How to Study the Bible

How to Study
the Bible
Find the Right Bible for You
• While the KJV is the most beloved
translation, it is difficult to understand
because it uses 17th century British
English. (e.g. 1 Thes. 4.15; prevent)
• I would suggest that you find a Bible that
you can understand (Realize that all
English Bibles are translations)
• I would suggest that you invest in a study
Bible. (Video, disc 1, “Types of Bibles”)
Translation Methods/Philosophies
Source: Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss.
How to Choose a Translation for all Its
Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using
Bible Versions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Formal Equivalence
Functional Equivalence
Comprehension: modify
the Hebrew and Greek
forms until the text is
Clarity: modify the
Hebrew and Greek forms
until the text is clear.
Naturalness: modify the
Hebrew and Greek forms
until the text is natural.
Helps to capture
metaphors, verbal
allusions, and
Achieves both accuracy
and clarity.
Greatest comprehension.
Communicates the
message clearly and
Minimal interpretation
can result in awkward
English, obscurity, and
Comprehension test
often fails.
More interpretation, so
greater margin for
interpretive error.
Sometimes uses
unnatural English.
Even more interpretation,
so greater margin for
error. Sometimes loses
nuances of meaning in
pursuit of simplicity and
Online Bibles
Other Helpful Resources
• Introductions to Bible study (How to Read the
Bible for All Its Worth, How to Read the Bible
Book by Book)
• Bible Dictionary (Holman’s Illustrated Bible
• Bible Concordance (Strong’s Exhaustive
Concordance, Halley’s Bible Handbook, The
Bible Reader’s Companion, Collins Bible
Other Helpful Resources
• Cross Reference Book (The New Treasury of
Scripture Knowledge)
• Commentary
• None of these resources are absolutely
necessary, but may be helpful, especially
when trying to understand the background of
a passage.
Before Opening Your Bible
• Find a quiet place and get away from anything
that might distract you.
• Pray that the Holy Spirit will teach you the
truth of Scripture. Jesus promised: “But the
Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
send in my name, he will teach you all things
and bring to your remembrance all that I have
said to you.” (John 14:26, ESV)
Before Opening Your Bible
• Remind yourself of God’s promises:
– Proverbs 3:13 (ESV): Blessed is the one who finds
wisdom, and the one who gets understanding
– Psalm 19:7 (ESV): The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is
sure, making wise the simple;
– 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV): All Scripture is breathed
out by God and profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, and for training in
righteousness, that the man of God may be
complete, equipped for every good work.
Pitfalls to Avoid
• Bringing preconceptions to the text. We must
let the text speak for itself without forcing our
own preconceptions on it.
• Missing the historical setting. The Bible was
not written to twenty-first century Americans.
Each book of the Bible was written by a
specific person, to a specific group of people,
in a specific culture, at a specific time, and for
a specific purpose.
Pitfalls to Avoid
• Failing to understand the literature type. In the
Bible we will find historical narrative, poetry,
prophecy, parables, letters, etc.
• Ignoring the biblical context. A single verse taken
by itself can appear to mean something totally
contrary to the author’s intent. Je 29:11
• Studying for the wrong reasons. We should not
study simple to gain information. Paul described
the purpose of Scripture: “that the man (or
woman) of God may be complete, equipped for
every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
I want you to understand that
studying the Bible is a journey. It
is a wonderful journey where
you meet with God, and God
speaks to you.
Basics of the Journey
Various Ways of Studying the Bible
Introduction – Video
Framework – Video
Book study
Passage study
Word study
Topic study
Book Study
• Read the book
– Read it in its entirety in one setting
– Read it repeatedly
– Read it in different translations
• Research the background
• Reread the book to recognize the blueprint
(clear outline?, purpose of the book, anything
unusual, words and phrases that repeat, how
does this book fit in the overall framework of
the Bible
Reading the Text
Howard Hendricks recommends observing the text
in 10 different ways:
• Thoughtfully. Be a detective.
• Repeatedly. Read entire books at a time.
• Patiently. Spend quality time in each book you
• Selectively. Decipher the who, what, where,
when and how in the text.
• Prayerfully. Don’t copy others; ask God to reveal
things to you.
• Imaginatively. Think about how you might
write the verse.
• Meditatively. Reflect on the words.
• Purposefully. Understand that the author
used structure to send a message.
