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How to Do a Character Study to Help Understand the Bible

Updated on June 27, 2019

Why do a Bible Character Study?

A good way to add interest and insight to bible study is to learn about the people and authors associated with this amazing book. This is called a Character Study. This article focuses on the Apostle John and explains how I developed his character story in my previous hub, The Book of John, Who were the Apostles James and John? linked below.

I believe the Bible is the most exciting and fascinating book ever written. It is well worth the time and effort it takes to find the hidden gems it contains. In part two of this article, I will show you how I got the information to write the first hub, which was my portrait of the Apostle John. Hopefully this will assist you in going deeper in your own study of the Bible.

1. List all the passages in scripture that refer to your character.

In order to accomplish this, I highly recommend the Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible. Thompson has already searched the bible and compiled a list of thousands of topics with all the passages they are found in. A good concordance is also very useful. However, since a concordance will give you every appearance of the name “John” in the Bible, but it will not discern which ones refer to the apostle. Using a concordance could get a little overwhelming and tedious. Of course, internet search engines can also be very helpful if you have the time to sort through a lot of information and determine what is relevant.

By referencing the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, I have compiled this list of verses throughout the Bible that tell us about the Apostle John. From these verses, we can get an idea about who his family was, where he was from, what he did, and what kind of personality he may have had. With this, we can draw a picture of who he might have been. The information I gathered was the basis of the character sketch in my first hub. You will notice that each reference is short, only a verse or two. Please take the time to read the surrounding verses in each case to get the full story. Keeping a verse in context is very important to discerning the meaning of the scripture.

Matthew 4:21; 17:1

Mark 1:29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:38; 10:35-37; 14:33

Luke 5:10; 9:49, 54

John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20

Acts 1:13; 3:1; 8:14

Galatians 2:9

Revelations 1:9; 10:11

2. List the facts, research the details and draw conclusions

For example, we know from Matthew 4, that John fished on the Sea of Galilee. So we can look up the verses on the Sea of Galilee and discover that this area was susceptible to sudden and violent storms.

Matthew 8:24; 14:25; Mark 6:45 – 53; Luke 8:22-26; John 6:1, 16-18

To find out more about those storms, I did a search on Google and found a section of the book Weather and the Bible by Dr. Donald B. DeYoung, which describes the sea and explains why the storms can be so sudden and violent. From this information I deduced that a fisherman had to be brave to face this danger every day, and added it to my picture of who John was.

3. Examine the historical time frame and culture surrounding your character

The tension between the Jews and the Romans is well documented in history books and articles on the subject. Many bibles will give you a short timeline of what was happening with the Jewish nation in the 400 years between the Old Testament and New Testament. The Jews had last heard from God during the end of the Persian Empire. After that, Alexander the Great conquered the known world for the Greek Empire. As the Greeks came into power, they unified their part of the world with roads, common language and progress. They also spread their hedonistic lifestyle, which was often in direct conflict with the Jewish laws. It was the job of the Pharisees to keep the Jewish customs and beliefs intact. By the time Jesus was born, the Jews were under Roman control. They had religious freedom and limited ability to self-rule. In spite of these freedoms, the Romans were hated. Herod was a cruel ruler. He placed forbidden idols in the Jewish temple, built temples for Emperor worship, taxed the people heavily and had all Jewish infants under the age of 2 put to death when he found out about the birth of Jesus. Much of the hedonistic lifestyle still thrived, and many of the Jews embraced it. There was almost as much contention among the Jews themselves as there was between them and the rest of the world. Knowing about these conflicts gives us a better understanding of the world John lived in.

4. Recognize the difference between fact and opinion.

This is an important skill to learn, and a good way to protect yourself from false teachers. Only the facts found in the Bible are inspired by God. Opinions can always be wrong, no matter who is giving them. For example, it is a fact that John was a fisherman. He was the son of a fisherman and a brother to James, also a fisherman. These are facts clearly stated in the Bible. However, it is my own assumption that he desired to take over the family business and that he was strong and brave.

For Further Study

Take a closer look at the story in the previous hub, and compare them to the facts found in the passages outlined above. See if you can discern the facts from the opinions.

I hope that you have enjoyed these hubs and found them to be useful. I am new to writing and would love to hear your feedback on what I can do to improve. I am planning my next set of hubs to take a look at John, Chapter one with information on how to do a word study and another character study on John the Baptist. Thank you for visiting my hub! If you would like to read the first hub on John 1:1 click on the Controversy of the Word. Thank you!

© 2011 April Reynolds


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