Read the Bible like a Psychic

Ah ha! I knew I'd get your attention with that headline. But that's not what I mean. One of my favorite shows right now on T.V. is Psych. It's a weekly crime-solving/comedy/drama show that features two buddies who start a consulting agency for the Santa Barbara Police to help them solve murders and crime in the city. The main protagonist of the show, Shawn Spencer, has led everyone to believe that he is a super psychic capable of seeing visions and such to solve murder mysteries. But in all reality he's an everyday guy that just pays attention to all the details, and in noticing the small things ends up solving big crime. The brilliance of the show lies in trying to figure out the case as Shawn does, and noticing the clues.

And this brings me to the point of this post. What I have here is a little "how-to." For many understanding and seeing the "depths" of the Bible seems to be a supernatural ability that is beyond our normal, natural grasp. Finding the "nuggets" of the Scripture that yield deep fruit for application means achieving some supernatural plane of existence that few have acquired.

However, this isn't the case. I'd like to suggest that you too can be a Shawn Spencer of Bible study. All you have to do is pay attention to the details.

Here's a few tips to help you do this:

  1. Get a translation that helps clarify the details. By this I mean use an "essentially literal" translation like the English Standard Version. It seeks to be faithful to the word-to-word usage of the original languages. Using something like the ESV will help you see a close equivalent to the actual text.
  2. Get a readers translation to highlight the differences. That's right, reading the Bible like a psudeo-psychic means having another version of the Bible to highlight differences. If you remember the magazines as a kid that would have you look at two pictures and circle the differences between the two this is essentially what you are doing with the Bible. A readers translation falls on the more "dynamic equivalent" side of the scale. My current favorite is the New Living Translation (3rd Edition). It's readable, engaging and very faithful to the essence of the original text. Reading this alongside my ESV has helped highlight some details that I would have missed otherwise.
  3. Read Slowly. This, unlike solving crime in a 45 minute T.V. time slot each week, isn't a pressure filled race. So take your time. Examine the text carefully. Be very familiar with each passage you are studying. If you're studying a few verses memorize them word for word. This will help you recall the details of that particular passage.
  4. Know your grammar, gramma. Yes, grammar and parts of speech are essential to finding the details in the text. What are the nouns? What are the verbs? What role does each word in the sentence play in relationship to the other? If you are unsure of any of that stuff, don't worry. Resources like The Grammar Bible will help you understand the English language and those parts of speech better. Take your time with it and learn your native language well. You'll pick out the details a lot better if you do.
  5. Interrogate Everything. Ask questions of every word in a passage. Why did Peter call the Christians "holy nation" in 1 Peter 2:9? What does the word "proclaim" mean? In 1 Peter 5:5 who are the "younger" people that Peter is talking to? Think of each word, phrase, sentence and paragraph as a different person that you will have to interrogate to get to the bottom of the problem. By asking lots of questions you will begin to unearth some of the details that seemed to hide out before.
  6. Get Supernatural. By this I mean, prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to understand and see the details of the text. Bible study isn't just an all-natural science that can be boiled down to just a few tricks of grammar and language. Unlike Psych it is a spiritual endeavor, so treat it as such and pray. Ask, seek, knock. Our Father in heaven will be pleased to reveal the fruit of his Word by the enabling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Ask for help!

These are a few things that I've learned to help me grow as a student of Scripture. I encourage you to pick up your Bible and practice a little "Psych" skill on it. You'll be surprised what you see. You know that's right!