Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to read a poetic Bible passage

POETIC images used in Prophecy or Psalms
When reading a poetic or inspirational story, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What imagery does this poem use?
2. What would this image mean to a reader in the writer’s time?
3. What would this image mean to most modern readers?
4. What does this image mean to me?
5. What are the symbols in this Psalm or Song? Which will I use?
6. Are there other Bible books that also use this symbol?
7. If this is a poetic or symbolic word in the middle of a prophetic or narrative book, how do I know this is a symbol and not literal?
8. How far can I push this symbol? Can all aspects of this symbol be used in my interpretation? Or is there a place where I’m stretching matters?
9. Am I being literal when I should be symbolic? Or vice versa?
10. Have I done a concordance search to see if there are other references to this imagery? What have I discovered?
11. What does this symbol show about God or the Christian life?

Exercises:
Examine the symbol of the fig tree. Does it always mean Israel?
Do a concordance search for the words, “three men.”
Do a Bible study on the phrase “a certain man.”
Do a Bible study on the phrase “tower” or “fortress.”
Do a Bible study on “tongue, word.”
What do you think of the phrase: “Sleep in their graves” Is this symbolic? -- Is this just a euphemism for death which says nothing more than that a person has died? Is it literal? If it is literal, then those who have died are sleeping until God “wakes” them. But is every cemetery literally full of sleeping people? Is it both symbolic and literal? If so, then “sleep” is literal and “in their graves” is symbolic. It’s convenient to accept one part of the verse as symbolic and another part as literal, but such dishonesty is slick scripture twisting based on a person’s need to do away with an immediate hell.
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