HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE


 

I.                                WHAT IS THE BIBLE?

 

1.       The Bible is God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).  It was written over a period of about 1600 years by over 40 different human authors, who were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

 

2.       The word "Bible" (biblos) means "book."  Even though the Bible is one book, it has two major parts--The Old Testament, which is comprised of 39 individual books, and the New Testament, which is comprised of 27 individual books.  The word "Testament" (Heb. Berith; Gk. Diatheke) means "covenant, or arrangement between two parties."

 

3.       God gave the Old Covenant or Testament to Moses for the people of Israel (Exodus 24).  Later, the prophet Jeremiah announced that God would make a new covenant with all His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34), which Jesus did at the Last Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Matthew 26:28).

 

4.       Today, all people are required by God to live under the New Covenant or New Testament.

 

5.       Although we live under the New Covenant, we should still study the Old Testament because it is the inspired Word of God.  It teaches us about the nature of God, and it provides us with examples of how we are to live and not to live (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

 

II.                              WHY STUDY THE BIBLE?

 

A.                 WE SHOULD STUDY THE BIBLE BECAUSE IT IS OUR DUTY.

 

1.      I could plead with you to study the Bible for personal edification; I could appeal with you to study the Bible for personal happiness; I could beseech you to study the Bible because it would be the most fulfilling and rewarding educational experience of your life.  But ultimately the main reason why we should study the Bible is because it is our duty.

 

2.      For a Christian, Bible study is not an option.  It is our duty. 

III.                            WHY DO SOME PEOPLE DISREGARD BIBLE STUDY?

 

A.                 SOME PEOPLE DO NOT READ THEIR BIBLES BECAUSE THEY THINK IT IS TOO HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

 

1.      It is true that in some places the Bible is not easy to understand (2 Peter 3:16).  But for the most part, the Bible is simple to read and understand.  If we can read the newspaper, we can read the Bible.  In fact, I would venture to guess that more difficult words and concepts are expressed on the front page of a newspaper than on most pages of the Bible. 

 

B.                SOME PEOPLE DO NOT READ THEIR BIBLES BECAUSE THEY THINK IT IS BORING AND IRRELEVANT TO THEIR LIVES.

 

1.      The Bible is the most relevant and exciting book that has ever been produced. 

 

a.      Martin Luther once said, The Bible is alive, it speaks to me.  It has feet, it runs after me.  It has hands, it lays hold of me.

 

IV.                           IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN READING THE BIBLE AND STUDYING THE BIBLE?

 

A.                 THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN READING AND STUDYING.

 

1.      Reading is something we can do in a leisurely way, something that can be done strictly for entertainment in a casual manner.  But study suggests labor, serious and diligent work.

 

2.      Most people read their Bibles but do not study their Bibles.  Reading the Bible is valuable (Nehemiah 8:2, 3) and there is a time and place for it.  But Studying the Bible is also valuable and is necessary in striving to understand God's truths (Ezra 7:10).  This class is going to be geared towards learning how to study not read the Bible.

 

V.                             BASIC TOOLS RECOMMENDED FOR BIBLE STUDY.

 

 

A.     A GOOD BIBLE TRANSLATION.

 

1.      When studying the Bible, we should use not just one translation but many well-chosen translations.  We should do this in order to get the best possible meaning from the text.

 

2.      We should buy a Bible that is as close as possible to the original Hebrew and Greek wording as it left the inspired writers hand and a Bible that we can understand.  Below, are some of the best translations on the market.  This is not an exhausted list.

 

 

B.    A GOOD BIBLE DICTIONARY.

 

1.      A Bible dictionary provides valuable information about all aspects of the Bible.  It provides historical, chronological, archaeological, geographical, social, theological, and biographical information.

