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Yeshua in Context » Beginners, Reading Strategies, Study Tips » Study Methods, Gospels and Life of Yeshua

Study Methods, Gospels and Life of Yeshua

The way we study the gospels and the life of Yeshua matters. Uncritical methods lead to uncritical results. Much reading of the Bible and the gospels misses much of the wealth. There is value in simple reading which finds peace and leaves aside complexities and problems. All reading is potentially beneficial and much of the life and message of Yeshua can be absorbed without reaching deep into the toolbag. But there is so much more which is available with good methods. The following list of methodological principles is specifically directed at the reading of the gospels, but could apply to other parts of the Bible as well.

…Reading methodically, regularly, as a discipline.
The best method is reading through the gospels, from start to finish, in order, a little each day. The practice in Judaism of reading the books of the Torah daily is a good point of comparison (Yeshua-followers could add acts to the gospels, making five books which correspond in a reading cycle to the five books of Torah).

…Question assumptions while reading.
Many readers find a word such as “saved” or “life” or “kingdom” and gloss over these as terms already understood and defined. Frequently the theologies which people bring into their reading are not well thought out. A holy uncertainty about such terms while reading is not a bad idea. And assumptions about motivations and unstated conclusions should also be questioned. We should not assume we will understand the depths of Yeshua’s teaching without finding our assumptions challenged.

…Don’t ignore gaps.
Yeshua doesn’t exactly answer the questions Nicodemus poses in John 3. Matthew 7:13-14 speak of few finding the way of life but 8:11 speaks of many. Matthew 11:30 says Yeshua’s yoke is easy, but 10:34-39 makes is sound hard. Notice the problems, the mysteries, the things that don’t seem to add up. Note them and come back to them. The gap itself often turns out to hold the clues to deeper insight.

…Seek the references.
Some are obvious, such as when Matthew cites a verse and says Yeshua has filled it up (often rendered “fulfilled”). Others are less so, such as Yeshua speaking of a house which may be built on his words in Matthew 7:24-27 (see Proverbs 9:1 and following and 24:3 and following).

…Learn theological arcs from the Hebrew Bible.
Related to the last method, we should assume that Yeshua uses themes from the Hebrew Bible in ways that call for a deep knowledge, not surface reading. Thus, Yeshua as the giver of wisdom in Matthew 7:24-27 may be a deeper clue to his identity, if you understand the theme of wisdom personified in Proverbs and its relation to later Jewish thought about God and creation.

…Read both in the context of each gospel and in harmony with parallels.
It matters both how Matthew or Mark cast a story or saying and how they compare or differ in different accounts. Mark may not use a story or saying in the same context as Luke. In studying Mark’s theology, the near context matters. In studying Yeshua’s life, the comparisons and differences matter.

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Filed under: Beginners, Reading Strategies, Study Tips

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