What historical situation/context does the passage belong to?
What historical/social/religious conditions prompted the author to write this? (was the writer
addressing a crisis/problem; what was happening that made him put pen to parchment?)
• What do you think the text was intended to do? (e.g., entertain, teach a lesson, shock, remind
people of their obligations, encourage a change of heart, criticise attitudes/behaviour)
• Are there any clues as to how the writer expects his people to react to what he has written?
• What kind of people is the passage meant for? (e.g., nomads, nobles, priests, rich, ordinary people)
• Can you comment on any historical clues contained in the passage? (e.g., mention of people, rulers,
events, lifestyles, political situations)
Describe the literary context of the passage, i.e., what goes immediately before and after this
passage that enables you to say how the passage fits into the chapter or section? This takes only a
couple of sentences.
• What literary genre does the passage belong to? Is it a piece of narrative, a genealogy, letter, curse,
pronouncement, blessing, poem, song, prophetic statement etc?
• Is there more than one form within this passage, e.g., dialogue within a narrative, curse within
prophecy, poem or quotation within a narrative?
What structure does the passage have? (e.g., is there a narrative with a beginning middle, climax,
end; is it a poem that develops in a certain direction; is there a statement with a concluding lesson
or application to life?)
• Are there episodes within the passage? How doe they relate to each other?
• Is there any relationship between sections of the passage? (e.g., does the end explain the
beginning? Are there key words or ideas that link sections of the passage?)
• Is the author the same as the narrator or has the author created a narrating character?
Identify the imagery in the passage – metaphor, exaggeration, symbolism, irony, repetition, play on
words, allusions to other events etc.
• How does the author use these figures of speech to add impact to his message?
• What is the tone of the passage – accusing, warning, joyous, thanksgiving to God, pessimistic,
• Are there markers in the text that indicate a point of view or distinctions in gender, social status,
religious commitment; are there any judgments passed on these?
What is the religious/theological message (or messages) intended by the author?
• Is this message contained in the literal meaning of the text or in some rhetorical or symbolic
• Is there more than one level of meaning in this text? Identify the levels.
• How might the original readers/listeners react to the message?
Who are the characters and what are their functions?
• Are there relationships among the characters that direct/enhance the plot or the flow of the passage?
• Is God any kind of a character in this passage? What function does God have?
• Is any of the characters developed (i.e., round characters having real human personalities)?
• Is there anything unusual about any characters, e.g., women taking leadership roles?
• Is the narrator a character?
• If there is a narrator what function does the narrator have (e.g., make reflections, pass judgement,
create an atmosphere or attitude)? Does he directly address the reader?
• Would the readers be meant to identify with any of the characters?
How do you think readers at different times might interpret this passage?
• Would the original audience understand it in the same way a modern audience?
• How would the world view of an ancient audience compare with the world view of a modern
audience (e.g., would the passage have the same relevance for moderns?)
• What life experiences might shape the way different readers interpret this passage? Would an older
person get more out of it than a younger inexperienced person? Would the text say more to a
woman than to a man? Would some people (e.g., poor, rich, gay, mother, slave, widow, priest,
persecuted, disabled) be more disturbed or uplifted than others after reading this passage?
• From an historical point of view did the passage have the effect on the audience that the author
intended, e.g., did the prophet actually change the minds of his people?
• Could the passage have a different significance for different cultural audiences (e.g., would it have
more meaning for a Middle Eastern male than for a white highly educated Anglo-American
• What spiritual insights do you personally gain from the text, or from some part of the text?