STUDYING THE BIBLE
by Adam Bartlett
Studying the Bible does not have to be difficult, with help, patience, and effort it can be exciting and rewarding. One of the first obstacles to get over is, "where to start". If you have little or no experience in studying the Bible, the following information should be of great benefit to you.
If you are like I was, then you probably tried to start in Genesis and start reading your way through, and again if you are like I was, by the time I got about half way through I was ready to give up. I also played Bible-bingo, know what this is don't you? You take your Bible and just close your eyes and let it fall open and wherever it opens to you start reading. Neither of these and some other methods are likely to hold your interest for long. There is a way that I found to be extremely effective in studying, which has purpose, goals, and an easy to follow method.
The first thing you will need to do is to be willing to invest a little money to more easily and effectively reach your goals. The first and most important investment is a good study Bible; Three I highly recommend are The King James Study Bible, The Life Application Bible (KJV), and the Thompson Chain Study Bible. The following steps are designed to not only give you the knowledge of the scriptures, but an understanding of them and how they apply. By the time you finish these steps you will have as good an understanding of the Bible as people who have spent years in their Christian walk with little or no structured study. The most important thing to remember above all the methods and help resources, is to NEVER start any session of study or just reading, without first praying and asking the Holy Spirit to guide and reveal the truths of this living Word to you. One other thing to keep in mind is to be patient and don't pressure yourself to try to learn too fast.
Once you have your study Bible, start with Matthew and read; [a study has revealed that the average person loses 50% of retention after 30 minutes of reading and 80% after 45 minutes] The purpose in this first step is not to try to understand or stop at any questions you might have. Get a notebook and start with a title Matt., and then as you read and come across verses or sections you don't understand, write down the chapter and verses in question. The first step is a familiarization process, since you are new to the scriptures this process is to get the scriptures in your mind. It may sound simple or redundant, but you will retain much more than you think. Follow this process through the entire New Testament, reading at a comfortable pace to you. ( it is extremely important, especially in the first three steps to do everything in your power to stay with this every day if possible).
In this step you will need a highlighter (try the highlighter on a page in the back of your Bible to see if it will bleed through the page, there are some that don't but they are hard to find). Start at Matthew and read again; this time as you read (one chapter at a time is a good idea at this time) highlight any verses you want to remember. This is also where you will read a chapter and then read each commentary note for that chapter and highlight each note that helps you to understand that verse. The purpose of this is that in the future any time you go through any of the New Testament and see a highlighted note you will know that it helps explain the verse and can be referred to quickly. The purpose of reading through each verse again is to further inscribe these scriptures in you mind. Remember as with all steps, PRAY first.
This step will require some additional materials, if you can, however it is not mandatory. Start at Matthew and guess what, read again; this time when you read, if you have a commentary (a list of recommended help materials are listed on the following page) you can use it as you go through this time. The purpose in this step is to break down each verse that can be, by asking a series of questions (a sample of this is included in this material) to get the most thorough understanding of each verse. Not every verse will be able to be broken down this way, so if you come across a verse or verses that don't appear to be able to be broken down, move on. After you finish this step you can go through and use the cross references to relate other scriptures that have similar meaning or expound further the verse of origin. Once you have finished this step you can apply these methods in the Old Testament, or move on to word or subject studies, ect.. I just pray that this can be as helpful to you as it was for me, God bless you in your efforts to plant His word in your heart.
History of the Bible
The word Bible comes from the Greek word "biblia", meaning books. It was written in several languages, Hebrew and Aramaic in the Old Testament, and Greek in the New Testament.
The Bible influenced the course of early America and itís political development and itís ideals about truth and justice. Abraham Lincoln said "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book".
The Bible was composed by the inspiration of God through men over a period of 15 centuries (1400 BC - 100 AD). See 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
The sixty-six books of the Bible was written by men from all walks of life such as Kings, Shepherds, Soldiers, Musicians, Singers, Poets, Preachers, Prophets, Fishermen, Physician, and even a Tax Collector. Study of the contents of this awesome book is scripturally commanded, 2 Timothy 2: 15, 1 Peter 2: 2-3, Colossians 3:16, and Joshua 1:8, along with many of the Psalms.
The oldest Hebrew (O.T.) Biblical Texts are the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 at Qumran. The oldest Hebrew Bible that we know of before the find of the Dead Sea Scrolls is dated to about the tenth century A.D.. With the find of the Scrolls we now have at least fragments of every book of the Hebrew Bible with the exception of the book of Esther. These fragments and the whole of the Dead Sea Scrolls are estimated to be at least a thousand years older than the Hebrew Bible of the tenth century. Esther is the only book of the Old Testament that does not mention the name of God, isnít it interesting that it is the only book not recovered?
