written material. But I am equally against the picky, word-by-word study of Bible verses, that ignores context, reminds someone of what happened back home in Indiana, and degenerates into speculation over irrelevant questions. "The boy went to town, conveys a simple thought that can be digested by one intelligent reading; and should not involve a class in lengthy discussion on whether or not "town" is a proper environment for raising children.

The Bible was written to convey thoughts — to produce an information flow. But it was intended that the information flow from the inspired writer to our hearts. Interpretation is the reception process, initially; for we can not explain the thought until we understand it ourselves. Far too often our class studies have become a flow of our thoughts, one to the other. We would tell the Holy Spirit what we think if He would listen. We must reverse the direction of information flow. Inspired information of Bible writers must be the source of our conclusions and applications; not the product of our current experience and thinking.

News Analyses and TV graphics have made reading seem less important, but they can enslave us to the bias of the programmer. It is high time we get back to the "three Rs;" and if we wish to continue taking instructions from God — we must learn to READ.