The American Bible Society notes that half of the Americans are Bible users. With such stats, you will be right to infer that the Bible is easily the most read book in the entire world. Being more than two thousand years old, the Bible is also the oldest book known to mankind. Having been written by different authors over diverse periods of time, the Bible is also the most fascinating book in the history of the world. With a collection of 66 books within the Old and New Testaments, the Bible bears a record of the histories and stories of numerous peoples and nations. For Christians, the Bible is the most important book, which must be read in order to find spiritual nourishment. However, simply reading the Bible is not sufficient as it requires studying. Here is a guide on how to study the Bible in three simple ways.
To Christians, the Bible is the most important book. This is because it is the Word of God. To fully mature in the spirit, it is imperative to read the Bible from cover to cover. However, a mere reading of the Bible is not enough to gain a firm understanding of the Word of God. To gain a sound understanding of the Bible, one needs to study it. Most people are not familiar with the methods on how to study the Bible. This is also the reason why the Bible is the most misinterpreted book in the world. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to study the Bible.
Approach one: The general method
Step 1: Assign it a time and a place
For anything to be successful in life, planning for it is essential. Choose out a specific time and place for Bible study. Create a Bible study plan that contains what you want to read and then put it into a calendar. It is important to have a Bible study plan because it excites you into discovering what you learnt from God’s Word in a particular day. It also keeps you organized by helping you keep track of the passages you have read and the lessons you have learnt from each of them.
Step 2: Get the right Bible
Choose a good study Bible as well as good a translation to use during your study. Make sure to select the translation from the available translations and not to select from interpretations from commentators. This ensures that you are reading the Bible as translated from the original text as opposed to paraphrases and interpretations.
Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), look for translations from these languages. Hence, avoid bibles translated from Latin since there is a likelihood that they are translated incorrectly.
Among the good Bible translations include the English Standard Version or the New Revised Standard Version. Good examples of Bibles that combine translations include the Holman Christian Standard Bible and Today's New International Version. An example of a good dynamic equivalence translation is the Contemporary English Version. However, it is noteworthy that serious Bible scholars usually frown upon purely dynamic equivalence translations.
Step 3: Read the Bible in context
Read your Bible in the context of the whole chapter and general biblical history and not in isolation of particular verses. Always make sure that your understanding of specific passages fits with the whole counsel of God and the entire doctrine of the Bible i.e. God's Redemption Plan of Salvation (2 John 1:7-10). Reject any revelation that does not align with the doctrine of Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. In addition, look at years of Church history and compare your findings with the same. In case your understanding is contrary to everyone’s in Church history, chances are that you are most certainly wrong. Remember that all heretics resisted the need to proceed with caution and instead went on believing that they were the new prophets! Therefore, to know how to study the Bible effectively and thus be a good student of the Word, you should research. The Puritan Hard drive is a good place to start as well as Ligonier Ministries and Wretched radio. These platforms have links to great Biblical Christian sites and Church History.
Take heed that you are not arrogant in the course of studying the Bible. Instead of boasting about your findings, prayerfully mediate on them. Extensive studying of the Bible is good according to the Book of Timothy. However, remember what is most important: your ability to remember the Scriptures Word for Word and not recalling the names of people throughout history. Hence, although the foundations of faith are important, absorbing the Word of God is more important Remember you may be more educated than certain people but they may have a deeper understanding of the Word because they meditate on it. It is not enough to know and cram names and things. You must learn to practice the Word. (Food for thought, Joshua 1:7-9)
Step 4: Read the Bible prayerfully
This is the first and most important step in studying the Bible. In learning how to study the Bible, you must understand that the Word of God is spiritual. Therefore, you need the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Bible. Approaching Bible study with a prayerful attitude is the best way. Teach yourself to absorb the Word into your spirit through prayer. The Bible will come alive for you.
In Ephesians 1:16-23 Apostle Paul makes a prayer for the church to be filled with the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in knowing God. Make this a personal prayer. Ask God to help you understand his word before you even begin. The Holy Spirit will reveal His Word to you. Avoid making presumptions on particular passages and texts simply because they are difficult to comprehend. Don't use your carnal mind to interpret the Bible. In the book of 2 Peter 1:20,21, the Bible says that no scripture is for private interpretation. This is where misinterpretations come from. In Ephesians 3:14-21 there is a prayer for Spiritual Maturity that Paul prayed for the Church. Make this your personal prayer.
Step 5: Begin with the New Testament first
The best way of how to study the Bible for beginners is by beginning with the New Testament. This is because the New Testament is the Old Testament concealed and the Old Testament is the New Testament revealed. The Old Testament will make better sense if you read the New Testament first.
Step 6: Consider beginning with the Gospel according to John
As a guide on how to study the Bible, it is important to start with the book of John. This is because it introduces the person of Christ, which is the center of all scripture. It is also the easiest of the four Gospels and hence warms you up for the rest. To get a good understanding of the author, topic, context, and characters, consider reading it twice or thrice. Read 2 chapters a day and concentrate on your Bible study. Remember to exercise patience.
Move on to the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke when you are done studying the Book of John. Read them carefully, one after the other until you are done.
After reading the Gospels move on to Romans and read through to the Book of Jude. Because the Book of Revelation is full of prophetic symbols, consider reading it after you have studied the Old Testament. After reading the Major Prophets and the other Old Testament books, the Book of Revelation will make more sense.
