How to Study the Bible (Gospels)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

Gospels as Genre – Audio mp3.

The Bible is composed of different genres. Each genre is designed by God to spur us on in our walk with him. Different genres invoke different moods within us. If you are finding yourself only reading the Epistles (Letters of Paul), you are missing out on God’s full range of blessings for you in the Bible. If you are depressed, perhaps some poetry from the Psalms can sooth your soul. If your brain is tired of logic and argumentation, perhaps a thrilling story of war from the Old Testament will wake you up. We don’t own a bland Bible.

In a similar way, if you only ate Pizza for breakfast lunch and dinner, you would quickly get tired of it (and possibly barf). Why would anyone only eat pizza when there is a world of ice cream awaiting them? God has been kind to us and given us a variety of food options to feast on in the Scriptures. There is Italian, Chinese, American and Mexican. There are salads, steak, yogurt and chocolate cake. If you are not feeling a hot dog, then try a fish taco. It is okay and good to have a variety of food in your life. It is healthy and enjoyable. Don’t remain only in one genre of the Bible. Feast on all the delicacies he has laid out for you in His Word.

Gospel:

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Audience:

Jews

Romans

Gentiles

World

Point:

Jesus is Messiah

Immediate Message

For our certainty

For our faith

  • Each have a different purpose in writing
  • Each have a different audience

Lets say something tragic happened. Perhaps during game time, Jonathan decided to jump off of the TV stand and land on the couch. But instead, he missed the couch and landed head first on the table behind him. My perspective would be from the left hand corner of the room. I would have only turned at the moment I heard Rebecca scream and that is when I began to see the story unfold. Yet, Ben happened to be right under the TV stand and everything happened very quickly from his point of view. While all of this was taking place, Dan was in the bathroom. So he saw youth running down the hallway and he had to ask questions and do a little more investigation in order to obtain the whole story. And then later we ask Jonathan about his experience and he tells it from the first person. All of the stories would be about the same events (Jonathan plotting his stunt, climbing up, jumping, crashing, taking him to the hospital, etc.) but each perspective would be different, have a unique emphasis and even have different starting points.

When getting into the depths of each Gospel, there are a couple of different sub-genres to be aware of.

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1. Hyperbole: Exaggerated language to make a powerful point.

There are some overstatements that are literally possible but unlikely and there are some that are impossible.

Here are come tips on how to determine if a text is hyperbolic

  • Conflicts with common sense

Biblical Example: Matthew 5:27-30

What is Jesus main point in using hyperbole? Do everything you physically can to stop lusting and avoid lusting.

Cut off your internet. Give your friend your computer password. (I had a friend who kept his laptop in my dorm room and would only work on his research papers with me in the room) Turn your eyes away from someone who is dressed inappropriately. Walk the other direction. Do whatever you can to kill sin in your life!

Jesus does not expect us to actually do this because of verse 28 which places lust in the heart. The problem is not your hands alone. If you cut off your hands, you can still burn with lust. His point is to do everything you can to kill sin and remove it from your life. Bloody hands and bloody eyes are how serious Jesus takes sin.

  • Conflicts with physical reality

Biblical Example: Matthew 7:3-5

What is Jesus main point in using hyperbole? Jesus wants his followers to not be hypocrites and never deal with their own. Jesus wants his followers to be aware of their own faults and then proceed to help others. This verse does not mean we can never point out your brother or sisters sin (7:5). Nor does this verse mean we actually have wooden planks hanging out of our eyes. But wouldn’t that be strange if we didn’t notice it?

  • Conflicts with the teachings of the speaker

Biblical Example: Matthew 10:34-39

What is Jesus’ main point here in using hyperbole? Following Jesus may cost you even the most precious of relationships. It may feel as though a sword is slicing your home in half. And that is terrible, but it may be necessary because you have to follow Jesus at whatever the costs.

See Matthew 26:47-56 – Jesus did not come to bring a sword

See Matthew 19:18-19 – Jesus tells us to honor our father and mother

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2.Parables: Personally crafted stories to make a memorable point.

There are three helpful questions to ask when reading parables:

  • Are there any unexpected twists in the story? This often gives a clue as to the main point.
  • How does this story end? This often gives a clue as to the main point.
  • Who was the parable addressed to? This often gives a clue for the reason behind the parable.

Biblical Example: Luke 15:11-32

How does it end? – v25-32 – Older brother

Who was it for? 15:1-2

What is the twist? The Jews should repent and rejoice that God is saving the Gentiles. The religious ones are not truly religious. They need to have a change of heart and rejoice in God.

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Resources and Recommended Reading: Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert Stein and 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

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Small Group Discussion:

  1. Was there anything we talked about tonight that stuck out to you in a fresh way?

  2. Do you only find yourself reading from one genre of the Bible? What type of Scripture have you never explored? Poetry, Wisdom Lit, Apocalyptic, Story (Narrative), Gospels, Letters, etc.

  3. Have you ever been shocked by something Jesus said? If so, what was it and how did you respond?

  4. Read Luke 14:26

    1. Is Jesus using hyperbole?

    2. What is his main point? (You may need to look at context)

  5. Read the parable of the pearl in Matthew 13:45-47

    1. What is the main point of this parable?

    2. What is the one pearl of great value?

    3. What does Jesus want us to do in response to this parable?

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