 

 

C.    A GOOD WORD STUDY BOOK.

 

1.      A word study book provides definitions for the Hebrew and Greek words.

 

 

D.    A GOOD COMMENTARY.

 

1.      The best way to buy commentaries is to buy them one at a time when you begin to study a specific Bible book.  Each commentary is normally written by one author and expresses his or her interpretation of the Bible book.  Commentaries that are based on the Greek and Hebrew texts are the best.

 

 

VI.                           MATTERS TO CONSIDER WHEN STUDYING THE BIBLE.

 

A.                 BEFORE WE STUDY THE BIBLE, WE SHOULD PRAY.

 

1.      As we come to hear what God has to say, we need to talk to Him.

 

 

a.      This ought to be our prayer as we come to study the Bible.

 

2.      In our prayer we should invite the Holy Spirit to join us in our study.

 

a.      After all, the Holy Spirit according to (John 16:13) is here to guide us into all truth. 

 

3.      In our prayer we should ask for forgiveness of sins.  If God used holy men of God to write His book, He wants holy men of God to interpret His book.  If one is not in a proper relationship with God, it is not realistic to think he will be able to interpret the Bible correctly.

 

B.                BEFORE WE STUDY THE BIBLE, WE SHOULD CLEAR OUR MINDS OF UNNECESSARY THOUGHTS SO THAT WE WILL BE TOTALLY FOCUSED ON THE BIBLE.

 

 

1.      There is no way we can meditate on God's Word unless we clear our minds of worldly concerns.

 

C.                WHEN STUDYING THE BIBLE, WE SHOULD HAVE AN OPEN MIND.

 

ILLUSTRATION:

 

In Image Magazine, Tim Curtis writes, on the last day of 1944, Hiroo Onoda, a young lieutenant in the Japanese army, arrived on the island of Lubang, about 75 miles southwest of Manila.  His assignment was to conduct guerilla warfare against the American forces who were expected to attempt a landing on Lubang and the rest of the Philippines within the coming weeks.  When the Americans did mount a successful offensive on Lubang about a month later, something which to them was little more than a "mopping up" operation, Lieutenant Onoda led a small group of soldiers into the jungle and began the mission for which he had been trained: to conduct a covert operation of disruption against American forces for as long as possible.

 

Onoda was a man of exceptional valor and loyalty.  Like many Japanese soldiers in World War II, he was prepared to take his own life rather than surrender, but in his case, specific orders were given not to take his life.  He was to stay alive as long as he could in order to do maximum damage to the enemy.  As he made his way to Lubang, he recalled the promise of his division commander: "Whatever happens, we'll come back for you."  Onoda vowed to himself, "I will fight till that day comes."  It did indeed finally come…30 years later. 

 

On March 10, 1974, on the orders of his former commander, Hiroo Onoda formally surrendered to the Philippine authorities.  For 30 years he had manned his post, unaware that the war had ended just six months after he had gone into the jungle.  Two others had been with him for portions of that time.  One died after 10 years, and the other was killed in a gun battle with Philippine police about a year before Onoda surrendered.  At the time he was found, Onoda was making plans to survive another 20 years in the jungle.

 

One of the most remarkable things about Onoda's story was that several attempts had been made to find him and bring him home to Japan.  Once Japanese officials learned that Onoda was continuing to fight a war that had long since ended, search parties spent months at a time trying to locate him.  Leaflets and newspapers were dropped from helicopters.  Loud speakers blared messages from several family members, including his father.  Onoda, convinced that Japan would never surrender, misinterpreted these attempts to find him.  He even twisted things around to believe that the Japanese army was using these efforts to secretly encourage him to stay in the jungle, the very opposite of what they were trying to do.  In his autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, Onoda wrote that he and his two comrades "developed so many fixed ideas that we were unable to understand anything that did not conform with them.  If there was anything that did not fit in with them we interpreted it to mean what we wanted it to mean."

 

1.      Too often, people study the Scriptures looking for ideas that support their own interpretation of the Bible.  In doing this, they misinterpret God's intended meaning. 

 

a.      Baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29).

