XBI: Xtreme Biblical Interpretation 5-Step Process
Step 1: Observation
Observation is simply observing the text you are studying, seeing what is there and taking notes. This requires you to know the author of the book, where the text is found, why the author wrote this book, the historical background of the book, when the book was written and the audience. Please note the audience can change within a book and this is crucial to watch for! All of this information is readily available in any study Bible, usually at the beginning of each of the 66 books that make up our Old and New Testament Bibles. Observation is not complete until you have observed exactly what the text says, NOT what you THINK it says. You will do well with this step if you continue to ask questions of the text like, “Why did the author use that word”, or “What is missing, what did the author not say”, or “What type of literature is this...a parable, epistle, prophecy, poetry, history, etc.?” The more questions you ask, the better you will become at getting to the author’s intended meaning, which will prevent you from reading something into the text which God did not intend. Be sure and write your observations and questions down in your notebook!
Step 2: Contextualization
Contextualization is simply making sure you understand the author’s train of thought before and after any passage or verse. Taking Scripture out of context is the greatest challenge any Bible student will face. Anyone can tell you what they think a verse or passage means, but context forces you to understand what the original author intended in the greater context of the whole letter or book in which it was written. It is helpful to follow an outline given in most study Bibles or make up your own outline based on changes in the author’s writing or train of thought which you have observed in Step 1.
Step 3: Correlation
Correlation is when we let Scripture interpret Scripture. We look at other passages of Scripture that correspond to the text we are studying. We must seek writings from the same author first, and seek to stay in the same type or genre of Scripture second. If we are in the Old Testament we look to correlate with other Old Testament Scripture keeping in mind the New Testament explains the Old Testament! The Law of the Old Testament has been replaced in the New Testament with the New Covenant of Grace. Remember this simple rule: Always interpret difficult Scripture in light of simple easy to understand Scripture. Where most people get into trouble is what we call “verse stringing”. This is when a well intentioned Bible student grabs other verses that seem to fit together. This can lead to a nightmare! Many pastors have also fallen into this trap and develop doctrines that are untenable or worse, unbiblical. Remember, Scripture will NEVER contradict itself!
Step 4: Interpretation
Interpretation is simply what does the text mean. Note, this is Step 4 in our process and we will surely misinterpret the text without considering and practicing the previous 3 steps. While this may sound like a slow or complicated process, I can assure you it’s as easy as riding a bike and once mastered will be done automatically by you, without giving it any thought
Step 5: Application
Application is simply how do I apply this to my life or help others apply this to their life. Just reading the Bible can leave you educated but untransformed. Studying God’s Word and forcing yourself to apply what you learn will transform you from a believer into a disciple of Jesus.