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This study of Mark might be a bit different than you are used to.
It is not a book with the author’s opinion, interpretation or agenda being the focus of the pages. It is not an academic commentary with each piece of Scripture explained in detail, although those were used in the creation of this study.
This study is focused on reading Scripture in light of Scripture and asking questions to better understand what God is saying about Himself, about us, about the world, and about His plan. In this study, I’m not going to tell you what Scripture says. Instead, you will be prompted to answer that for yourself through guided questions.
Check it out in the sample below.
Sample of Week 1: Day 1
Read Mark 1:1-15
- Who was John preparing the way for? What does verse 3 specifically say?
- Read Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3
- In Isaiah, notice the capitalization of LORD. What does this mean? (Outside Research)
- What does this say about Jesus in the opening verses of Mark?
- Who is he?
- Why was John baptizing people? (verse 4)
- What prepares people to see Jesus?
- What is the difference between the way John offers the forgiveness of sins and the traditional way Jews would have pursued forgiveness at this time?
- What’s missing? (Hebrews 9:22)
- What is anticipated? (John 1:29, Hebrews 7:26-27)
- Why was Jesus baptized if he never sinned? (Matthew 3:13-15)
- What does it mean to “fulfill all righteousness?” A few possibilities to consider:
- This the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the hand-off from John to Jesus (Luke 1:17)
- This showed John that Jesus was the promised Messiah (John 1:32-33)
- The baptism of Jesus symbolized the coming crucifixion and resurrection (Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50, Romans 6:3-4)
Although we are all theologians in one way or another, I do not claim to be an expert in theology or history. I am, however, a teacher by trade, and have used those skills in the creation of this study. I have also relied heavily on the work of others for multiple perspectives and cultural insight on this Gospel. My primary sources have been R.T. France’s commentary in his book “The Gospel of Mark“, David Gusik’s online commentary, and Mike Winger’s Mark Video Series. The last two in that list are both free online and very easy to access if you would like to do your own study of commentaries.
What is Inductive Bible Study?
This study is done with an informal use of inductive Bible study. Usually, Inductive Bible Study is independent and the reader comes up with all the questions. With this study, I have already provided questions to guide you that are based on the method described below. You are more than welcome to add your own as well!
Inductive Bible Study uses three steps, which you will recognize in the questions as we go.
This is the first read through of the text and covers the surface level questions.
In this step, you should ask:
- WH- questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?)
- Is there repetition?
- Comparisons and contrasts?
- Changes in location or time?
- Cause and effect?
If you are a visual person and like to organize ideas visually, this can be a good time to use different colors to make note of these basic observations. For example, if there is a phrase repeated in a section, highlight this in blue (or whatever other color you choose). A cause and effect? Yellow. You get the idea. This can be a great technique to help us notice little details we didn’t before.
What does the text mean? This may require a bit more involvement on the reader’s part and occasionally a small amount of outside research.
In this step, you should ask:
- What is the context of the passage in history and culture?
- What does the rest of the Bible have to say about this topic that can help me understand?
- Am I making assumptions that the text does not say?
- What is the clearest reading of this text?
This is a good time to write down your own questions about the meaning of the passage. It is also a good time for caution. This can be the place where people tend to impose their own ideas onto Scripture instead of letting Scripture speak for itself.
If you are uncomfortable with something the Bible says, that’s okay. We are not all-knowing like God, nor a perfect sense of justice and love. While it’s okay to be uncomfortable with a passage, it is not okay to try to change it to make it mean something else simply to make it more palatable.
I would recommend putting a special mark next to a passage you are uncomfortable with, or writing down a question about it and doing more outside research. What are other people saying about this passage? What are their reasons? Can they back up their interpretation with scripture read correctly in context? How does this view fit within historic Christianity?
If something is confusing or uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. Make a note and then come back and study it.
What are you going to do with this information? Does the passage apply to you or is it specific to the someone else in the passage? Is there a call to action? Is there an area or an idea you need to repent of? How does this apply to you or others today? What does this passage tell you about God and His heart?
For this step, you can use the Wh- questions again, but in a slightly different way.
- Who is this written to? Is it just to the Jews or is it also to Gentiles? Is it to a specific person, a specific group or all people? Is it to Christians or to non-Christians?
- What am I specifically called to do? What did I learn about God from this passage?
- When are we called to apply this passage? Is there a specific time suggested?
- Is there a specific location for the action/application?
- Why did this happen? Why did God choose this course of action? Why did a person react a specific way and would I have reacted similarly or differently? Why did God choose to include this as part of Scripture?
- How did this passage affect the whole storyline of the Bible? How would I understand God differently if this passage wasn’t a part of the Bible? How does this passage change the way I understand God and His plans?
There are so many more questions you can ask depending on the passage, but the main idea here is how does your observation and interpretation of God’s Word change you?
One danger in Scripture is to start to think that every passage is about you; That when God blesses Solomon with wealth, that is a promise He extends to all who believe in Him as well. We know from the rest of Scripture that this is not true, with Jesus himself being poor and other faithful people of God living in poverty (Matthew 12:41-44, Luke 9:58, Luke 16:19-22.) That this specific promise was only to Solomon.
Remember that the main purpose of the Bible is first to tell us who God is, what He has done and what He will do. There are instructions and promises for us there too, but be cautious that you are correctly adopting promises and instructions meant for all Christians and not promises and instructions made to a specific person.
How to Use this Study
A few tips for how to best use this study:
- The study is usually divided into 6 days of reading and one day for group discussion. There are a few weeks with questions on Day 7, but I tried to avoid that for most of it.
- At times, a small amount of outside research is required. For these, a quick search online should be sufficient.
- Discussing in a group is almost always a good idea! Bounce your answers off each other and see what others thought of the passages.
- There are many cross-references. This is a part of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. How does the rest of the Bible help me understand what is being said here? I highly recommend looking up these passages, as they’ve been selected very intentionally.
- Not every question has a firm answer. Some of these questions are big debates within Christianity and may not have a clear answer within Scripture. I try to note when that is the case. It’s completely okay to say “This is my opinion based on these Scriptures, but I don’t know for sure yet.” Maybe we will know for sure one day, or maybe we’ll have to save that one for heaven.
- Add your own questions! Share those in the comments!
- If you have a question you would like to ask me, you can email me at notatheologianblog @ gmail.com
I hope you’ll join me in this study!