How to Study the Bible – a practical guide

Bible study cartoonUse these points to help establish healthy study habits.  For advance study, collect some reliable books and resources.  Ask your pastor or spiritual mentor to help you with this.

1.  Ask questions about the section of Scripture you’re reading, like:

  • What happened immediately before and after?  (Look it up!)
  • Did something like this happen before in the Bible?
  • To whom was the author speaking or writing?
  • What is the subject being discussed?
  • Does the topic or story address a contemporary issue?
  • What’s happening in the author’s and/or reader’s time, city, region, personal experience, etc.?

Example:  Read Acts 1:1-4.  Write three questions you might ask about these verses.

2.  Ask questions about yourself, like:

  • Who would I tell?
  • What would I say?
  • When would I do or say something?
  • Where would, or can, I go?
  • Why do I care, or why would I react?
  • How would I respond?

Example:  Read Ezekiel 33:10-11.  What are two questions you could ask yourself about these verses?

3.  List things, like:

  • a person’s characteristics and/or actions
  • significant numbers of things (like the 10 Commandments!)
  • the main people in the story
  • any sequence of actions or progression of ideas
  • any other list of persons, places, things, or subjects

Example:  Read Genesis 24 and list the personal characteristics you see in Abraham’s servant.

4.  Use maps.  A good study Bible contains a map section as well as maps at various places in the text.  Use these, or a good Bible atlas, to compare things like the distance between Biblical towns with the distance between towns in your county or state.  Identify waterways and terrain that were important landmarks and routes in the Bible, like rivers and mountains.  Think about how people traveled or interacted with the geography, and why cities were founded in certain locations.

Example:  Read Matthew 2:1 and 27:34-35.  Determine the distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

5. Picture it!  Use your imagination to picture the scene:

  • What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?
  • Imagine the time of day, the scenery, the weather, and other details mentioned in the reading.

Example:  Read Acts 9:43; 10:9-10.  Tell what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.  (Then, find Joppa on a map!)

6.  Compare and contrast.  Find similarities of and differences between subjects, people, and places mentioned in the Scripture.

Example:  What is the difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea?  What is similar about fishing for fish and fishing for people?

7.  Describe what you see God doing in the Scripture, like:

  • drawing people to Himself (or getting someone’s attention)
  • showing His love
  • forgiving sins
  • performing a miracle
  • holding people accountable for their actions
  • empowering believers

Example:  In Revelation 4:6, what is God saying about heaven when John sees a sea of glass, like crystal?

8.  Search the Scriptures:

  • Read the Bible regularly using a Bible reading plan.
  • Read the Bible chronologically.
  • Don’t read randomly and out of context!
  • Invest in a good study Bible to help you find topics, words, names, Scripture cross-references, etc.

Example:  Get a chronological Bible and read I & II Kings and/or I & II Chronicles.  Discover where the prophets fit!

9.  Get involved with other believers:

  • Attend church regularly and worship with other believers.
  • Interact with Christian friends – discuss a Biblical topic.
  • Get involved in a small group Bible study like a Sunday School class, accountability group, men’s or women’s Bible study, home Bible study, or other interest group.

Example:  Discover the Sunday School classes in your church that are offered for each member of your family.

10.  Keep a journal.  Write your thoughts or questions.  Use a blank-page journal to keep notes about specific topics.  Think ahead!  Think about how you can add or arrange future notes.

Example:  One way to do this is to choose a topic of interest to you and then read through the Bible, or through a book of the Bible, writing your thoughts, impressions, questions, and personal comments.  Keep a journal for each topic you study.  Some examples of topics are:

  • unnamed people
  • agriculture
  • forgiveness
  • emotions of Job
  • military references
  • miracles
  • family relationships
  • missions

 

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