How to Study Your Bible
Bible Study: Tools and Tips
This is a short article aimed at getting you prepared to begin your Bible study, by sharing with you some of the materials I use as well as techniques that have proven to be very effective and which make understanding the Bible that much more simple.
In order to begin a simple Bible study, one only need acquire a Bible and a good concordance. Other materials that will enhance your study will include maps, charts, and a few relative history and cultural books.
For Bible ‘study’, I would recommend the King James Version. For casual reading in order to improve understanding, I might suggest The Message, or The Clear Word, versions. It should be noted, however, that these latter versions should not be trusted to confirm a specific argument in regards to biblical doctrine. I feel that they are just too vague to be used for such a purpose. Also, an Interlinear Bible is good to have on the shelf for further reference. An Interlinear Bible will contain the original Hebrew and Greek words, with their respective translations. Other bibles in my library include The Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible (http://www.kirkbride.com/thompson-about-bibles.asp) and The ESV Study Bible (http://www.esvstudybible.org/), both of which include extensive resources and historical data.
I myself do not own a hardcopy of an Interlinear Bible, but I do have one on my PC. It can be found here…http://www.scripture4all.org/ It is free and ‘clean’. Another ‘excellent’ resource that comes HIGHLY recommended is E-Sword. This amazing software has bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, maps, and an incredible library of literature – ALL FOR FREE. Again, this software is ‘clean’ – no spyware, adware, viruses or trojans. Find it here… http://www.e-sword.net/
Most Bible’s will have at least a small concordance included in the back. Notwithstanding, for a more in-depth study, one may also wish to include a separate concordance. Typically, these contain the words of the Bible and references to the verses in which they are used and, as will be shown, are invaluable tools for a thorough Bible study. I recommend either Young’s Analytical Concordance, or Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
A word about commentaries:
On one hand, commentaries are notes from a knowledgeable author who tries to explain the text to you and can provide meaningful insight to difficult pieces of Scripture. Therefore commentaries can be useful. On the other hand, however, there is a thin-line between a commentary and an opinion, that is, every author has his or her own view and biased agenda, and therefore can offer wide and often opposing influence. Added to that is the fact that there is such a vast amount of information out there that it can become quite overwhelming and one can easily become lost in the maze of man’s ideas and theories.
The best method that I have found for Bible study is to let the Bible interpret ‘itself’, which is in harmony with 2 Peter 1:20. What this means is to let the whole bible reflect on any ‘part’ of it in particular. You will rarely ever go wrong by applying this rule. This of course implies that you would have to study the whole bible. However, that alone would just about eliminate any problem with bible interpretation you will ever encounter. Here’s a quick example…
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”
Without going into the details of this cryptic verse, which I intend to cover in a future Hub, we can ask the question, “What is this ‘beast’?” Some may say it represents a man, others may conclude that it is a computer data base. There are many ideas and interpretations of this verse. However, and focussing specifically on the beast, what does the ‘Bible’ say?
“Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.”
There are other verses we could reference, and which I will reference in another Hub, but the point is that by using the Bible and the Bible alone, it is not very difficult to see that the word ‘beast’ in Bible prophecy refers to a kingdom or nation.
This is also a good example on how to use your concordance. When faced with a difficult word, you can look it up in the concordance and see how that same word is used in other verses of the Bible.
Another good general rule of thumb is this, “If the scripture makes plain sense, seek no other sense”. Being complicated is not a prerequisite to being a bible student so don’t bury your self in hidden meanings and things that are unclear, just get on with what is known and apparent. Also, try to avoid majoring in minors. That is, try not to focus on debates concerning the small issues. It does not matter if we know whether or not Jesus died on a tree or on a cross. What is important is that we recognize that the Bible says He died because of His love for us.
Bible study, for me, is like solving a mystery. ‘I’ personally believe that with all the denominations out there, and so many wide and varied opinions, there still ‘must’ be an absolute truth. It can, but does not have to, require researching, cross-referencing, recognizing and using clues, and then digging even deeper. All of which is very appealing to me, and thus the attraction. Aside from the fact that these studies are probably the most relavent thing to an individual's current and future hope. 'Literally' a matter of life or death - but I'll touch on that in a future Hub.
It comes down to how far an individual wants to go. If a person simply wants to know the basic truths about how to get to heaven, so-to-speak, then it is my personal opinion that such research and investigation is NOT necessary. ‘I’ believe that the loving Creator has kept the saving grace of the Gospel message in its simplest and purest form, such that a child could read it and understand (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9).
The type of Bible study that I have been writing about is directed more towards those who are asking questions, or looking into the deeper things such as prophetic studies, for example. It would also be good if the sceptics would employ this kind of study as well.
Let us never forget what Paul said about the Bereans…
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” [Emphasis added]
The Bereans went back afterwards to take a closer look to see if what Paul was saying about Jesus was actually true. What did they base their judgments upon? ‘Scripture’ - the very Word of God. That is our job today, to be modern-day Bereans. We need to look to the Word of God as our ultimate source of authority, test all things by that Authority with diligence and honesty, and apply the wisdom we gain to the lives we live.
The last thing is the most important - PRAYER! Having established the Bible to be true, we have to understand what it means to be the "word of God". I may touch on this in another Hub, but for now let us understand that, being of 'finite' minds, we can not always expect to fully understand some things, if any at all, that come from a spiritual being of 'infinite' wisdom.
1 Corinthians 2:14
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
In short, spiritual things are not discerned by the 'natural' man. They are discerned 'spiritually', that is, in cooperation with spiritual guidance from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it would be wise to get into the habit of praying to the heavenly Father, giving Him thanks for the divine preservation of His written word, and asking that He bless us with the Holy Spirit, that He might reveal to us His precious truths, so that we may know His will for our lives – each and every time we are about to open up the Bible
As always, I hope that you have found this Hub informative. Until next time, God-bless!
Other reference materials…
The New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs, Howard F. Vos, Publisher: Nelson
Nelson's Complete Book Of Bible Maps & Charts
The Annals of the World, James Ussher, L & M Pierce, Publisher: Master Books
Ark of the Covenant, Jonathon Gray, ISBN 0-646-30073-3
Dead Men’s Secrets, Jonathon Gray ISBN 1-4184-2555-9