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Home > Dr. Favelo on How to Study the Bible

Dr. Favelo Speaks to Students on How to Study the Bible

September 10th, 2012

By Sara Foss.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Dr. Doug Favelo speaking to students in Friday's chapel

Rather than deliver a standard exegetical message on the assigned text for this Friday’s chapel service, Patrick Henry College’s Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Douglas Favelo, chose to use John 3:9-21 as an example by which to teach students his preferred method of Bible study.

He began with three fundamental questions to ask in order to avoid isogesis, or reading into the text. These are location, genre, and when it happened.

Next, “Read with pen in hand. You can mark up the Bible. It’s ok,” Favelo said. And though the Bible is inexhaustible, it’s best to focus on small chunks, asking, “What should I draw out right now?”

Favelo makes use of the resources available to 21st century Bible readers, starting with the different translations available, but also extending to a plethora of commentaries.

Favelo then moved to his observations on the assigned text. He sympathized with Nicodemus’s confusion at the question of rebirth.

“I mean Jesus is the Savior. He can do whatever he wants, but sometimes, I mean, just answer straight!” Favelo said. He then admitted looking up every use of “anothen,” or “on high,” in ancient texts, searching for contextual illumination.

“The commentators look as confused as Nicodemus,” said Favelo with a grin. “Some say not answering the way he wanted was exactly what Nicodemus needed for his hard heart.”

Favelo then cautioned students against the same symptom in quickly judging the actions of Bible characters, such as Peter, who is often chastised.

“It’s easy for us to run behind Jesus saying, ‘Yeah, give it to ‘em, Jesus. Call ‘em bad names.’”

The outside resources are usually a great deal more helpful. Favelo, well-versed in the classical languages, described Ancient Greek as, “No capitals, and no punctuation— just all like Facebook shouting.” Their words were also a bit more complicated.

“The Greeks had a really awesome word for belief—pisteuôn. You can say it with a snooty accent too,” Favelo said. He explained that it means belief in which faith is an implied direct object. For instance, in the phrase “I believe in you,” belief is the indirect object through which the noun is passing on its way to the direct object, faith.

This is the word used in John 3:16.

“Every time you read a paragraph,” said Favelo in conclusion, “what’s the one thing?”