Postcard from Palestine

  • Andrew Reid
  • 13 September 2013

God has a message for us — a message about himself and us and the world and everything that's important in life. The only trouble is that this message was originally delivered several thousand years ago in Palestine. Postcard from Palestine shows you how God's Word, originally delivered so long ago and so far away, is still addressed to us today. Author Andrew Reid provides examples and practical 'hands on' exercises, so that you can see how to make the most of reading the Bible, and then try it for yourself. Postcard from Palestine can be completed in a weekly study group in just 8 sessions.

Key benefits

  • A simple, but thorough, Bible reading method.
  • Follow the author as he applies the principles to the study of Jonah.
  • Hands-on methodology—learn by doing (studying a book of the Bible: Titus).
  • An ideal introduction for new Christians or a great training for more mature Christians taking up Bible teaching roles (such as small group leadership).

About the author

Andrew Reid became the Vicar at Holy Trinity Doncaster, Victoria, in May 2010. Prior to this, Andrew lectured at Ridley Melbourne in Old Testament, Hebrew, and hermeneutics. Before that he worked in IT as a network and systems administrator while leading an independent evangelical church plant at Curtin University in Perth. He has also been the senior pastor of St Matthews Anglican Church in Shenton Park, WA, Anglican Chaplain at Macquarie University, and National Director of the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES).

Andrew is also the author of a number of Christian books on the Old Testament, hermeneutics, and apologetics and has a passionate interest in helping people understand the Old Testament as Christian scripture.

Getting started

The librarian disappeared into some inner sanctum which the uninitiated like me could never enter. Minutes later, he appeared holding the huge tome. Carefully he placed it in front of me, watched me put on the white gloves, and left me to revel in the ancient splendour of a Wyclif Bible. This John Wyclif was the morning star of the English reformation. He and his followers were convinced of the importance of making the Bible available in English and so they gave us the first Bible in our language.

Today the spiritual descendants of Wyclif have given us such a bewildering array of Bibles in our own language that the Bible is now well and truly within the grasp of everyone. There are now Bibles for children, Bibles for students, Bibles for married people, Bibles that do all the work for you, right down to applying it for you. Yet, for many of us, the Bible is still a closed book. We have stopped reading and interpreting the Bible and left it to the experts, whether they be in the pulpit or in the ever-increasing margins of our study Bibles.

This study guide is written with the conviction that the Bible is an open book for all. It is not for a special brand of people with inside knowledge. It is for us. We have minds and we have God’s Spirit. We can be our own biblical interpreters. Moreover, it is written with the conviction that while diligent and hard work is needed to fathom the riches and wonders of God’s word, the skills needed to accomplish this are easy to learn and available to anyone who is keen to learn.

It needs to be said that this study guide does not attempt to be a comprehensive guide to biblical interpretation and the science of biblical hermeneutics. If you are keen to learn more in these areas I have provided a graded reading list in appendix 1. The list of books provided includes a section on the interaction between modern literary theory and biblical studies.

The structure of what follows is simple. I have devised a method of reading the Bible which covers the major principles of interpretation. The approach is to introduce these principles, provide some examples of them in action (the ‘examples’ section of each study), and then provide you with some exercises where you put the principles into action yourself (the ‘hands on’ section). For my part, I’m going to work through the Old Testament book of Jonah in the ‘examples’ section, while you work through the New Testament book of Titus in the ‘hands on’ section.

How to use this guide

Although individuals can certainly use this guide on their own, it is designed to be done under the supervision of someone skilled in biblical interpretation (e.g. a qualified leader in your church or parachurch organization). If you intend working through the material in a group or course, we suggest that you have eight sessions of 60-90 minutes.

If you are studying on your own

Read through the material in Postcard From Palestine, one session to a sitting. Try to summarize what you have read.

When you feel you have a good grasp of the ideas, turn to the example where I work through Jonah. Read this as an example of how to put the principles discussed into practice. (Warning: some of the examples can seem pretty tough. They give you an indication of the sort of ‘deep’ study you can do, but it isn’t expected that everyone will undertake this sort of analysis.) Then turn to the ‘hands on’ section and work through the questions. You might find it helpful to show your work to an understanding friend, to get some feedback.

If you are studying in a group

Before each session each member should read the material for the coming session and work through the ‘hands on’ exercises. Wide margins have been left for notes, questions and comments to be jotted throughout the text. Write your answers to the ‘hands on’ material in this guide. This is a book to be written on.

When the group gets together, discuss your notes and questions from the text and the ‘examples’, and compare answers for the ‘hands on’ material.

If you are leading a group

If you are leading a group that is studying this book, then bearing the following things in mind will assist the group to run smoothly:

  • Make sure everyone knows each other.
  • Start each session on time!
  • Begin and/or end the meeting in prayer, asking for God’s guidance in understanding and applying the material in each session.
  • Encourage participation through inviting contributions to discussion and affirming people within the group. Don’t let the more vocal or knowledgeable people dominate (this includes you!).
  • Guide the discussion so that you stay on the topic. If there is a question you can’t answer, then suggest somewhere the group can look for further information.
  • Summarize the content of the study at the conclusion of each session.
  • Finish each session on time!

The distinctive thing about this guide is its hands-on approach, and I cannot stress too strongly the importance of doing the hands-on material. In fact, a large reason for revising this book was to make this activity more manageable than it was in the first edition. Breaking the bad reading habits of a Christian lifetime is not done easily or quickly. Put in the work now, and reap the benefits for years to come.