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Diving Deeper: Hebraic Thought versus a Devotional Approach to Bible Study

When it comes to studying the Bible, most people take a devotional approach. That is, they seek to deepen their devotion to Jesus by looking to the Bible for daily inspiration. While devotional reading has its merits, a Hebraic approach to Bible study offers a profound and intellectually stimulating alternative. In this blog, we'll explore the distinctions between these two approaches and emphasize why a Hebraic approach can be an invaluable tool for developing critical thinking skills and the art of asking probing questions about the text.

Three reasons why the devotional approach is a valuable starting point:

Before delving into the merits of a Hebraic approach, let's acknowledge the value of the devotional method:

  1. Daily Reflection: Devotional readings often provide a structured way to engage with Scripture each day, fostering spiritual growth and personal connection with the text.

  2. Encouragement and Comfort: Devotionals frequently focus on inspirational and uplifting passages, offering solace and encouragement during challenging times.

  3. Practical Application: Devotional materials often include practical applications of biblical passages, helping readers connect Scripture to their everyday lives.

Four Ways a Hebraic Approach Adds to a Devotional Approach to Develop Higher Level Thinking Skills

While the devotional approach is valuable in connecting with God, a Hebraic approach adds significant value by taking Bible study to a deeper and more intellectually engaging level. Here's how:

  1. Historical and Cultural Context: A Hebraic approach encourages readers to explore the Bible within its historical and cultural context. This deep- dive into the world of the biblical authors sheds light on the nuances and meanings of the text.

  2. Critical Thinking: Hebraic thought encourages critical thinking by posing questions that go beyond the surface level. Rather than providing ready-made answers, it invites readers to wrestle with the text, consider the merits of various interpretations, and ponder the implications of the Bible’s teachings.

  3. Asking Good Questions: Hebraic thought places a strong emphasis on asking good questions of the text. Questions like "What did this passage mean to its original audience?" or "How does this relate to other parts of the Bible?" prompt deeper exploration and understanding.

  4. Theological Depth: A Hebraic approach challenges readers to grapple with complex theological concepts, such as covenant, justice, and ethics, within the biblical narrative. This fosters a deeper and more comprehensive application of the Bible's teachings.

The Complementary Nature of Approaches:

The devotional and Hebraic approaches to Bible study are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they complement each other beautifully. A balanced approach might involve:


  • Starting with Devotion: Begin with a devotional reading to draw inspiration and find comfort in the text. Devotionals can serve as a starting point for daily reflection and prayer.

  • Deepening with Hebraic Thought: As you progress, delve deeper into specific passages using a Hebraic approach. This will enable you to unlock the historical, cultural, and theological richness of Scripture.

An Example of a Hebraic Approach to Bible Study

Matthew 9:20-22 says, “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.”

A devotional approach to this passage inspires us in our relationship with God. It tells of a very sick woman who had tremendous faith. Jesus had compassion on her, and she was healed!

A Hebraic approach yields even more insights by asking questions of the text:

  • What was the scriptural meaning of the issue of blood, and why would it be so distressing to be afflicted with it for twelve years? (see Leviticus 15:19-27).

  • What is the scriptural meaning of the fringe of a garment? (see Numbers 15:38-39).

  • What are some other Gospel passages where people touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment and were healed? (see Matthew 14:35-36).

  • What are some other scriptural passages that treat robes as spiritually important? (see 1 Samuel 15: 24-29, 1 Samuel 24:1-22, 2 Kings 2:9-14, Isaiah 61:10).

While a devotional approach to Bible study is both valid and beneficial, it shouldn't be the sole method in your toolkit. Incorporating Hebraic thought into your study routine can take you on a journey of deeper understanding, critical thinking, and profound engagement with the text. By combining these approaches, you can embrace the full spectrum of the Bible's wisdom, allowing it to enrich not only your spiritual life but also your intellectual and moral growth.

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