Questions Questions Questions

So what kind of questions are important to ask when you're trying to figure Jesus out? If you're going to get anything out of the bible, your mind learns how to ask three distinct kinds of questions.

Facts. Our minds first take things in at a basic level of content. What are the words saying? This gets at the speaker or writer's choice of ideas, turn of phrase, illustrations etc. In communication theory we refer to it as locution. What in fact is the person saying. Great fact questions include things like:

  • The typical reporter questions - who, what, where, when and how?
  • Who is the writers audience? In narrative writing, who is the main character and who is listening or interacting?
  • What action is taking place? What is causing it and what are the results?
  • Key words. Words I don't understand. Words that might mean something different in the passage than they do today?

Meaning. If locution is a matter of the words themselves, illocution gets at the intended meaning of those words. What is the author or speaker or actor intending to convey by what he says or does? When we speak we use our words (locution) to get what we mean from our mind into the mind of our audience. Questions that get at the meaning of what is being said are essential at this level of reading:

  • What did Jesus mean when he said, "If anyone doesn't welcome you shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them?"
  • What is the context in which words or actions are to be understood? What has been happening immediately before and after the part of the text in question?
  • How do others in the narrative understand what is being said or done based on their reaction?
  • What meaning do we see in the text? How might our desires or assumptions play into what we think a text means?
  • What is the simplest explanation that accounts for what is being said or done?

Application. Once we've clearly seen what is in the text (locution) and arrived at the best interpretation of what the author means to say by it (illuction), we have to ask the most troubling of all questions: How are we to respond. This is what we call application. Communication theorists call it Perlocution: what response or reaction is the author calling for by what he's written. Great application questions include things like:

  • Does the text make it explicit what we are to do? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
  • If the text doesn't make it quite that easy for us, what is it the passage implies believers should do - an action to follow-through on, an attitude to follow, an example to avoid, etc?
  • What truth about God is being taught that our world needs to know today?
  • How does the text challenge God's people today? What can/should Christians do differently?
  • How does what the author says challenge the broader culture of our day?