1. The number one mistake to avoid.
Holmes: “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
Far too often students of the Bible twist verses to suit interpretations instead of formulating interpretations to suit what the verses say.
Don’t approach your passage assuming you know what it means. Rather, use the data in the passage – the words that are used and how they fit together – to point you toward the correct interpretation.
2. The kind of looking that solves mysteries.
Holmes: “You have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”
Watson: “Hundreds of times.”
Holmes: “Then how many are there?”
Watson: “How many? I don’t know!”
Holmes: “Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”
There is a difference between reading a Bible verse and observing it. Observation is a way of collecting details contained in a passage. As you read and reread the verses, pull the words into your brain where you can think about them and figure them out.
This habit will shed light on how you understand the text, even if the passage is as familiar as the stairs in your house.
3. Know what to look for.
Watson: “You appeared to [see] what was quite invisible to me.”
Holmes: “Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important.”
Know where to look for clues that will illuminate your passage. Look for repeated words and phrases, bookends (where the beginning and end of the passage contain similarities), and clues in the context around your passage.
4. Mundane details are important!
Watson: “I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling and inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with the greatest concentration of attention.”
Don’t ignore parts of the passage that seem insignificant to its meaning. Treat every word as if it contains clues to the interpretation of the passage.
6. The harder the mystery, the more evidence you need.
“This is a very deep business,” Holmes said at last. “There are a thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide upon our course of action.”
In grad school, one professor gave us an assignment requiring us students to make 75 observations on Acts 1:8. The verse does not even contain that many words!
The professor’s goal was to train us in compiling evidence. Harder Bible passages demand that we collect as much information as possible.
8. Don’t be so committed to a solution that you ignore new evidence.
“I had,” said Holmes, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data…I can only claim the merit that I instantly reconsidered my position.”
After you’ve put the hard work into grasping a mysterious passage, the case isn’t necessarily closed. Often you’ll run across other passages that shed new light on your passage. Or you’ll hear someone preach those verses in a different way than how you interpreted it.
Always be willing to consider new insights. This will at least help you nuance your understanding of the passage, if not take a different stance.
Trevin Wax schließt mit der wichtigen Feststellung ab:
The Joy of Knowing God Through His Word
Gaining insight into hard passages of the Bible is often an exciting adventure.
But don’t forget that the Bible is less about a mystery to solve and more about an Author to know. As you tackle some of the tougher texts, don’t glory in your knowledge. Glory in God, who graciously reveals Himself through His Word.