Hugh: “A carefully selected card with the right wording serves as an improvement over modern attempts – emails, memes, text messages – to communicate one’s love for another. To me, writing your own feelings and thoughts for another reaches its peak with a handwritten letter. “
“I recently ran across a love letter by the formidable Napoleon Bonaparte to his Josephine Bonaparte. This general known for military genius and the large empire he gathered after the French Revolution, wrote to the woman who held his heart. Below is a sample expression of his love for his Josephine:
A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more. All the time I have known you, I adore you more each day; that just shows how wrong was La Bruyere’s maxim that love comes all at once. Everything in nature has its own life and different stages of growth. I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…”
“If we are going to properly interpret God’s love letter to man, His Word, we need to embrace work – hard work. I imagine Josephine may have kept Napoleon’s letter’s close and read them over and over as she thought about him while at war. Every word proved precious.”
“The Bible, God’s Word, to us, ought to be just as treasured as Josephine did Napoleon’s words. Every word ought to seize our attention. Most of us read the Bible too fast. We think we are in a speed reading class and want to be able to say, “I finished my scripture reading for today! Give me a gold star!”
“Now class, the key to deep Bible study is to be observant. We need to see what the details God has placed in His Word. Our goal is to observe everything we can see. We ask questions and keep asking questions like professor Agassiz required his student to do. Refer to the previous blog. Keep looking and looking until you see the whole passage in all its marvelous beauty.”
“At this stage, we want to refrain from interpreting the text. That will come in time, but now we want to see details and figure the connections between the details. DO NOT ASK, ‘WHAT DOES THE TEXT MEAN?” Instead, ask, “WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?” (Click the Tweet). In time we will put the little things we observe in their larger place. For now, it is what can we see? “
“Dr. Danny Akins, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary makes these points related to observations:”
“Observation is taking a good hard look at what is in the text.” He continues, “Learn to read intelligently, intentionally, and interactively. Observation requires concentration. It is not a difficult procedure. It is not a complicated process. It can be mastered with practice and diligence.”
“Akins suggests, “Learn to read as for the first time (the advantage of reading the text in the original language). Learn to read as a love letter (personal).” Finally, Akins offers six questions to ask when we read the Bible:”
“WHO? – is the author of the book? To whom is the book written? Who are the characters in the book? Who is speaking? To whom is he speaking?”
“WHAT? – What is the atmosphere of the book or passage? Friendly? Chastening? Loving? What is the author’s general topic? What is he saying about the topic? What is the CONTEXT? What are the key words? What do they mean? What? What? What?”
“WHEN? When was the book written? When did this even happen in relation to other events? When was this prophecy fulfilled or has it been? “When” questions are important to ask especially in narrative literature such as the Gospels. This will help give you the ‘time’ perspective.”
“WHERE? Where was the book written? Where were the recipients of the book living? Can you locate the places mentioned on a map? Where else does this topic appear in Scripture?”
“WHY? Why was the book written? Why does he include this material and not other things? Why does the author give so much space to that topic and so little to another?”
“HOW? How many? How many times does the author use the same word in this book, chapter, passage, verse? How long? How much? How does he do this? Say this? How does this relate to the preceding statement? To the succeeding statement?”
Since we are running out of time, I have made a couple of videos to help us with out study of Mark’s Gospel. I will introduce you to the concept of observing the text. Let me encourage you to go from what I briefly offer and see how many more observations you can make from Mark 1: 1-3.
The first video walks you through several categories to help you mark Sentences and Paragraphs. These come from J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd edition. The second video models how to mark and record your observations. May you find them helpful as we begin our study of Mark’s Gospel.
How have you made such observations from the Bible text? What method did you use?
Do you have any suggestions for myself and others who want to read the text carefully?