Bible study tips: Creative questions

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Reading the literary language of the Bible is essentially a creative process. We must experiment with various approaches to discover which ones enable a passage to speak forcefully to us. In effect we engage in a personal dialog with the text, questioning it and letting it question us, not just intellectually but on imaginative and emotional levels.

We can be moved by the imagery, drama and analogies of the Bible only when we ask questions like the following:

  • How do I visualize (or hear, smell, touch or taste) what is being portrayed here?
  • What rich associations and nuances do the words carry?
  • What is my honest emotional response to the imagery or drama?
  • What personal memories or longings do the words evoke in me?
  • What tones of voice do I hear behind the words of the writer or the people in his story?
  • Can I put myself in the place of the people I am reading about and imagine what they felt?
  • Can I imagine how the original audience responded to the words I am now reading?
  • Do the word pictures remind me of conditions in my own world?
  • Where in the passage do I see myself?
  • Do the images or dramatic scenes challenge me to change?

Not every question will apply to every biblical passage we read, but such questions will unlock the power of the Bible’s literary language for us. Even as we ask these questions, however, we must remind ourselves that they do not have right and wrong answers. Our responses will necessarily be subjective. Paying attention to context and consulting historical reference books can help keep our interpretations on track.

—Margaret Parker. Used by permission.