In selecting real estate the rule is "Location, location, location!" In interpreting the Bible the rule is "Context, context, context!" Interpretation is not merely a fancy or a luxury; it is a necessity. Interpretation may not always be a conscious act, but it is always happening when we read the Bible--or anything else for that matter. And fundamental to responsible interpretation is knowledge of and respect for the context of each of the biblical writings.
Finding your way around in the world of an ancient text is not easy and it takes time. To be sure, by the power of God's Holy Spirit we are granted sufficient understanding, but if the goal is to interpret the Bible ever more faithfully, then gaining the familiarity and depth necessary for the task will take time and effort.
In this three-session study, we will first examine the principle challenges of faithful interpretation, namely, the importance of language and historical and social settings. Session 2 outlines three major periods of Biblical interpretation and shows how it has changed over the centuries. Session 3 addresses the question of why people interpret the Bible differently.
We strongly recommend using this study along with Jim Chatham's study "Great Themes of the Bible," a four-session overview of principal biblical themes. These two studies can be purchased separately or as a study pack to save some money. If your group doesn't have that much time, consider using this study with Gene March's one-session study called "God in the Bible: Tools for Faithful Living."