 

b.     Kitchens in church buildings (1 Corinthians 11:22, 34).

 

2.      We must go into Bible study with an open mind and allow God's Word to dictate its own meaning.  We must never bring our own theological heritage to the texts as we read them.

 

VII.                         HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE.

 

 

A.                 THE FIRST STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO SURVEY A BIBLE BOOK.

 

1.      Read a book two or three times without using any study aids.

 

a.      Focus on the book as a whole.

 

b.     Seek to understand its meaning as a whole.

 

2.      When reading the book, look for several things:

 

a.      Theme or the purpose of the book.

 

b.     Who wrote the book and why?

 

c.      To whom it was written?

 

d.     Book's outline.

 

B.                THE SECOND STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO STUDY THE BOOK ONE PASSAGE AT A TIME.

 

1.      Determine the passage boundaries.

 

a.       What is a passage?

 

(1)       A passage is a group of verses that usually has one major idea.

 

(2)       It varies in length.

 

(3)       It could consist of two sentences or it could consist of a whole chapter.

 

b.      Example:

 

(1)       (1 Corinthians 1:1-9) is one passage.  It is the greeting section.

 

(2)       (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) is one passage.  It is describes the division that was taking place in the church in Corinth. 

 

C.                THE THIRD STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO READ THE PASSAGE CAREFULLY.

 

1.      Read the passage several times to try to figure out what it says.

 

D.                THE FOURTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO DETERMINE THE LITERARY STYLE OF THE PASSAGE.

 

1.      After reading the passage several times, try to determine what style of literature it is.

 

2.      God chose to use almost every available kind of literature to communicate His Word to us.  Below are some examples of the different types of literature God uses.

 

DISCOURSIVE LITERATURE

 

1.       Discoursive literature involves a presentation of ideas in an argumentative or logical form.  It presents the truths in terms of a "chain of logic" or "ideas."  Many times, commands are found in this type of literature. 

 

2.       The gospels and epistles use a great deal of discoursive literature.

 

3.       How do we interpret discoursive literature?  We must carefully observe the logical development expressed within the book or passage.  We must be able to "trace the argument" in the book.  Each major argument of the writer should be treated as a paragraph within the passage.

 

a.      (Read Matthew 5:43-48)  What is the primary teaching of this passage?

 

 

b.     (Read Ephesians 4:26, 27)  What is this passage teaching?

 

 

c.      (Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-12)  What is the primary teaching of this passage?

 

 

NARRATIVE LITERATURE

 

1.      The Bible contains more of this type of literature than it does any other kind (over 40% of the Old Testament is narrative).

 

2.      Narratives are stories.  Their purpose is to show God at work in His creation and among His people.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Moreover, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job also contain substantial narrative portions.  In the New Testament, large portions of the four Gospels and Acts are narrative.

 

3.      How do we interpret narrative literature?  Below, are several principles for interpreting narratives.

 

a.      A narrative does not always directly teach a doctrine (Matthew 1-3).

 

 

b.     A narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught proportionally elsewhere.

 

 

 

c.      Narratives record what happened -- not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time.   What people do in narratives is not necessarily something we must always follow. 

 

 

 

4.      We need to be very careful when interpreting and applying narrative literature.  A good applicable narrative usually illustrates a doctrine that is taught elsewhere in Scripture.  Not every narrative passage applies directly to us today.

 

PARABOLIC LITERATURE

 

1.      The parable employs the principle of analogy.  This is indicated by the significance of the word "parable" which is a combination of the Greek terms "para" and "ballo" and therefore connotes "that which is thrown or put forth beside something else" (hence analogy).  A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

 

2.      Thus a parable consist of two parts, the spiritual truth which is being illustrated and the brief narrative which is used as the vehicle to illustrate it.

 

3.      How do we interpret parabolic literature?  We must recapture the "punch" or the "primary teaching" in each parable. 

