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How to use a commentary, Why Nicodemus met Jesus at night.

Updated on June 3, 2014

Whenever someone writes their opinion on the meaning of a passage of scripture, it is called a commentary. Commentaries can be a very useful tool when we are trying to discern what the Bible means so we can better apply it to our lives. They can give us a good historical background to events in the Bible and explain the culture and customs behind them. They can also explain the meanings of certain words used in the Bible and the significance of their use. Most commentators will give you their opinion of what the scripture passage means and advice on how to respond. You may also be referred to other scriptures in the Bible that discuss the same theme or story you are reading. Most books and articles that you read about the bible are commentaries, including my own hubs.

The important thing to remember about commentaries is that they are the result of someone’s personal research and opinion. There is always a chance that person is wrong. For this reason, it is important to read several different commentaries to get a better picture of the possible meanings of scripture, and then decide for yourself what you believe. Do not be afraid to do this. God gave us each a brain, and if you have accepted Christ as your savior, you also have the Holy Spirit to help you discern what the Bible is saying. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and has the job of teaching us and helping us. Even if you have not accepted Christ, you can ask the Holy Spirit to help you.

It is always a good idea to start off each study session with prayer, asking God to show you the truth. Read the passage of scripture and ask yourself the three questions; “what does it say, what does this mean, and what does this mean to me?” Try to come up with your own explanation and application. Then you can look at several commentaries and compare their different opinions to yours. Compare everything back to the Bible. This is your measuring line of truth. Sometimes you will discover that what you believe is very different from the commentaries. This is ok. Pray about it and decide if the disagreement is over a fundamental issue important to your faith. For example, there is a difference of opinion as to why Nicodemus met Jesus at night. I have my own idea, some commentators agree and several have a different reason. This is not an important issue to my faith. I really don’t care why they met at night and I am quite happy to agree to disagree, and understand that I may be wrong. A difference like this is usually not worth spending a lot of time on. However, you might read something that is totally new to you, such as the fact that Jesus existed before he was born of the Virgin Mary. This is new information for many believers who never really thought about it. This would be important to our faith. Since Jesus is God, he must have the qualities of God, one of which is being Eternal. In this case you would want to search the bible for evidence of Jesus’ existence before his time here on earth. It would definitely be worth taking the time to get to know Jesus better in this way. This is one area where several cults will try to deceive you in. Being able to define and defend your beliefs protects you from being deceived.

When it comes to history and customs, most commentators should agree and be able to document where they got their information. This usually forms the basis for their opinions and can really be helpful to us with understanding what the meaning of scripture is. Always look at their explanations and decide if they make sense or not. Ask yourself if they are able to support their views with the Bible or if they just made them up because they sound good. It is always best to define your beliefs with what the Bible says. Commentaries can be a great tool, but they should never replace the real thing.

Now, about Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus at night, some commentators will tell us that he was afraid to be seen with Jesus during the day. Jesus had not gained popularity with the other Pharisees with his escapades at the temple during Passover. The Pharisees in general may have shunned Nicodemus for associating with the “enemy”. While this may be true, it is my personal opinion that there were better reasons to meet at night. I would hope that a member of the Sanhedrin would not be easily intimidated by his peers. Also, Nicodemus indicates that there are others who feel as he does about Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. His position also makes it natural for him to question Jesus. It makes sense that they were both busy men during the day. In the evening it was cooler, and more intimate, therefore more relaxing for an in depth conversation. I also learned from the commentaries that it was customary to spend the evening in prayer and study on one’s rooftop.

So what do I learn from this? I believe that no matter how busy I get, it is always important to spend time with Jesus. Getting to know him better, by reading the Bible and talking to him is the best way to spend my time. He loves me and he is always there for me.

Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I hope you found it useful!

You may look deeper into their conversation and learn about the spiritual Kingdom of God.


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