I’ve been tossing up smaller posts these past few days as I’ve been busy writing the Bible study for tonight’s C&C meeting at church. I’ve had a few people e-mail me regarding how I do Bible study, so I’ll share a little bit of what I do in the Bible study I lead. Understanding that I’m not teaching a Bible College/Seminary hermeneutics class but still wanting to stretch those who are part of the Bible Study, I’ve put together a basic glossary of terms specifically related to Bible study. If you’ve got an MDiv, feel free to remember that I’m writing this for young adults who don’t have your level of education, so the definitions are fairly basic and written towards a specific intended audience (and if you have an MA in Religious Studies, this will probably be far above your head). Maybe this will be informative to those who have contacted me, and may help you in your own efforts at unpacking the scriptures.
A Basic Bible Study Glossary:
- Allegorical Interpretation – The approach to interpreting scripture that approaches any passage of scripture as a prolonged metaphor where a deeper/true meaning lies beneath its primary/surface meaning. (i.e. – On the surface, Song of Solomon is a love song between Solomon and his lover but in reality it’s about Christ’s love for the Church).
- Allusion – An indirect reference to another part of scripture by means of a common word, phrase or theme (i.e. Jesus on the Cross saying “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is an allusion to Psalm 22).
- Analogy – Comparison of two otherwise dissimilar things for the purpose of illustration (i.e. the love of a husband for his wife is compared with the love of Christ for the church in Ephesians 5:25).
- Authorial Intent – The singular meaning of scripture affirmed and intended by the original author of any passage of scripture.
- Citation – A direct reference to another part of scripture (a quote).
- Concordance – The reference work containing lists of all the occurrences of words in the Bible.
- Context – The setting of a word/phrase/passage/book of scripture. The context includes the setting in the literature (the words surrounding a word in the sentence, the verses surrounding a verse in a chapter, etc.), as well as the setting in history, geography, and theology.
- Contradiction – A condition where two directly opposing statements are claimed to be true at the same time and in the same way (i.e. my cat Cletus is in this box I’m currently holding and my cat Cletus is not in this box I’m currently holding).
- Critical Reading – An in-depth (critical) examination of a text.
- Cross Reference – An note/comment within any literary document which directs one to (either directly or indirectly) related information elsewhere in that same document.
- Deduction – The process of reasoning from the general to the specific.
- Deductive Bible Study – The study of the Bible that starts with broad/theological concepts and attempts to uncover them in individual texts of scripture.
- Didactic – In Biblical studies, a type of literature intended for straightforward teaching in a non-poetic, non-metaphorical style.
- Eisegesis – Reading into a passage of scripture a meaning that comes from anywhere other than the language and grammar of that specific passage of scripture.
- Epistle – In Biblical Studies, a type of literature that that is a form of personal letter.
- Etymology – The origin and historical development of words.
- Exegesis – Reading out of a passage of scripture a meaning that comes from the language and grammar of that specific passage of scripture. Exegesis is the application of the principles of Hermeneutics
- Figure of Speech – The usage of words in a way other than the common or literal sense.
- Genre – A type of literature distinguished by its content or compositional form/style.
- Hermeneutics – The principles, or study of the principles, of the science and art of the interpretation of literature.
- Historical-Grammatical Exegesis – Exegesis that emphasizes the need to take into account the original language and historical/theological setting of any word/passage of scripture; it is shorthand for a “literal interpretation” and is contrasted with allegorical exegesis, anagogical exegesis (i.e. turning everything into some sort of metaphor about heaven – i.e. every Old Testament passage about “the promised land” is actually talking about heaven) or moral exegesis (ignoring the details of any passage of scripture and simply reducing all scripture to moral instruction – i.e. Daniel 1 is that a story about being courageous).
- Idiom – An expression used in a language that is unique to that language in grammatical construction or meaning.
- Illumination – The process by which the Holy Spirit allows an individual to both gain a full understanding of the meaning of a passage of scripture, and also ascertain its spiritual significance.
- Imperative – A statement of command.
- Induction – The process of reasoning from the specific to the general.
- Inductive Bible Study – The study of the Bible that starts with individual texts of scripture and attempts to uncover their individual truths in order to systematically assemble them into broad/theological concepts.
- Inspiration – The doctrine in which is explained the Biblical teaching on the process of the divine and human co-authorship of scripture.
- Juxtaposition – The placing of 2 dissimilar passages of scripture in immediate proximity to each other for the purpose of contrast.
- Lexicon – A book that compiles the meanings of words in a specific piece of literature (as opposed to a dictionary, which compiles the meanings of words in common speech).
- Metaphor – A figure of speech whereby there is an implied comparison using “is” or “am”. (i.e. “I am the door” – John 10:9)
- Narrative – In Biblical Studies, a type of literature that either tells a story or gives a historical account.
- Simile – A figure of speech whereby there is a concrete comparison using “like” or “as”.
- Semantics – The meanings of words.
- Semantic Range – The full range of meanings that a word can have.
- Surface Reading – An shallow (non-critical) examination of a text. (i.e. – John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one” seems to insinuate that Jesus is the same person as God, but that’s not what it actually means when one critically examines it).
- Paradox – A statement that appears to be false or contradictory, but upon further examination is found to be true. (i.e. ” For when I am weak, then I am strong” – 2 Cor. 12:10)
- Pericope – A complete and self contained section of text; a passage of indeterminate size that contains a full idea (i.e. any of the parables may be multiple verses/paragraphs, but each parable is a pericope unto itself).
- Poetry – In Biblical Studies, a type of literature makes use of special literary forms of structure, meter, rhythm, parallelism, etc.
- Proof-Text – A biblical text used to support an idea wrongfully associated with that text.
- Prophecy – In Biblical Studies, a type of literature that combines prose and poetry and is marked by extended divine discourse, economic expressions, vivid word pictures and imagery, rapid shifts in mood, rapid shifts in chronological focus, and cryptic allusions.
- Usus Loquendi – a Latin phrase meaning “usage in speech”. This is what a word normally means in conversation.
- Word Study – A systematic examination of the semantic range of a word in scripture in efforts to more accurately isolate the semantic nuance found in a word in a specific passage.
May that help some folks who study the scriptures and run into confusion with terminology.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Cutting it Straight” Unger