How I typically go about reading and studying a passage from the Bible.
• Read the verse
I know this step is, pretty much, implied. However, in my dialogues with many, many, many people who claim to worship the main character(s)... this step is my passive-aggressive jab at you Christians who mostly base your theological script off of what your preachers or apologists/devotionals tell you about Bible passages and evidences concerning them. Hint: if you've ever repeated "chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea", "found Noah's Ark", "five thousand witnesses", or anything Ray Comfort has published then you are probably one of those people.
My default flavor is NASB, but I also read the passage in ESV, KJV, and NIV. Study Bibles in many various versions are cozy on my shelves, but a lot of my Bible reading takes place on my phone and computer (mainly because research and commentary are more easily accessible that way.)
• Read the entire chapter
While not always necessary, I think it's a good idea to be aware of the chapter housing the verse(s). I've read the Bible multiple times and am typically aware of the situational context of passages being quoted. Even if you're familiar with the verse(s) being discussed, doesn't hurt to at least give the chapter a skim. You have the Internet in your pocket, don't be lazy if you have any questions about the context of the chapter you read.
What I mean by the "situational context" of a passage:
Characters and groups involved.
Timeline: OT? NT? Pre-Israel? Post-Jesus?
Usually considered literal, metaphorical, poetic? Is there an explicit audience?
• Consider how the different denominations interpret this passage.
What is their particular theological stance per the philosophical/literal implications of the verse(s)? Do the professed congregants seem to be in general agreement? While some denominations and branches of Christianity may have stances that are more difficult to nail down, resources like these can be good places to start:
Wikipedia: List of Christian Denominations
HIRR: Official Denominational Websites
However, don't be above visitin' a church you're curious about. Try to chat with the pastor (or priest or minister or whatever they go by) and some of the congregants who are willing to discuss their reasons for affiliation. If you think you have theological justification for thinking [X] while they think [Y], ask them why you both look at the same words and reach different conclusions.
• See what Biblical scholars, pastors, Christian voices on the Internet, and apologists offer as their interpretation, defense, commentary, and/or understanding of the context of the passage(s).
which viewpoints are considered more fringe and why
the individual's stance(s) on similar topics
what they present as Biblical/theological justification for their stance
the soundness of evidences and arguments provided
the audience of the presenter
which copies or versions of what documents they reference
• Look at what critics or the unaffiliated of [passage interpretation x] have to say.
I keep track of various skeptics and atheists online and see what them and others think about the passage(s). Reading what followers of other religions or denominations think can also be quite amusing.
Boy, if every version of every religion isn't
comprised of plenty of extremely confident adherents.
"Faith" and "divine revelation" are dead-ends as far as foundations for any theological position worth consulting in the search for context. There's not a single proposition that couldn't be supported by appeals to such. Every one-or-the-other position on biblical topics have followers professing faith and/or deeper knowledge. You'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't expect a little more of yourself and inform your decision-making more soundly.
Again, I'll be aware of the loudness of the voice in tandem with whether the view is more fringe, a newer concept/argument, and if the position is supported by more than simply rhetoric (or, [the above paragraph]). When consulting other people about their reasons for particular beliefs: understand that outliers exist and different adherents may represent different aspects/results of that belief or may have zero representational bearing.
Nuance; it's more complicated, but more likely less wrong™.
• Form my own opinion, like a human person does.
Consider the compatibility of the results of my investigation with my present opinions/understandings; if there's a disconnect, investigate further.
Will I need to change a label I associate with or make use of as a reconsideratory result?
Is this passage saying something harmful, interesting, wrong, insightful?
What are the reasons many other people give for believing differently?
I try to figure out how to word my stance in an efficient and intentional manner, refining how it's presented as I learn more about the topic and how it is viewed by critics. If I later come into information that is contradictory to my position- and that alternative stance implies compelling, popular, and/or academically-respected justifications- I'll reinvestigate the issue.
|"What is you and your church's stance on the Robot Devil?" and the like. Important questions.|