Preparatory Insights Into Our Study of Romans, Chapter Eleven
I am a firm believer in the principles of Bible study as taught by Dr. Charles A. Briggs (1841-1913), an American theologian.1 He believed that for us to really understand almost any portion of Scripture, we must begin by noting who the author is and their place in the evolving history of God’s revelation of Himself to the world.
Then we must examine how what was written applied to the people, situation, and times in which it was penned. Were they addressing any particular problem or explaining any issues on which God wanted His voice to be heard. Then to look and see what was said on the same subject being studied by other writers of Scripture to examine their various opinions. If this writer has other books in the Bible, then see if they address the same subject elsewhere to note if there is any deviation from what they said in the text you are studying.
While doing this, the original language which the writer used must be kept in mind. Why? Because if you are reading what they say in English or any other language, the translation may not have revealed all the nuances and possible play-on-words that the writer employed. Also, check to see if any specific original words were translated using a different English word elsewhere in Scripture. This will help in putting what the writer is saying into context.
Then comes an acknowledgment that these writers were influenced by the customs and manners of their ethnicity and time in history. This is especially true when they attempt to explain something that the Spirit inspired them to write by using illustrations which were in vogue at that time. To understand these will help to better understand the point the writer was trying to make.
Following this, the Bible student must take into account that whatever capacity they may possess intellectually and emotionally to comprehend and formulate ideas and inspiration that comes to their mind over is being read, there are many others who are even more qualified to explain what the writer was saying, and had insights that they have. Not only will examining those commentaries help the text blossom into a more significant source of perceptivity, but it will also no doubt challenge what they thought they just read and force them to reexamine the text again. Is this a bad thing? No! It will either help them confirm what they have believed all along and that they have the right concept of doctrine, or it may change their mind because they found out that what they believed cannot be supported by Scripture.
This is the method I have been using in our study of Romans, and we will see how important this is in understanding Paul’s message to both Jews and Gentiles in Chapter 11. I look forward to sharing with you what the Holy Spirit has helped me to assimilate from the text and great scholars over the centuries. Hopefully, it will inspire you not be satisfied with just being a reader Scripture, but a student of Scripture.
And finally, let me say that the most successful students in my classes in Seminary were those who asked questions and shared impressions. So please feel free to do this either in our classes on Facebook or on my Blog page. Believe me, I will endeavor to give you a response as quickly as I can. I promise! – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Charles Augustus Briggs: Biblical Study, It’s Principles, Methods, and History, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1891