 

a.      (Read Lk. 16:19-31)  What is the primary teaching of this passage?

 

 

b.     (Read Mt. 18:21-35)  What is the primary teaching of this passage?

 

 

POETRY

 

1.       Biblical poetry has three main characteristics.  First, it utilizes figurative language (ie. Is characterized by "a chain of images" or "imagery").  Second, it is emotional in nature.  Third, it employs parallelisms of different types.  Psalms, Proverbs contain the most poetic type of literature.

 

2.       How do we interpret biblical poetry?  We must not take every word in poetry literally.  Instead, we must realize that the poet employs flexible language and that he expresses feelings rather than rigid logical concepts.

 

a.      (Read Psalm 17) Does God have wings?  No, wings represent "shelter" (63:7; 91:4).  This image comes from the animal world, comparing God’s protective care to that of a bird with its young. So David was praying to God for care and protection from his enemies.

 

APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

 

1.      The term "apocalypse" literally means "uncovering" or "revelation."  Apocalyptic literature is a genre characterized by the use of symbolism and imagery and contains descriptions of fantastic visions that describe unseen realities or events to come.  The books of Ezekiel, and Daniel in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation in the NT are good illustrations of this type of literature.

 

2.      How do we interpret apocalyptic literature?  In interpreting apocalyptic literature, it is imperative that we do several things:

 

a.      First, we need to remember that apocalyptic literature uses a great deal of imagery.  We should seek to understand what the imagery teaches before we try to understand its language as a literal description of reality.

 

(1)        Who are the seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1:20)?  The seven churches.

 

(2)        Who is the great dragon (Rev. 12:9)?  Satan.

 

(3)        Who is the harlot or the woman in (Rev. 17:18)?  Rome.

 

b.     Second, it is essential that we seek to establish what an apocalyptic passage must have meant to the original audience who heard it read for the first time.  Ask questions like:

 

(1)       How did it speak to their situation?

 

(2)       What would it have meant to them? 

 

(3)       What was the original writer trying to convey to his audience?

 

E.                 THE FIFTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO TENTATIVELY DETERMINE THE THEME OR THE MAJOR POINT OF THE PASSAGE.

 

1.      When the writer wrote a passage, he had a purpose in mind.  There is a central theme to every passage.  It is up to us to figure out what that purpose is.

 

2.      After we read the passage several times, we should ask and answer the question,

 

a.       What is the writer trying to say?

 

b.      What is the major idea of this passage?

 

3.      The theme of a passage could be a word or a phrase that expresses the essential idea.

 

4.      The theme could be found in the beginning, center or end of a passage.

 

5.      What is the central idea or theme of these passages?

 

a.      (Read Mt. 6:25-34)  The central idea is "do not worry about your life" (v. 25).

 

b.     (Read Mt. 8:1-4)  The central idea is "immediately he was cured of his leprosy" (v. 3).

 

c.      (Read 1 Cor. 1:18-25)  The central idea is "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (v. 24).

 

6.      Once we find the theme, it is easier to understand the teachings of the passage.

 

F.                 THE SIXTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO DETERMINE THE MEANING OF WORDS IN THE PASSAGE.

 

1.      The Bible is a book, which communicates information verbally.  That means that it is filled with words.  Thoughts are expressed through the relationship of those words.  Each individual word contributes something to the whole of the content expressed.  The better we understand the individual words used in biblical statements, the better we will be able to understand the total message of Scripture.

 

HOW DO YOU CONDUCT

A WORD STUDY?

 

A.     THE FIRST STEP IN CONDUCTING A WORD STUDY IS TO ISOLATE THE SIGNIFICANT WORD OR WORDS IN THE PASSAGE THAT NEED SPECIAL STUDY.

 

1.       Example:

 

2.       If you were studying this passage, what words do you think need to be defined in order to understand the interpretation of the passage?

 

 

B.    THE SECOND STEP IN CONDUCTING A WORD STUDY IS TO STUDY THE WORD IN ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGE.

