Vol.XIX No.VIII Pg.2
October 1982

Properly Introduced

Robert F. Turner

"Search the Scriptures," and "Give diligence" or "Study to show thyself approved" — we are well aware of such exhortations. Yet, the majority of church members seem to have a poor grasp of scripture contents. I am often told, with some shame or exasperation, "I just don't know how to make sense out of the scriptures. "

Of course the scriptures must be read, and a large enough segment or all of a short epistle should be read several times before attempting to analyze its meaning. (This is no different from the requirements for understanding any other literature of like nature.) A modern speech translation may be helpful for those unaccustomed to Bible terminology, but we recommend going back to the K.J. or A.S. versions for the final word.

But this editorial is written to call attention to a much neglected source of information that can make the scriptures seem more real, and improve our understanding by putting the message in its historical setting. I refer to the INTRODUCTION usually found in commentaries at the beginning of each book or epistle.

Some introductions may be critical in a modernistic way — questioning canonicity, authorship, etc.; but if you have bought the right commentary in the first place, these things are discussed and properly answered. You can always hasten over technical aspects in which you have little interest. But give special attention to information about the writer, date of writing, circumstances calling forth the epistle, to whom written, their characteristics, etc. Make a conscious effort to put yourself back at that time and place, to imagine receiving such a letter, and how it would affect you under the circumstances. Use the introduction to put LIFE into the writing.

Some good introductions go further by providing a condensed summary of the whole epistle. These will vary, with the bias or theology of the commentator, but at least you will know before you go into the details of his study just what you may expect. Some are surprisingly objective when presenting such a summary — even though you may be unable to agree with some details found later in comments.

Do not hesitate to question! Study a comment, study the text, and ask yourself if this is truly apparent. Try to be objective and fair, but do your own thinking. A good introduction can whet your appetite for the textual study — and that can change hard reading to profitable learning.