My son starts school today. (Yuck… And yes I was one of the bad parents at Wal-Mart last night trying to buy school supplies, but that’s another story.) In honor of- or maybe in mourning for- the start of school, for today’s tip, I’m going back to one of the basics. Good Bible study always begins with a simple examination of what the text says. (The ‘observation’ part of inductive study.) This is the information-gathering stage, the fact-finding mission. So start with the simplest question- Who?
As you read the passage, answer as many ‘who’ questions as practically possible. Who is the speaker? Who is being addressed? Who is being discussed? Check the antecedents for the pronouns. (You know, the noun the pronoun stands for. Feels like school already.)
For example, Job 18:7 says, “The steps of his strength are shortened, and his own counsel casts him down.” Who is speaking? Job’s friend Bildad. Who is being addressed? Job. Who is being discussed, the ‘him’? We have to go back a few verses, to verse 5 to see it’s ‘the wicked’ that Bildad is discussing, but by implication, he’s talking about Job.
When you read the New Testament letters, it’s helpful to watch the pronouns and keep them straight. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Him who? Sometimes it’s God the Father and sometimes it’s Christ the Son.
Another place where the ‘who’ can be revealing is Acts 16. Verse 8 says “…they came down to Troas…” Then in verse 10, it says, “…we sought to go to Macedonia…” That’s the tipoff that the author of Acts, Luke, had joined the group and the next section of the book is a firsthand account.
Sometimes, even a simple thing like this can give a new insight on a familiar passage.