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Interpretation Under Hendricks’ rubric, once the steps of observation are completed, interpretation can begin: “Grasp how the context fits with literary genres, history and culture. Also, what does the context say about the writer’s relationship with God, or even about the natural world?” “Work to compare words, themes, phrases and styles of the text with other biblical texts,” says Hendricks. Then examine “the cultural setting of the book.” This will tell you if your observations fit the culture. Hendricks warns, “Don’t lose sight of the value of consultation in the process—using other resources to ensure your interpretation is accurate.”

Application Application is about what the text means to you. Before we can be certain our application is correct, Hendricks says that each person “needs to know the text, relate it to life, meditate on its meaning, and then practice it.” Hendricks has created nine application questions to consider: »» Is there an example for me to follow? »» Is there a sin to avoid? »» Is there a promise to claim? »» Is there a prayer to repeat? »» Is there a command to obey? »» Is there a condition to meet? »» Is there a verse to memorize? »» Is there an error to mark? »» Is there a challenge to face?

Communication The correlation and communication step is simple. As a Bible teacher, it is about understanding and reading the audience you are speaking to.

Getting Started If you haven't practiced Hendricks’ method, it may seem stilted or philosophical. To fix this problem, Hendricks starts new students in the book of Mark because it is simple. But if the length of Mark is overwhelming, he suggests a shorter book: “Take a book like Jonah, for example, that has only four chapters. Take a good amount of time with it. Get so deeply involved with it that you can hardly wait for the next chapter.”1

For small group Bible study, Hendricks suggests studying “individual books according to the group and its needs. If they ‘take off’ with it, even having never done it, their motivation keeps them going. I get them into something easier to handle and prove to them that they can study the Bible. Generally speaking, I find people at varied levels are not convinced they can do it. But in our classes at Dallas Theological Seminary, people who have never done this in their life come out with A-level grades.” For veterans of Bible study, Hendricks recommends they learn to use the biblical languages. “Get Greek and Hebrew resource tools that tell you what a word means.2 For some people it is not important, but if you can weave that into your understanding, you can increase the value of your study. You can’t lose with that.”3

Anyone Can Understand the Bible Understanding the Bible like Howard Hendricks might seem like an impossible feat. But like everyone else, Hendricks’ biblical understanding started with simple hard work and dedication. In Hendricks’ second year of seminary he pledged to study the Bible for an hour every day. He has. Using the pattern he teaches his students, Hendricks works through one Bible book per month, hitting all 66 over a six-year span. While the hourly study is for his own spiritual walk, he says that what he learns often emerges when he speaks, writes and teaches. During his time at Wheaton College, Hendricks met Professor Merrill Tenney. When most students couldn’t handle more than one course a semester with the challenging professor, Hendricks took three. “He changed the course of my life,” Hendricks says. “I learned how to study the Scriptures. He motivated me right out of my socks.” Hard work pays off at all levels, says Hendricks. He beams when he tells the story of an 80-year-old who came to Dallas Theological Seminary wanting to learn Greek. “I said ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘I am just fascinated by this stuff.’ ” After four years, the man was so accomplished in Greek that Hendricks hired him to teach freshmen. He became one of the seminary’s most-loved professors until his retirement at the age of 93. It was this man’s excitement, fascination and love of learning that got him studying the Bible in a new way. Hendricks says every Christian should have that same hunger for the Word.

Get Merrill Tenney's Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible at MannersAndCustoms

Get into Jonah with Eli Evans’ “Wordplay in Jonah” on pgs. 46–47 of this issue of bsm.


Work through a Hebrew word study with Jacob Massine’s “Hebrew Word Study without Hebrew” on pgs. 31–33 of this issue of bsm. 2

3 Learn to use Biblical Greek and Hebrew with Logos Bible Software via a video series by bsm’s Academic Editor, Michael Heiser and bsm’s columnist Johnny Cisneros. Go to

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Bible Study Magazine  

Bible Study Magazine ( delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teach...

Bible Study Magazine  

Bible Study Magazine ( delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teach...