There are over 5,200 Greek New Testament manuscripts in whole or part. The best and most important of these go back to some where about A.D. 350. The two most important of these are the Codex Vaticanus, stored in the Vatican library in Rome, and the Codex Sinaiticus which is kept in the British Museum. The first time we see a list of the New Testament books exactly as we have today is the Thirty-Ninth Easter letter of Athenasius, which was written in A.D. 367.
Breaking down Verses
This section will be dedicated to explaining how to break down verses into what they mean and how they apply.
Jesus gave a good example of how to draw the meanings out of the scriptures in Matthew. In Matthew 13: 24-30 Jesus gives a parable, and the disciples come to Him and ask for an explanation to which Jesus gives in 36-43. Jesus also done the same thing in the previous parable, Matthew 13:3-9 and explained it in 18-23.
For the purpose of this section we will look at
Matthew 22: 1-14
Vs.2 - The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.
Questions: Who is the king? What is the marriage? Who is the son?
In order to understand scripture it is good to know who is being addressed and what the subjects are. Then you can ask questions such as;
How does this apply to me?
What lessons are there in this for me?
Not all verses will be able to be broken down in this way.
Vs.3 - And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Questions: Who are the servants? Who are them that were bidden? What is the wedding?
Vs.4 - Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fallings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
Questions: Who are the other servants? What is the dinner? What is the meaning of the oxen and fallings being killed?
Vs.5 - But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
Questions: How do people make light of the Gospel and Salvation?
Vs.6 - And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
Questions: Who is the remnant? Who are the servants that were miss-treated and slew?
Vs.7 - But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Questions: Who was the army? What city was burned?
Vs.8 - Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
Questions: Who are these servants? Who are not worthy?
Vs.9 - Go yea therefore into the highways, and as many as yea shall find, bid to the marriage.
Questions: Who are to go? Who does this apply to today?
Vs.10 - So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Questions: How many are we to gather? "Good and bad", are we to be selective?
Vs.11 - And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
Questions: What is the wedding garment?
Vs.12 - And he satin unto him, Friend, how calmest the in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
Questions: Where might this be taking place? What does this say about judging?
Vs.13 - Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Questions: Who are these servants? Are these the same servants as mentioned earlier? Where is this person cast?
Vs.14 - For many are called, but few are chosen.
Questions: What is this verse saying?
I hope that this gives you an idea of how to try to squeeze understanding out of the scriptures by asking questions. As I said earlier, this cannot be done with all verses. You can also formulate your own questions for the verses that may help you.
There are several ways to conduct a study; There is a Word Study, a Topic Study, a Character Study, Study a Person, and others.
A Word Study: To take a particular word and study it throughout the Bible. Look at how it is used in various verses, and the different meanings it may contain.
A Topic Study: To take a topic (sin, love, grace, hell, heaven, ect..) and search all scriptures that speak of the topic. Depending on the topic it could involve hundreds of scriptures. The object is to find out all the different meanings and uses of the topic throughout scripture.
A Person Study: To study all scriptures containing a certain individual to better understand that person. Learn of their weaknesses and strengths, their examples and failures.
There are many types and styles of study, the most important thing is to find a method and type that keeps your interest. Spending time daily in the Bible is a must in the Christian walk, and an effective study habit is essential. God desires for His children to have a love for His Word and the Spirit will aid you in this relationship with the Word. God will give you the desire if you ask for it, but you must act on it and cultivate the growth. God loves to see those who fall in love with the Word. I challenge you to develop a strong commitment to the word and prayer. You must never leave out prayer in your study time. The devil knows that reading alone will accomplish little, but if you combine it with a petition to the Spirit to make it come alive, He will do it. The power is in the Spirit bringing the Word alive in your heart. God bless you in your study.
Bible Study Helps
There are many materials available today to make Bible Study easier and more profitable. You will have to find materials that suite you the best. Any Bible/Christian Book Store will have all the materials on hand that you will need or if not will order them for you. If you are willing to give up one meal eating out, you can afford most of the study materials available. I recommend that you start first with a Strongís Concordance with Hebrew and Greek dictionary. I will list just a few of the help materials that are available.
The Life Application Study Bible (KJV) - is an excellent study Bible, with commentary notes for almost every verse in the Bible. Not only does it have study notes and a good cross reference, it give analogies to apply the scriptures to today.
The King James Study Bible - also an excellent study Bible, with a lot of study notes and good cross reference. There are other good study Bibles and you must find one to fit
your desires and budget.
There are many good commentaries out there also, I will just name a few.
Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbee
New Testament Commentary by H.A. Ironside
Complete Commentary of the Bible by Matthew Henry
There are also many good concordances, but the best one that I know of is the Strongís Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew and Greek dictionary.