READ ALSO: How to pray the Rosary guide
Step 7: Study the Bible topically
A topical Bible study differs greatly from a book-to-book or chapter-to-chapter study, and in a good way. Certain Bibles have topical indexes on various themes ranging from salvation to resurrection. Choose a topic that interests you and then dig into the scriptures. A topical study of the Bible gives you a more concentrated focus on particular verses and chapters. This helps cover areas that you had missed out before.
Step 8: Read the entire book
The next step on how to study the Bible is to cultivate a culture of reading an entire book. Do this again and again. As you read, look for themes that may be woven into the chapters. Sometimes you'll detect a general message in the book. For example, in the book of Romans, an obvious theme is “God’s righteousness versus man’s righteousness.” Jot down the revelations that you get as you read. Look out also for principles for daily life application. An example of a life application principle in the book of Romans is: “Remember that you are saved not by your own righteousness, which is as filthy rags, but by God’s righteousness through Christ.” In studying the Bible, you must relate with scripture by meditating on them and applying them in daily life. This is especially so even before using other Bible study tools. This opens the door for the voice of God to your life personally through His Word.
Step 9: Zoom into the text
Now, slow down and read the book verse by verse, breaking down the text, looking for deeper understanding. For instance, Luke 18:1 reads, “And he spake a parable unto them unto this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint” (KJV). Let us take this scripture as an example and see how to do Bible study. How exciting it is! In this step, let us see what the text looks like under a microscope, as we begin to break it down. Using the Greek rendering and a Bible dictionary, look up the meaning of the word “pray” in the original language. It is the Greek word “proseuche” meaning, "to bring out that which is inside." You start to see a deeper meaning: Prayer is bringing out inner feelings, thoughts and desires. Because prayer is bringing out what is on the inside, you can read other scriptures and see how they apply to your own with that knowledge.
Step 10: Compare texts between different versions
Some versions of the Bible have either very simplified words and meanings or very complex ones. Comparing between different versions helps in bringing out the meanings and building a better understanding of the text. Different versions of the Bible bring out various portions in different ways. Cultivate a habit of comparing Bible versions to get out the best meanings and contexts.
Step 11: Be a doer and not just a reader
Don't just read the Bible because it is good to study it. Rather, put it into practice as an effective way of studying God’s Word. Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (NLT) If God speaks to you personally or through life application principles you find in the text, be sure to apply those nuggets to your day-to-day life.
Step 12: Make it a daily habit
Don’t just read the Bible once. To truly grasp the art of how to study the Bible, make it a daily practice to study the Bible. Studying the Bible is an art form. To make studying the Bible an intrinsic part of one’s life, doing it on a daily basis is of utmost importance. Remember, once you are done with reading a particular book, move onto another and repeat the steps above.
READ ALSO: How to meditate at home for beginners
Approach two: Study the Bible using Bible studying tools
Step 1: Use a Bible dictionary
Make use of the dictionary to look up for meanings within texts of words you are unfamiliar with. This will improve your understanding of the Bible.
Step 2: Find a Bible notebook
It is very important to take notes of what you learn because of the forgetful nature of humans. This will help you not to forget what you read and you can always come back to it later. In the Book of Habakkuk, God spoke to the prophet and encouraged him to write down the vision that was given to him. As you come across revelations and knowledge, they may not be relevant for that time. However, cultivating a habit of writing them down helps you to use them in the right time.
Step 3: Highlighting
You will probably notice that other people’s Bibles are marked. Highlighting what you come across as interesting is a Bible study technique that helps you remember the exact portion you read. It also makes it much easier to refer to the same scripture next time.
Step 4: Utilize Biblical resources
Most Bibles have useful resources such as concordances and endnotes. Concordances are found at the back page and they contain names and definitions arranged in an alphabetical manner. Endnotes are found at the bottom of the page and usually provide information concerning particular portions and passages of scripture. For instance, they give historical contexts and also provide explanations to complex ideas within the text. Try picking out a few words that jumped at you and looking them up in a concordance to find other verses talking about the same thing.
Step 5: Keep a Bible journal
As already said earlier, the importance of writing it down can never be overstated. In this journal you should not write a lot but just a summary on a page with the date, book / chapter / verse on the top. Jot down a few ideas and themes. This will help you keep track of what God is revealing to you. Write out thoughts, verses or ideas that come into mind as you read. Ask yourself "Who, What, When, Where, Why, How" and answer every possible question under each category. Make comparisons between what you find and what the Bible teaches. Then look them over and remember to pray about everything.
Step 6: Enter into your closet
The Bible is God’s word. It is the easiest way to hear from God. Because of this importance, you must learn to have a quiet and alone time with God. Turn off everything that proves as a distraction and concentrate on studying the Bible.
READ ALSO: How to Pray in Islam
Approach three: Study the Bible in a fellowship
Step 1: Find a Bible study group
The Bible teaches not to give up the habit of meeting up with saints and fellow-shipping. Find a Bible study group and meet often to discuss the Bible. Everyone has a different Word from God and this can be helpful in understanding what you couldn’t alone.
Step 2: Share
Learn to share what you find in your personal Bible reading with others in your Bible study group. In case there are people with a deeper revelation in the group, they will enlighten you and give you deeper insights into God’s word.
Step 3: Don't steal
Do not take what other people have found unless it is a Bible study guide. Allow God to speak to you through His Word. Do not be afraid of putting in the effort. Biblical revelation comes only after years of studying the Word and prayer. Remember it’s not a competition to see who knows the Bible more. It is a learning experience.
Enjoy reading God’s Word. It is a book that was written by different authors in diverse periods of time. This means that their unique experiences and times present you with a plethora of topics to choose from and there is always something to learn and apply in daily living.