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Regard the passage as though you are a detective, studying the passage for any clues that can help to answer the following questions:

1.What does this passage mean, what is being said? Attempt to discover the actual meaning of the passage.
2.What was the author trying to say to his original readers, how would the original readers have understood this passage?
3.What is the author trying to say to me? Keep in mind that there is often significant distance (historical, political, societal, cultural, geographical, covenantal and positional to name just a few) between ourselves and the original readers.
4.Why is this here, what is the theological significance of the text?

Keep in mind that: When the plain sense of Bible makes common sense, seek no other sense, you might find nonsense. The Bible was written for normal people to understand, not merely the super intelligent or those who (according to some cults) claim an additional knowledge not generally given to all. Don't look for hidden meanings unless you have good reason to think there is further meaning that is not obvious or indicated by the surrounding context. This means that we are not to modify the plain sense of the Bible when it contradicts our treasured beliefs but must instead modify even our treasured beliefs when the teaching of the Bible is against them. Remember also to ask questions, Christianity is not a faith for the intellectually challenged and our God is not a God who acts in a manner that is beyond our ability to understand, though He often acts in ways that are beyond our capacity to understand. We can ask questions of all that we read in the Bible and expect reasonable answers that we are able to understand and that are consistent with teachings elsewhere in the Bible.

Some general principles of interpretation are:

1.Interpret the Bible by the Bible, refer to parallel passages, noting both differences and similarities
2.Research the words recalling that even in English the meanings of various words will change over time. Remember, too, that different words may be used to convey similar concepts, such as our use of acquaintance, friend, intimate friend, girlfriend & boyfriend, fiancé, wife & husband, or parent & child to define various aspects of the love relationship between humans.
3.Evaluate the use of grammar, why were the words put together as they have been? Would an other idea have been conveyed if the grammar had been different?
4.Carefully consider the context of the verse, passage, paragraph, chapter and book. Context is either near (in the same body of text) or remote (in a removed portion of text).
5.Discover what the author's intent was in writing what you are reading. For example: Paul's letters generally convey the occasion of each letter, as do some of the gospels, for other writing you may have to do some research.
6.Study the background of the book of which your study passage is a part by use of Bible dictionaries, encyclopaedias, maps, etc.
7.Consider the author's themes in other writings. For example: Does Revelation have anything to offer to our study of the Gospel of John.
8.Evaluate how you would understand the writer if they were communicating directly with you. What would you most immediately understand him to be saying.