Overview of the NT
Suggestions for Studying the NT

Suggestions for Studying the NT

The number one suggestion is the same opening suggestion for studying the Old Testament: Use your Bible dictionary. People, places, and things are not only defined in your Bible dictionary but in a single article you will see them/it threaded together with all their corresponding scriptural references. Taken together you are provided a deeper context.

One thing not advocated here–which admittedly will go against mainstream advice–is spending a lot of time examining individual New Testament words in their native Greek, nor following the trail of Strong’s numbers back and forth from verse to verse. The problem is that this is a tool/technique that is misused more often than applied correctly.

The best example of the problem is when you hear a point of teaching that states something like, “This is the word that we get today’s English word ‘yada-yada’ from.” This is probably 100% true. However, although “yada-yada” can trace 2,000 year-old roots to a Greek word, it’s taken on a new, contemporary meaning that the original word often never represented. Taking a word out of a verse of Scripture, applying its modern derivation, and then re-inserting it back into the verse is NOT placing things in their proper context. It often leads to interpretations never intended for that Scripture, then or now.

A classic example is the Greek word “agnoeo” (Strong's #50). This is the original source of our modern English word "agnostic". The present-day meaning is applied to someone who does not know, one way or the other, whether God exists and hasn't made up their mind; the original word means to be ignorant and misinformed, but the person willingly continues to act anyway. In other words, the problem isn't a lack of information as indicated by the modern usage, but originally meant to put the wrong information into practice and therefore incur the inevitable results of error and catastrophe.

If you want to understand a single word in its proper context, study the sentence as a whole. To understand a sentence in its proper context, study it within the associated paragraph; and the paragraph within the chapter, the chapter within the book, the book within the Bible. Don’t allow a single word to change the meaning of the context of the sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc. within which it’s found.

When it’s absolutely necessary to study a word, study every instance its used throughout Scripture listed in your concordance, examining the context of the sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc. for each entry. You will obtain the proper context without assigning a new meaning to the word that was never meant to be. Studying individual words will be unavoidable at times (e.g. the Greeks used three words with specific meanings for "love" whereas English can cover them all with just one) but as a general rule, work "top down" to get the context rather than from the word up. As it is with all languages, usage in context is more important than meaning according the dictionary.

What are the Old Testament tie-ins? When reading a passage that invokes memory of something said in the Old Testament-or if there’s a direct reference to an Old Testament person, place, event or Scripture-look it up and meditate on what the Spirit is communicating. It’s definitely more than worth the time to build these associations which will become even more valuable while studying the New Testament. Over time you’re going to clearly understand the relationship between them, the foundation laid by the Old Testament, and how the New Testament truly “fulfills” the Old.

Finally, whenever possible, relate teachings and concepts provided in the Apostles’ writings with the life and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. Just as the Old Testament was the foundation for Jesus’ ministry, so the Apostles are building further upon that foundation. It will both amaze and strengthen as you discover that even what appear to be complicated sermons from Paul have corresponding examples in the earthly ministry and teachings of Christ. Building these associations truly brings the New Testament and even the entire Bible together as a whole.

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