Research isn’t about gathering data. Research is a conversation, one in which you are both a contributor and a moderator.
After multiple readings, we can get “stuck in a rut;” we grow content with our prior understanding of the text and are unable to see things anew. One way to see the text differently is to see it from a different angle. Deliberately switch your reading posture (both figuratively and possibly literally).
We think exegesis is at its best when we arrive at “the answer,” when we reach “understanding,” but actually exegesis is at its best when the text seems strange and alien to us. We need to make the text strange again.
Revelation seems so difficult and confusing, but John has actually given us firm footholds in the opening of his letter. He’s guiding his readers in how Revelation is to be read.
Your audience might be under the assumption that the “original languages” are possessed with a kind of magic, a deep meaning that they cannot get from their plebian translations. In appealing to the original you may be reinforcing that conclusion, sowing the seeds of distrust of translation, or worse, cultivating mistaken conclusions about biblical interpretation.
As a working guideline, then, I propose we evaluate translations on the basis of three criteria. A good translation (1) has a well-defined, well-reasoned, and useful translation philosophy, (2) applies that philosophy consistently over the “many parts and various ways” God has spoken to us in his word (Heb. 1:1), and (3) uses the “best of what’s around” to understand the original Hebrew and Greek text. The NLT gets an “A” in all three of these categories, as I will establish in a bit.
When we shine a bright light upon the shape of James, the shadow that is cast is inevitable that of Jesus. So here we meet Jesus yet again because here we find his values and actions described for us. Read James, then, and meditate on how these verses reflect the perfections of your redeemer.
“I’m really struggling to preach about Jesus from the book of James.” A Sunday School teacher at our church recently approached me about the topic. The class is enjoying the book, and so is the teacher, but it’s become apparent that it’s hard to “get to Jesus” through typical exegetical methods. “I feel like every week I preach Christ the same way: ‘James commands us to do this or that, I consistently fail to do this or that, and so Jesus forgives me for this or that.’ Am I missing something?”