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“You Don’t Know Scripture!” (Who do you think said that?) Mark 12

It was Jesus - he blasted the Pharisees for not knowing what they should have known.

Mark 12 is designed as one big chiastic structure (for more on that see this link: In such literary designs, the central part is typically the focus or emphasis. The central portion of Mark 12 is verse 24 where Jesus tells the Pharisees that “you are wrong…you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.”


That is ironic, of course, because the Pharisees, in their rejection of Hellenism (for more on that see this link:, fled north to the area of Galilee to set up schools that would prepare the Pharisees to master the text. Here’s the irony: They did know the text, but they didn’t know the One that the text pointed to. John puts it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (5:39-40).

So, we want to study scripture, but we don’t want to end up eye to eye with Jesus hearing that we don’t understand it.

What to do?

Well, today we find no shortage of creative ways to approach the study of scripture. Here are a few that I’ve either used or recommended.

#1 The Icons Bible Study Method (Group or individual context)

A Bullseye: what is t he central idea of the passage?

A light bulb: anything that shines out in the passage and draws attention; it can be something important, or something that particularly strikes you.

A question mark: anything that is hard to understand; something that you would like to be able to ask the author about.

An arrow: anything that applies personally to your life.

A speech bubble: names of people you know that might benefit if you shared with them what you learned.

#2 From “One 2 One” we have the “COMA” method:

  • ContextWhat are the surrounding issues or background? What has just happened?

  • ObservationBe a detective, look for Who, What, Why, Where, When and How.

  • Meaning – Here’s the key question that will keep us on track: What did the original author want the original audience to do or think differently as a result of reading this passage? Any passage of scripture has one meaning, but many applications.

  • Application – What is asked of me? Do I have an attitude to change? Thoughts to embrace or challenge? What should I do as a result of reading this passage?

  • For more see;

#3 S.O.A.P.(S.) (Sometimes with the S, sometimes not)

  • Scripture.

  • Observation.

  • Application.

  • Prayer.

  • (Share). Share what you have learned with someone else.

What’s the best one? The one that you will use consistently.

In Mark 12, the Pharisees knew the context, they knew the scriptures exceptionally well, they made excellent observations, the debated questions and possible interpretations of scripture all day, every day - that was their job. Yet the step they missed is the step we too frequently miss: Application.

Doing is harder than debating.

Application should never be divorced from context, observation, and interpretation. Application without context, observation and interpretation gets weird (because you will just be making stuff up). Context, observation and interpretation without application lands you in Phariseeville.

As we study God’s word, I’d encourage us all to intentionally take more time at the Application step this week. Let’s see what God would have us do, as a result of abiding in Him securely as we read his word. And, let’s be expectant that reading God’s word will lead us to abundant life in Jesus.

PS – Pro Tip.

When we study, we will run into passages that are just plain confusing – here are two helpful sites that are accurate, understandable and accessible on your phone!


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