I recently spent a morning with young Zambian women who are thinking about attending seminary. Our focus was learning to interpret the Bible, and we studied the whole of Paul’s letter to the Philippians using these questions below.
1. Read through the book in its entirety, seeking to understand it as a whole. Does the reading of the whole enable you to see things you had not noticed before, or which haven’t been emphasized in your prior exposure to the book? Do certain aspects stand out as characteristic of this book?
2. Can you find evidence for the occasion that led the author to write the book, or the situation which the writer is addressing? Do you find information about the original audience and their circumstances? What aims for the book do you find? What does it seem the author was trying to accomplish by writing this book?
3. What primary themes stand out? Look for repetition of key words, images, phrases, and ideas. (As you read this book of the Bible, keep asking what the main themes are and where they change.)
4. In light of your attention to the book as a whole, what have you come to understand about this book’s perspective on God and the Christian life? What clues do you find regarding how the Christian life looks and works? Do you have any new insights into key verses that have been meaningful to you in the past?
5. In light of all that you have discovered above, how does this book speak a living word to you personally, and how might it speak to your church or to others you know? If you were to teach or preach from this book, what would you wish to emphasize?