Diligent Bible study is an important element in the Christian life. Proper study of the Bible is often overlooked by Christians today, yet God calls us to engage not only our hearts in devotion to him, but also our minds. With these helpful tools and strategies, Bible study can become much less intimidating.
1. One Sitting Readings
The Bible is first and foremost a work of literature. However, when we read it in small chunks we can often miss a lot of the literary elements that are woven throughout. It seems daunting at first, but a one-sitting reading of a book of the Bible can be very beneficial to see the themes and message more clearly. Desiring God offers an excellent chart of how long each book takes to read straight through.
2. Study the author and audience
The Bible is packed full of eternal truths for all people, however, it was also written by a specific person for a specific audience. Studying the characteristics, motivation, and history of an author and the problems and situations of the audience can aid understanding and adds to any Bible study. Blue Letter Bible has a list of all the authors of the Old and New Testament books to get you started!
3. Cultural context
Just like the the author and audience context, it is important to study a passages cultural context to truly understand it. Every passage is a fusion of eternal truths and cultural applications and one of the biggest challenges in biblical interpretation is figuring out where one ends and the other starts. If we are aware of what the culture was we can become more equipped to make these decisions with wisdom. No matter what book you are studying, The Voice has resources to help you better grasp the cultural contexts of the Bible.
4. Cross referencing
When you are confused about a passage it can sometimes be helpful to see what other passages in the Bible talk about the topic you are studying. A cross reference is a great tool for this. It provides clarity, depth, and consistency for our studies. Open Bible lets you search any Bible verse for cross references.
5. Word studies
Translators do a great job making sure to use the best words in their translations. However, even the best efforts will miss the shades of meaning that are present in the original Hebrew and Greek. Most of us are not going to learn to read the Bible in its original languages, but word studies can help. They will tell you what the word means in its original language which will enrich your understanding of every verse. The Christian Research Institute wrote an article about how to do a word study that might help get you started.
Commentaries are extremely useful in giving you a look into all the interpretations of a passage. They are written by people who have studied the Bible diligently doing all the things I have stated above and come to solid conclusions. Reading several different commentaries on a book of a Bible will give you a new perspective and help you decide what the passage means. The Bible Speaks Today is a useful commentary series edited by John Stott.
Bible studies, small groups, accountability partners, Bible classes, Sunday School, church families, casual conversations– community is vital to a proper understanding of the Bible. Believers sharing their experiences and ideas openly and lovingly can be a powerful thing as we seek to understand the messages of the Scripture and their application on our lives. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).
There are so many ways to enhance our study of the Bible! What are some things you do when you are studying a passage?