 

1.      Before you can study a word in its original language, you must first find out what that word is in its original language.

 

2.      There are several ways to do this.

 

a.       You can look that word up in the Greek or Hebrew text.

 

b.      You can use an interlinear Bible.

 

c.       You can use a computer software package.

 

d.      You can use a concordance.

 

e.       You can use a Bible word dictionary.

 

f.         You can use a Bible that has the Strong's numbering system.

 

3.      Once you have identified the word in its original language, you then begin to see what the scholars say about it.

 

a.      What does the NIV Concordance say about the word?

 

 

 

b.     What does the Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words say about the word?

 

 

c.      What does the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible say about the word?

 

 

 

d.     What does the Complete Word Study Dictionary of the NT say about the word?

 

 

4.      At this point, does the word mean "quietness, silence or stillness."  Since a word can have different meanings, how do you know which definition should be used. 

 

a.      First, go to each verse in the NT where that word is used and see how it was defined in that context.

 

(2 Thess. 3:12)

 

(Acts 22:2)

 

 

G.                THE SEVENTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO IDENTIFY THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT OF A PASSAGE.

 

1.      The word "context" is composed of two Latin elements, con ("together") and textus ("woven").  Therefore, when we speak of the context, we are talking about the connection of thought that runs through a passage, those links that weave it into one piece.

 

2.      Finding the context of a passage is very important because it brings an understanding of the underlying thought of the passage.  When we discover the context, we discover the thought that the writer had in mind. 

 

3.      How do you identify the immediate context of a passage?

 

a.      Read the passage thoroughly from beginning to end and study it until you become familiar with its basic thrust.

 

(1)        The worst mistake a Bible student can make is interpreting a portion of a passage while neglecting the context.

 

(2)        (Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-7). 

 

 

 

b.     To find the context, read carefully the material that precedes and the material that follows the passage.

 

(1)       (Read Luke 15:11-32). 

 

(2)       Why did Jesus tell this parable?

 

 

 

H.                THE EIGHTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO CONDUCT A TOPICAL STUDY.

 

1.      Once we determine what a passage is teaching, we should find out what other passages say about the same subject.

 

2.      How can we find other passages related to a topic?

 

a.      Use Bible study tools.

 

(1)        (Read 1 John 1:9).  If you want to find out more about confession of sin, go to specific resources and look up the information.

 

 

 

 

3.      Once you discover what the Bible says about a topic, it will help you better understand the passage you are studying.

 

I.                    THE NINTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO CONDUCT A BIOGRAPHICAL STUDY.

 

1.      In Bible study, when we come across names of characters, we should find out more about them.

 

2.      How do we conduct a biographical study?

 

a.       Use a Bible Dictionary.

 

(1)        (Read Acts 10:1).  Who is Cornelius?

 

J.                  THE TENTH STEP IN BIBLE STUDY IS TO APPLY THE PASSAGE.

 

1.      Once we have studied a passage carefully, it is then time to determine its application.

 

2.      To apply a passage carefully, we need to ask several important questions.

 

a.      Does this passage apply to me today? 

 

(1)        We need to realize that some passages are cultural in nature.  Some passages do not directly apply to us today.

 

(2)        (Read 1 Tim. 5:23). 

 

 

 

 

3.      If the passage applies to us today, we need to ask several questions.

 

a.       Are there commands to obey?

 

b.      Are there examples to follow?

 

c.       Are there principles to live by?

 

d.      Are there sins to forsake?

 

e.       Are there errors to avoid?

 

f.         Are there any thoughts about God?

 

g.      What is this passage teaching me?

 

(1)        (Read Acts 19:1-7).

 

 

(2)        (Read 1 Cor. 7:29-35).

 

 

(3)        (Read Ex. 34:6-7).

 

 

CONCLUSION:

 

1.       I hope and pray that these lessons have helped you understand how to study the Bible.