In our ongoing video series of advice to students from biblical scholars, Daniel Block, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College and author of Deuteronomy (NIVAC), says the most important lesson he has learned, which he learned back in seminary, is "When you are wrestling with biblical texts, wrestle with the texts."
In other words, wrestle with the Bible first, then commentaries.
Biblical studies isn’t a spectator sport, so don’t let your commentaries do all your wrestling for you. Get in the ring with the text.
I understand well this pull toward merely engaging with people who comment on the text, rather than simply the text itself. I attended seminary around the corner from a bookstore with infamous discounts, and in my early months I'd scoop up as many discounted commentary gems I could in order to give me a leg up on the text. Before I knew better I'd turn to them before turning to the passage of Scripture itself. Block advises otherwise.
"The most important thing that young scholars and students can get," Block encourages, "is a method of inductive wrestling with the text." Now this isn't to say you shouldn't also wrestle with commentaries; Block wouldn't say that because he wrote one himself! But induction should rule our method of Scriptural engagement, not deduction.
So what is your method for wrestling with the Holy Scriptures? Do you come to the text with a set of questions and presuppositions hammered and honed by commentaries? Or do you let it speak for itself? Consider Block's advice in the video below and then consider your own method for wrestling with the text.
-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)
"My Advice to Students" is a weekly video series designed to advise and guide students who are studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their seasoned wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.
(Can't see the video? Watch it, here)