Now is a great time to improve your Bible study skills. Follow this series to learn how to study the Bible, where to find the tools you need to study and how to use them. You might want to bookmark or pin this page, as I update it frequently.
Basics of Bible Study
The Goal of Bible Study If Scripture is profitable for teaching, then we are expected to know and understand Scripture. If Scripture is profitable for reproof and correction, then we have to be able to determine what it means such that we have a objective standard by we can decide if one or both of us is wrong.
The 5Cs of Bible Study You may have heard the “rule” in Bible Study that a text always means an the author intended it to mean. But how do you evaluate whether a particular interpretation hits the mark of authorial intent? You can test any interpretation with the five C’s.
Convictions How do you know if you’ve successfully understood a passage of Scripture? Start by understanding and embracing these basic interpretative convictions.
Context When learning how to study the Bible, you’ve probably heard the expression “context is king”, meaning context is the arbitrator that rules a particular interpretation valid or not. But how do you use context to decide between possible interpretations?
Figurative language The Biblical writers used figurative language and vivid imagery. How are we to understand it?
Attitude Matters Why do we have so much interpretative disagreement over the meaning of the Bible? Two explanations: one we can solve and one we can’t.
How NOT to interpret the Bible One of the most common mistakes in interpreting the Bible is riffing on a particular word or phrase at the expense of context. No one thinks they fall into this trap and yet, if you listen for it, you’ll hear it everywhere.
Basics of Bible Interpretation If you’re looking for a refresher course on how to study the Bible or want to start learning, Bob Smith’s Basics of Bible Interpretation is still a good choice. And it’s free online.
The Boy Jesus in the Temple and what that teaches us about Bible Study How could a 12-year old astonish the best theologians of his day? Why was the knowledge of Jesus radically different than everyone else?
Procedure Wondering how to put all the tools and pieces of Bible study together so that you can tackle a specific passage of Scripture? Here’s the overall procedure.
How to Observe The first step in Bible study is observation. The goal is to slow down your reading and generate a list of questions that must be answered to understand the passage. I tend to break observation into the following 4 steps which generally correspond to my first few readings through the passage.
What to observe Over lunch recently a friend confessed: “I know an essential step of any Bible study is observation. But what am I suppose to observe?” So glad you asked! Sometimes we take this step for granted when teaching on how to study the Bible, but observation is a skill we learn and practice like any other.
Interpretation After you’ve done your observation, word studies, outlining and answered the questions you generated, it’s time to start putting it all together. In this step, you want to collect, refine and organize all those details you observed into a coherent meaning.
5Ws and H You may have been taught to create a list of questions, using the “5Ws and H” (who, what, when, where, why, how). If you need some help learning how to use the “5Ws and H”, here are some questions to get you started.
How to do a Word Study Word studies are one of the basic tools of Bible study. With today’s tools, you don’t
How to do an analytical outline An analytical outline is a way of displaying a text of Scripture so that the flow of thought and the relationship between the grammatical parts become clear. It is my favorite study tool and one of the first things I do. Learn how to make one.
Greek Verbs Primer Clicking on a verb in your study software may tell you something like “V-FAI-1S” which stands for a “Verb- Future Active Indicative-1st person singular.” But what does that mean? Here’s a helpful primer on Greek verbs.
How to use Bible Study Tools
- Which translation should I use?
- What can I learn from a map?
- What is a concordance and why do I need one?
- What is a Lexicon?
- What can I learn from a multi-volume encyclopedias?
- How should I use commentaries?
- 5 ideas you should NOT believe about your English Bible
- Where can I find some basic (free) online commentaries?
- 30 Study Tips
Genre & Special Issues
- Understanding Epistles
- Understanding Narratives
- Understanding Hebrew Poetry
- Understanding Prophecy
- Why do we have 4 gospels and what’s the difference?
- 16 things to do while your Bible Study is on break
- What if I failed my Bible Reading plan?
- Basics of Bible Interpretation, by Bob Smith – a classic! great for the beginner. Now available FREE online, though I believe you can still buy a paper copy.
- How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart – this is a must have resource; no Bible student should be without and it now comes as an e-book. Re-read the chapter for your particular type of passage when you start a new study.
- Living by the Book, (Book and Workbook) by Howard G Hendricks & William Hendricks – also available as an ebook and a video series. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book. The writing is clear and engaging and you will learn a lot.
- The Joy of Discovery in Bible Study, by Oletta Ward – a classic resource for small groups to work through together; teachers guide is also available.
- The Language of God: A Commonsense Approach to Understanding and Applying the Bible, by Ron Julian, J.A. Crabtree and David Crabtree — (out of print; but still can be found). This is a GREAT book for understanding the principles, methodology and philosophy of Bible study. The authors apply what they teach to a very difficult passage (James 5). The book is worth it just to understand James 5.
- Exegetical Fallacies, by D.A. Carson — this will challenge you to move your study skills to the next level.
- What is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics by R.C. Sproul — this book will help you begin to put all the pieces together
- The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul — a must-read book, especially for new believers
- An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu — this book looks intimidating, but it’s worth it!
- A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible by Leland Ryken and Tremper Longman III
- Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation by Tremper Longman III (out of print, but still can be found)
- He Gave us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives, by Richard L Pratt Jr
- How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III
- How to Read Proverbs, by Tremper Longman III
Bible Study Resources: Maps, charts, reference works, websites & tools
Bible Study 201: Learn to teach the Bible
Resources for Ministry Leaders
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