Step # 03: Establish the Historical Context.

Step 3: Perform a historical analysis of the book and write your own introduction. ; Historical context will vary from one book to another.  An understanding of the historical background of a document will greatly enhance your understanding of it.  In fact, since everything must be interpreted in context, you cannot truly understand the meaning of a biblical book without historical background.

Read the book over at least eight times looking for answers to one major question each reading.  Each of the following questions should be considered.  (1) What does the book tell me about its writer–who he was; his circumstances; the kind of person he was?  (2) What does the book tell me about the recipients–who they were; their circumstances; their problems; their needs; their questions; their lack of knowledge; the kind of people they were?  (3) When was it written?  Since books do not give their dates, you will need to consult some other book of introduction to establish the date.  However, you should search the book for every implication relating to the time of its writing.  In regard to the epistles, “Acts of Apostles” will provide valuable information relevant to time.  (4) What was the occasion for this writing?  Try to discover what was going on that caused the writer to write.  Seek to establish the needs, problems, or question with which the writer was trying to help.  (5) What was the purpose of the writing of the book?  The purpose (or purposes) will usually be closely related to the occasion.  The book will likely offer solutions to their problems and answers to their questions to meet their needs.  It is what the writer expects to accomplish by what he writes.  (6) What is the theme or thesis (i.e., big idea) of the book?  The perception of the theme drawn at this time will be tentative.  The theme will become clearer and more definite when the structural analysis is done.  However, reading repeated words and phrases and the dominant ideas of the book gives insights into the message of the book.  (7) What are some key words and phrases in the book?  List words and ideas that are repeated throughout the book.  As already pointed out, this will indicate theme and even purpose.  (8) What are some characteristics of the book?  The book might be characterized by argumentation, exhortation, the formal presentation of a theme, prayers, poetry, Old Testament quotations, or some other quality.  It may reflect gentle encouragement, strong rebuke, desire to inform, strong feelings and emotion, personal concern, disappointment, or other motives and emotions.

As you discover information relating to one of the above questions, write down the reference where found and make annotations of the information found.  Information might have been revealed directly and explicitly or indirectly and implicitly.  Implied information is true and valuable too.  By writing interpretive summaries of the information you discovered by this analysis, you write your own introduction to the book.

The introduction that results from this analysis is not the primary objective.  The familiarity with the book gained by the analysis is the chief objective and will be invaluable as you continue your study.  Once this is done, put the notes in a notebook so that you can refer to them every time you study from the book about which your introduction is written.

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