• Acquisitively. Attempt to retain the text.
• Telescopically. Understand the significance of
the text in light of the entire Bible.
Passage Study
• Visualize the Big Picture of the passage
– Read and Reread the text
– Ask Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
• Analyze the little pieces in the passage
– Seeking answers to all the questions we asked in
phase 1
– Discover the biblical author’s original intent. What
did he originally mean with his sentences and
– How would the original audience understood his
Passage Study
Passage Study
• Lastly, synthesize the little pieces into the big
Word Study
Look up the general meaning of a word.
Locate other occurrences of the word.
Examine various meanings of the word.
Limit the contextual meaning
Frame the word in light of the rest of the
passage, book, and the whole Bible. If it does
not fit within the framework, we need to
rethink our definition.
Topic Study
Select a topic
Search the Bible
Scour the Scripture
Interpret within the framework of the context
and the whole Bible.
• Survey other resources (Dictionaries, Cross
Reference, etc.)
• Sort the information
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
1. Apply the Bible according to its real meaning
Ephesians 4:26 Does this verse say that we need to practice
being angry so that you are angry all the time? Does is mean
that you are to express your anger before sundown, or does it
mean that you will get angry, but don’t let it get out of control
and lead you into sin. Paul recognized the reality of righteous
anger. People become indignant over their own treatment or
the treatment of others. It might be wrong in some cases not
to be indignant. It would also be wrong to allow the
indignation to escalate until it is out of control. Indignation
over wrong might lead to action based on wounded pride or
personal resentment. This would be sinful. Paul is saying you
need to keep your anger under control. Only you and God
know the way you need to apply this passage in your life.
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
2. Use the Bible as a book of principles
The Bible contains many principles that show you how to
live for and serve God. The Bible warns you against many
acts and attitudes that hinder your life and service for
God. The directions and guidelines the Bible gives are
often not detailed and specific. If the Bible were a group
of specific rules for every occasion, you might obey the
letter of the rules and miss the genuine spirit of godly
living. God intends that you struggle to discern the way
He wants you to apply His principles to your life. That
way you stay focused on developing a deeper
relationship with Him through his direction of your
thoughts and actions.
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
3. Use the promises properly
Have you ever heard someone say, “every promise
of the Bible is mine?” That statement is not true. At
least four different kinds of promises can be found
in the Bible. When you encounter any promise in
the Bible, you must be careful to understand what
kind of promise it is, and you must exercise caution
in how you apply that promise to your life or to the
lives of others.
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
3.Use the promises properly
• Four kinds of promises
– Universal (John 3:16)
– Limited to God’s people (1 Peter 5:7)
– Personal (Joshua 1:9, this promise was made to
– Conditional (person must meet certain
conditions: James 4:8; 1 Pe 5:6)
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
4. Use a cross-cultural understanding
Some of the Bible’s commands and directions seem
confusing today because they are based on the
culture of the Bible. Yet the biblical command
reveals an important principle or truth we can
practice today if we modify the form in which we
practice it. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:12 “Greet
one another with a holy kiss.” This could create a
war if we followed. Paul wants us to show deep
brotherly love and concern.
Five Principles to Apply
the Truths of Scripture
5. Use the Bible wisely
Sometimes the Bible writers use hyperbole, or
overstatement to make a point. In apply the Bible to our
lives, we need to recognize this overstatement. Look at
Matthew 5:29-30. Jesus urged his followers to tear out
their eyes and cut off their hands rather than let these
parts of the body lead them into sin. Did Jesus mean this
literally? Absolutely not! He used hyperbole, or
exaggeration for effect. In verses 27-28 Jesus had
warned against committing adultery by using the eyes.
When He talked about removing the eyes as a source of
temptation, he was warning his disciples and us to fight
temptation with great zeal. Jesus wants us to use mighty
efforts to resist sin and evil.
Applying the Text
Application is about what the text means to you. The end result of
Bible study is not knowledge. It is transformation. The purpose of
Scripture is: “that the man (or woman) of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
Howard Hendricks mentioned nine application questions to consider:
• Is there an example for me to follow?
• Is there a sin to avoid?
• Is there a promise to claim?
• Is there a prayer to repeat?
• Is there a command to obey?
• Is there a condition to meet?
• Is there a verse to memorize?
• Is there an error to mark?
• Is there a challenge to face?

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