How to Interpret the Bible*
- Identify (list) all the individuals and groups mentioned in Luke 1, write the verse number, and describe the role of each person or group (warning: there are many!).
many, v. 1 – others had written a narrative
us, v. 1 – Luke and other believers involved in fulfillment of the Story
those, v. 2 – as stated in this verse the eyewitnesses, ministers of the word
me, v. 3 – Luke
you, v. 3 – Theophilus, the recipient of Luke’s written narrative
Herod, v. 5 – the king of Judea
priest, v. 5 – Zacharias the priest
division of Abijah, v. 5 – Zacharias’ ancestral, priestly line
wife, v. 5 – Elizabeth
daughters of Aaron, v. 5 – Elizabeth’s lineage
they, v. 6 – Zacharias and Elizabeth, who were righteous before God
God, v. 6 – the Lord
- From Luke 1, note repetition of words (names, actions, or events).
Example: do not be afraid/fear (vv. 13, 30, 50, 65)
- Do you see any contrasting ideas, people, or items in Luke 1?
Example: Luke wrote in detail/Zacharias wrote simply
Example: Zacharias doubted/Mary submitted
- Compare some of the people, places, things.
Example: Angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias/Mary
Example: Mary’s praise (1:46-55) and Zacharias’ praise (1:68-79)
- What are the figures of speech in:
1:7 & 18 – Example: advanced in years
17 – Example: turn the hearts
22 & 62 –
- Conjunction: In 1:76, we see the conjunction, “and.” What is going on before that? …After that?
Example: Note that the conjunction “and” transitions from Zacharias’ praise for Jesus first to praise for his own son second.
- Verbs, pronouns (antecedent: part of a sentence that is later replaced by a pronoun)
Example: “John loves his dog,” in which the antecedent is “John.”
Example: In verse 21, “And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.”
- Questions & answers?
Example: Verses 34-35 – Mary asks, “How can this be?” and the angel answers, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…”
- Means, purpose, results?
Example: In verses 68-75, Zacharias praises God who through the mouth of His holy prophets (means) would save Israel from their enemy (purpose), that Israel might serve Him (result).
- General-to-specific and specific-to-general:
Example: In verses 39-40, Mary arose and went into the hill country, to the city of Judah, to the house of Zacharias.
- Conditional clause:
Example: See verses 1-4. Because others took it in hand to write a narrative, Luke decided to do so as well since he had perfect knowledge of the story.
- Actions/roles of God…
Example: Identify how God makes Himself known as the Triune God (Father is implied in verse 32; Son is definitely seen, as in verses 31-32; and Holy Spirit is made known in verse 35).
- Actions/roles of people:
Example: The role of the priest in verse 9 was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Dig deeper and read Exodus 30 to discover other actions taken by the priest in the temple to get an idea of what Zacharias had to do.
- Where are emotional terms used in Luke 1?
Example: In verse 58, Elizabeth’s relatives rejoiced with her when she gave birth.
- Identify the tone.
Example: In verses 39-56, a celebratory tone is set: Mary visits Elizabeth, John leaps in the womb, Elizabeth praises the “fruit” of Mary’s womb, Mary praises, Mary stays with her cousin three months. There is a picture of joy, gladness, worship, praise, adoration, and affirmation from God of His holy work in the lives of these two women.
- Identify a chiastic arrangement.
Example: Read Luke 1:11-22. Here is a suggested chiasm:
11 – angel appears in the temple
12 – Zacharias was troubled, afraid
13 – his prayer was heard
14 – gladness
15 – John, great
16 – John will turn children…
17 – John will turn hearts of father…
18 – Zacharias & Elizabeth, old and feeble
19 – glad tidings
20 – things (birth) will take place, be fulfilled
21 – people marveled
22 – Zacharias left the temple
- Interchange: Does a passage shift back and forth between scenes or characters?
Example: In verses 59-66, the conversations and the scenes change back and forth between individuals (Elizabeth or Zacharias) and “they” or “them” (the friends and relatives).
- How do paragraphs/episodes connect to each other in Luke 1?
Example: Verses 14-17, the angel’s revelation to Zacharias, connects with Zacharias remembering the promise of what his son would do or be, in verses 76-79.
- Does Luke prepare his readers to understand a dramatic shift in the story?
Example: In verse 6, Luke describes the faithful lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and though Zacharias stumbled at first to believe the angel’s message, the two had a son even in their old age. Verse 6 helps prepare the reader for something miraculous to happen.
- Note a perceived inclusio in Luke 1.
Example: In the beginning of the chapter, Zacharias was found serving in the temple. At the end of the chapter, his son John was found “serving” in the desert. Both were doing what they were called to do, where they were called to do.
* Based on a series of Wednesday evening studies presented by my pastor, Dr. Ken Parker (Kearney First Baptist Church, MO), using the book, Grasping God’s Word (J. Scott Duvall & J. Daniel Hays).