Interpretation Questions that Make Anyone Look Like a Genius!

There are two types of Bible Study questions. Ones that invite participation and open dialogue, and others that throw a wet blanket on conversation and leave the leader paralyzed in the discomfort of silence. I don’t know about you, but I prefer lively conversation when I lead small group discussions. If that’s what you want too, then, how do you phrase a question that will invite participation?

Seeking to Understand

This is Part #2 in a three-part series,”3 Steps to Well-Crafted Outdoor Bible Study Questions,” that specifically answers that question. In the last blog we looked at observation questions and how they help participants look at the passage and get a basic understanding of what is going on or what is being taught. Now we will look at step two: Interpretation Questions. These questions seek to understand the meaning of the passage.

The Anatomy of Brilliant Interpretation Questions

Here are the basic goals of a good interpretation question that not only helps the participant understand the meaning of the passage, but also creates an environment where even people who have almost no familiarity with the Bible will feel welcome and invited to take part in the conversation:

  • Help discover the meaning of the text (to become an expert on what this passage is teaching)
  • Help discover the purpose of the author
  • Takes facts and builds on answers to the observation questions
  • Why?  (Ask this question carefully by adding words like “some reasons why”, “why might”, etc.)
  • Are there any words or phrases which need definition?
  • How do we define these terms?  (You might even bring a short list of vocabulary words with their definitions from a Bible Dictionary for them to look up to understand the passage better)
  • What is the significance of any of the observations you have made in the earlier observation questions?
  • What is the main point of the passage?
  • What was the author trying to get across in this passage?
  • What are some ideas about one of the most important things this passage communicates?

4 Tricks of the Trade

  1. One tool I’ve found very helpful is to preface your questions with the phrase, “According to the passage”. This helps the participants keep their exploration of the meaning confined to what the text is actually teaching.
  2. Often a good general question that works if you are lacking creativity in the moment is just to ask, “How might you summarize what this passage teaches?”
  3. Use open-ended questions (not one right answer or Yes/No only)
  4. A good interpretation question helps the participant to explore the meaning of the passage

Examples of Interpretation Questions

Mark 2:1-12

  • What are some reasons why Jesus might have spoken to the paralyzed man about sin before dealing with his physical need?
  • Why do you think he healed the paralyzed man?

Ephesians 2:1-10

  • According to the passage, what does it mean to be spiritually “dead” and “alive”?
  • According to the passage, what are the sources of influence on each?
  • How might you define in your own words “grace” and “faith”?

Psalm 37

  • According to the passage who are the “good” and who are the “wicked”?
  • What does it seem that the person writing this Psalm believes about each of these two kinds of people?
  • What are some reasons why the person writing this Psalm believes that his readers would want to trust in the Lord?

Action Step

  • Write your own question for one of the passages above.
  • Evaluate whether your question passes the test of the 4 Tricks of the Trade above.  If so then this is a GOOD INTERPRETATION QUESTION.

Other Posts in this Series, “3 Steps to Writing Well-Crafted Outdoor Bible Study Questions”


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