HOW TO CONDUCT A PROPER AND FULFILLING BIBLE STUDY
What Bible should one read? We recommend a literal translation first before one uses a paraphrase as a help.
An example of a important text pertaining to Bible study.
2 Tim 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJV)
2 Tim 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ” (KJV)
2 Tim. 2:15: “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing – rightly handling and skillfully teaching – the Word of Truth” (Amplified Bible)
2 Tim 2:15 “ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)
2 Tim 2:15 Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a
workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. (ASV)
2 Tim 2:15 Work hard so God can say to you, "Well done." Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (TLB)
These all carry the same meaning, near the same words arranged in some different ways. But not all passages turn out this way.
What is the difference? A literal translation is a word for word translation of the Hebrew and Greek, while a paraphrase is a thought for thought translation. Many subjective paraphrase interpretations remake the meaning of Scripture and do not convey what is the original intent accurately. There are a few translations that help give insight, but only on selective passages. This is because the translator has more of his concepts conveyed in the words than the original words themselves. A Bible paraphrase is an individual’s interpretation of what he thinks God is saying, and its accuracy depends on how much Bible knowledge and language skills one has exercised in their translating. Translations can expand ones understanding of the scriptures on certain points, some paraphrases can help clarify a word, but using fifteen different paraphrase translations can make a verse conform to the interpretation of a particular person and doctrine and bring confusion to doctrine.
Try to have a set time to read consistently through the week each book. Devotions- start off each morning if possible with prayer and the word so that your day is prioritized by the Lord. Things go better and with far less problems when this is done. Above all, pray that God will show you what He means in His word, and be willing to spend time to find it. Have a dictionary, have an Encyclopedia open.
There is no given amount of time for everyone to spend in the Word, we are all different. But minute microwave devotions will not able to bring spiritual growth. You get out what you put in it; little effort; little results. If you find something that goes contrary to your conclusion revisit your notes and scriptures to make sure it is correct. After you have received the answers apply it to your life when it is necessary. God’s Word is to be treated as the truth and the final say in all matters of life. To trust Him at what He says is to have faith.
The majority of things we need to know from the Bible are often simple and concise but there is a depth to the word as we grow in learning it. We can read devotionally or enter studying the word book by book or by subjects. To study the Bible topically: concentrate on various topics by preparing a list of subjects that relate to each other and gather all you can on a certain subject. One should start with the core doctrines that give a foundation to their faith.
This is important to have this groundwork laid, it is our foundation our faith will be built upon. Our intent should always be to arrive at what the author meant.
1. Take your time reading the portion of Scripture, if need be read it over several times. Let it sink in, don’t skim over it. Read the passage with the surrounding the verse[s], before and after. We need to first see the overall theme before we can begin to understand the details. The branches come out from the trunk of a tree.
2. Think on what you are reading, compare it to other scriptures that have the same concepts or words. See if they support your interpretation or they do not.
3. Do not read into the Word your personal interpretation or ideas. You want the Bible to say what it actually means. This means we may need to pursue the context of the passage. We conform to it not it to us. Be aware of not taking a verse and lifting it of context to promote your own view - your own ideas (pretext). It is after we have settled the basics, the foundations of Christian doctrine that we can build on it.
4. Word usage and its meaning: look into the Greek or Hebrew words used and
how they differ from the other times they are used, there are different
tenses for the same word that could subtly change its meaning. But most
important, is to keep it all in context. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by
Cultural and historical context will help shed light on the meaning of certain passages. Read up on some of the customs of the Hebrew, Roman and Greek culture. The New Testament is a Jewish document that was written in the common Greek language of the day; but within the Jewish thinking it carried; theology, customs, beliefs and practices. It should not be interpreted with the Greek or other cultural worldview.
Read it carefully. Scripture interprets Scripture, there must be support for the conclusion from other passages. What do the words mean in context is more important than any single word. Again the whole theme determines the nuances, the specifics of the words written. The Spirit of the text is that meaning behind the words, this needs to be determined as well. Find the overall theme and context first before going into specific words. Look for consistent usage of words and symbols from the Old Testament to the New.
Look up difficult words. Parables are to be interpreted according to their main theme or subject, poems or allegories or symbols are to follow basic Christian doctrine.
Dividing the books to know what literary category they are in helps our interpreting them. The Law 5 books of Moses. 12 Historical books; 1 History; 5 Poetical; 4 Gospels; 1 Prophetic. Remember the New Testament completes the Old, the Old does not interpret the new. What kind of literature is it? History, biographical narrative, a parable or prophecy.
There are rules of interpretation that are called hermeneutics. Always find the main theme of a book or letter first before going into the details of words or tenses. After reading through the letter study it by chapters, (be aware they can overlap as man put the chapters in). Then break it down into the authors specific thoughts.
This becomes the guideline for accuracy in interpretation. We need to identify who wrote this passage? What is the author’s background. When was the letter written and from where. To whom was it written? What is the purpose the letter was written. There are recipients of the letters in the New Testament that help us understand the why it was written. How did the recipient react? Did he have to write more than one letter. Did he quote Old Testament Scripture to the recipients. Is there a historical cultural context that would have been understood by its’ original recipients? Is a certain passage or statement or word is consistently used then we are to see if it has an exception and if this has any bearing on other uses.
All this may sound complicated but it is not. It does take some getting used to think biblically, I takes training.
Our intent is to read the passage from the view of the original author. We cannot determine the meaning by our western or eastern culture, or the century we live in. We can apply it only after we have discovered its original intent. Doctrine, teaching does influence our Lifestyle and it needs to be accurate
The basic rule of interpretation: When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense. Therefore, we should take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.
We should take the Bible exactly as it says unless there is some indication in the text and in the context that tells us we cannot take it literally. Prophetic symbols are about literal events.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103
Pray for the Holy Spirit, the author of the Scripture to help you to understand. It will come alive to you! First read through the entire New Testament to become familiar with its words and events. If you read by piecemeal that is how you will understand it. You have to read through the whole letter to get the complete picture. If we read the Bible synoptically; when one book says something about Jesus we go to another gospel to see if there are details to be added in, and often there is. There are 4 gospels and each have a certain percentage of the same material and a certain percentage of unique material. For example the synoptic gospels: Matthew has 42% difference and 58% in agreement with the other gospels. Mark has 7% difference and 93% agreement. Luke has 59% difference 41% agreement. John that was written years later has the majority being different, covering things not in the other gospels. By reading the same portions in each it will give you a more complete understanding of what took place.
Cross reference Scripture. If necessary read it in a different translation. Make use of a Bible dictionary, consult a commentary if you are not sure or want to double check you have arrived at the right conclusion.
Use different study bibles. If you use a study bible or commentary don’t expect it to be right all the time. Sometimes their interpretation is from their personal opinion or they assume the conclusion by their denominational stance.
Allow the word to penetrate your heart first, especially if you are to teach it to others. Hebrews 4:12 “…the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 But He answered and said, " It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God '"(Matthew 4:4)
Memorize Scripture: “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
Col. 3:16: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Let it be used to reach others, you are a living epistle.
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee
A Harmony of the gospels by A.T. Robertson
A Harmony of the words and works of Jesus Christ by J. Dwight Pentecost
People and places in the Bible by John Farrar
Sketches of Jewish Social life by Edersheim
All the books and chapters of the Bible by Lockyer
Manners and Customs of the Bible by Freeman
Where to Find it in the Bible by Ken Anderson
Evangelical commentary of the Bible by Walter Elwell
Believers Bible Commentary by William MacDonald
Word pictures of the New Testament by A.T. Robertson