An early-morning inductive Bible study on the book of James will start Wednesday, Sept. 12. The study is focused on youth and young adults, but all are welcome! Jamie Jordan and Jonathan Kleppinger will be the leaders.
Classes will start promptly at 7 a.m. in MMC 212 (coffee will be around!) and end by 7:40 a.m. to allow students to get to school. Rides to school can likely be provided if you ask ahead of time.
This will involve a little more than most Bible-study groups as we dig deeper into the book of James, how it’s written, what the author is trying to communicate, questions we have, and more. Homework will be assigned, and a bulk of class time will be spent discussing the homework assignments.
Class will meet every Wednesday morning through Nov. 14, with the exception of Oct. 10, when Madison County Schools is on fall break. We encourage you to get involved early in the semester and attend as often as you can, as much of the work we do will build upon the work from previous weeks.
Wednesday, Sept. 12
At our first session, we reviewed what “inductive Bible study” is: paying special attention to context (in a passage, in a chapter, in a book, in the Bible) and going through the steps of observation, interpretation and application.
Homework for Sept. 19:
Read the whole book of James in one sitting with as few distractions as possible. (If you would like the copy with no chapter/verse numbers or headings, find it here.) Write or type answers to the following questions.
- What was your overall impression? How did this make you feel? What mood did it put you in?
- Why do you think the author wrote this book? What’s the main point?
- If you were in charge of dividing this book into chapters and sections with titles, how would you do it? Break it into sections (probably none shorter than a paragraph and none longer than a whole page) and give each one a title.
- What themes did you notice? What topics kept coming up?
Wednesday, Sept. 19
So we’ve entered into this Inductive Bible Study (IBS) with a “book survey” (letter survey?) of James and you all did great! What a difference it makes to read it all at once! We’re starting to get in touch with how it’s supposed to be read. You shared your thoughts about how it impacted you. You thought through the flow and divided it into your own chapters. IBS isn’t easy but again, you all did a fine job!
For the second assignment, due September 26, we’re going to look deeper into the first segment we identified in James. You may have divided it differently (and that’s fine!) but let’s define the first segment as James 1:2-18. (Verse 1:1 is an introduction to the letter and it’s pretty obvious that James shifts topics in verse 19.) You are encouraged to mark this segment on your handouts and use them for this assignment. See the link in the first assignment if you need the scripture without subheadings and numbers.
- Read and re-read this segment (1:2-18). What do you feel from this? Why would James open his letter this way? What challenges do you think the “brothers and sisters” were facing?
- Give a title to each paragraph. The titles should be as few words as possible yet reflect the topic.
- Looking at your titles, what flow do you observe in what he’s written?
- What literary devices do you observe in this segment?
- contrast – differences
- comparison – similarities
- repetition / recurrence – something mentioned over and over (e.g. “brothers and sisters” throughout the letter)
- climax – the point of highest importance or intensity
- thesis statement – a verse that summarizes the segment
- Some combination of the above?
- With all of this in mind, what do you think James is saying to the “brothers and sisters” in this segment?
Wednesday, Sept. 26
We reviewed our section-survey assignment (1:2-18). This may have felt a lot like the first assignment, which it should — both were surveys. Now we move on to a different kind of work: a detailed observation. This will involve looking at a smaller sample of text, making specific observations and then asking specific observations about those questions. Here’s the assignment:
- Review the book as a whole quickly. This could mean reading your assignments again or glancing through the text or whatever helps you remember what’s going on in this book. We want to establish the context of where we’re going.
- Read James 1:16-18 slowly and deliberately a few times. Make sure you’re hearing every word.
- Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label the left side “observations” and the right side “questions.” (Or do this on a computer or other device if you have to — but the two separate columns is really useful.)
- Make an observation about this passage or part of this passage. Don’t overthink it — this is just you “observing” what you see. (We used James 1:1 as an example in class; an observation there could just be “James writes that the letter is ‘to the 12 tribes.'”) Write your observation in — you guessed it — the observations column.
- Ask all the questions that come to mind about this observation (for instance, in our example, “Why is he writing to the 12 tribes? Who are the 12 tribes? Why is he writing only to them? What should other people who hear it do?”). Write all these questions in the questions column adjacent to your observation. REMEMBER that you are not worried about answering these questions right now. It’s OK to be intrigued by some questions and hold on to them for later, but for this assignment, you are only observing and asking.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you run out of observations and questions.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
Reminder: There will be no IBS James meeting on Wednesday, October 10, due to county’s fall break.
For the assignment due October 17, we’re going to move from observation to interpretation. So we’re going from observing things to uncovering the meaning to the original audience. Our interpretation will be based on one of the questions that arose from your detailed observation of James 1:16-18. In other words, you’ll answer the question: In James 1:16, what is the deception James is warning the “brothers and sisters” of? It’s a good question as it seems to be at the heart of what James is trying to communicate!
You’ll try to find the answer to this question primarily from the book of James. Just as you used a two-column format for the observation, you may find it best to make two columns during this interpretation. Label the left column “Evidence.” This is where you’ll record the evidence you uncover from scripture that seems relevant to the question. Label the right column “Inference.” In this column, record your inferences (conclusions) you draw from the evidence. You may not be sure about your inferences. Record them anyway!
evidence: The word “deceive” also occurs in verses 1:22 and 1:26.
inference: The theme of not being deceived continues past verse 16 so those verses may be relevant.
evidence: The same Greek word for “deceive” in 1:16 is the same word for “wander” in 5:19.
inference: The topic of 5:19 (wandering from the truth = into sin) might be related to 1:16.
evidence: In the context, the following verse (1:17) speaks of “every good and perfect gift.”
inference: Whatever “every good and perfect gift” is, it and perhaps the source of that gift is crucial to our answer.
Below are some questions to help you through the process of interpretation. Do your best to find evidence that leads you to a solid conclusion!
1. What key words are in verse 1:16 that might help answer our question? Are those key words used elsewhere in James? In the NT?
2. What is the context around verse 1:16? How does that contribute evidence?
3. What can we tell about the author’s purpose for writing? What is the circumstance of those that James is addressing? What evidence might that provide?
4. Are there other parts of the Bible that might contribute to the answer? Either from the NT or OT?
Once you’ve thought through the evidence and the inferences, write out your answer to the question, “In James 1:16, what is the deception James is warning the ‘brothers and sisters’ of?”