Posted by: The Simple Guy | October 18, 2014

How do you study your Bible?

Recently I was asked by someone via text to explain how I study my Bible.

Sort of a big topic for a text, so I decided to put together a post on it and open up the discussion. Please feel free to chime in and discuss this as well. I like the open forum format.

My study method is a system that has developed over time. Originally I used a method I learned from a John MacArthur tape series I used to have called (you guessed it) How to Study the Bible. I’m sure he still has it available on his website if you are interested.

Essentially he encourages you to select a small book or a section of a larger book – 5-7 chapters – and read through it every day for at least 90 days. To start with this seems really hard to do but I believe it pays off. You see, to begin with it seems like a lot of reading. About a month in it seems kind of dry. You find yourself skimming through and having to back up and READ it.

But then one day you realize that you KNOW what it says. You can think through the flow of the book. You’ll hear people use a verse out of context and without even having to look it up you know they aren’t using it correctly. (I know verse 5 says such and such but how you’re using it doesn’t mesh with verse 3, or verse 12, or the previous chapter. . . The thought process flows like this, and that just doesn’t match)

So since 1989 I’ve been using this method and have spent 90-120 days reading several books through every day. I’ve used this for all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament.

At some point I started noticing my own cross references from one book to the next.

I have also found that as I revisit books I studied before, there are depths that appear that I did not discover during the previous times.

The second development in my study method began when a friend of mine introduced me to esword.
It is a computer program available for free online. It has a KJV option with the Strongs Exhaustive Concordance numbers attached. This has enabled me to begin to find the original words used and is even searchable so I can find how these words were used other places.

Esword also has several downloadable translations that are available for no cost. This feature allowed me to read the same text in several translations and get a fuller understanding of what is being said.

The third development was when I started reading books on hermeneutics. At this point I realized there is actually a science to accurately extracting the meaning.

First read it. Second, observe. Watch for comparison and contrast. Watch for repetition (this is for emphasis). Watch for logical progression. This is evident in words like since, therefore, if-then. Watch for conjunctions. And, but, for. Notice verb tenses. These can be critical. Be sure to save interpreting or application until you have thoroughly OBSERVED the text.

Observe the genre of the text. Is it poetry, historical, allegorical, or instructional?

Then you need to determine what this meant to the original audience. Determine what is different now from then. What is timeless, what is temporary? What are the underlying principles involved?

Now we are ready to interpret it. What does it say, and what does that mean? How does that match with the rest of scripture?

How does that apply to my life?

One last critical point is that you have to have the courage to admit when you don’t know the answer. I’m not God. I am the student and he is the teacher. When I don’t know the answer I ask, study, and wait. Sometimes for years. I prefer to let Him drop the pieces in place in His time.

The last development that I believe is most critical, I began to read as if the author is in the room. BECAUSE HE IS. I read prayerfully and ask what He means. He meets you there.

I have not figured it all out. But I am better for the journey.

Your thoughts?


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