A meaningful Bible study is an essential part of the Christian’s life. Learning how to study the Bible is not difficult, and there are so many Bible study tools available to help. Daily Bible study is the best way to know and understand God - it is his gift to us so that we can draw closer to him, know how to worship him rightly, and understand his work throughout history.
Studying God’s Word may seem daunting. After all, we aren’t all scholars with seminary degrees. But in general, God made the Bible clear. Sure, some sections can be challenging, but overall it isn’t hard to understand, and, with a little support, all Christians should be able to dig into a text and mine riches from God’s Word.
Here are 5 tips for approaching the task of studying the Bible.
1) Make a Bible Study Plan
Choose a book of the Bible you'd like to study. If you are new to Bible Study, you might start with the Gospel of Mark, a very straightforward account of Jesus's life, or the book of James, a shorter book, but very clear and practical. It's good to start with a book, versus a word study or a theme, so you can build knowledge about each book of the Bible and it's author, audience and main messages.
It's helpful to set aside a consistent time for Bible study. Mark it out on your calendar!
2) Gather Your Bible Study Tools
Start with your Bible! Here at KJV Bibles, we specialize in Bibles for sale! There are many to choose from, and as we mention later in this blog, you may benefit from having a study Bible on hand. You may want to invest in a journaling Bible to keep all your notes in one place, or if you enjoy drawing or calligraphy. If you'd like to study with the KJV, we have KJV Journaling Bibles here.
Or, you may want to invest in a Bible journal dedicated to this Bible study journey. Explore inspirational journal options at our online Bible store. Don't forget your pen or pencil, and fancier highlighters if you'd like.
Add your favorite spot to read and a cuppa of your favorite and you're ready to dig in.
3) Uncover the Context of This Book of the Bible
You have probably heard a realtor or business owner repeat the expression: “Location. Location. Location!” Well, if you spend enough time with a pastor or Bible professor, you will inevitably hear them sound off: “Context. Context. Context!”
We can uncover this context by investigating a few questions.
1. Who is the author? Most books of the Bible have a clear author, some stated at the beginning of the book. Others are unknown, so you may want to research the possibilities and reasons behind them.
2. Who was the book's intended audience? Of course, we know that God intended for all Christians to be the audience, but who specifically were these books written for from the author's perspective? For example, the Pentateuch- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number, Deuteronomy- were written by Moses as a history of God's chosen people and as a record of his covenant laws with the people of Israel. In the New Testament, you'll find the Epistles (letters) clearly state the recipient of these letters.
Knowing these two facts will prompt more questions as you go along in the study. Why did the author choose to write what he wrote? How did it meet needs in the audience? How might the audience have received these words? You might want to jot these kinds of questions down and make a note of the answers as you find them.
3. When was the book written? Knowing the book's historical context is helpful for putting it in perspective with events of history, as well as for understanding the cultural context.
4. Consider geographical facts. Those maps in the back of your Bible are great to mark places in the ancient world, and it's helpful to relate them to modern day Europe and Middle East. A more comprehensive Bible Atlas is sometimes helpful to learn tidbits like the Mount of Olives was about a 1 1/2 mile walk from Jerusalem, or to better trace Paul's missionary journeys.
To start, it's helpful to read through the book all at once, and make notes about these questions. However, much of this is factual, and we don't have to guess. That's where a study Bible can be a helpful Bible study tool. These study Bibles have comprehensive introductions to every book of the Bible which will fill in some of this contextual material.
4) Understand the Literary Genre
The genre goes along with the introductory elements mentioned above, and often it's mentioned in the introduction to a book of the Bible. But it's worth highlighting on its own as it can affect the later interpretation of what you are reading. Genres found in the Bible include narrative literature, prophecy, the law, wisdom literature, Gospel and Epistle (letter).
While it is important to read, study, and interpret the Bible in a literal way, we must also remember that the Bible uses symbolic and metaphorical language, figures of speech and hyperbole.
For instance, we understand that in the Psalms, considered in the genre of poetry, David didn’t literally flood his bed with tears or drench his couch with weeping. We intuitively know this means he cried a lot! The same could be said for much of the symbolism in Song of Solomon. This is poetic language, and it is good to remember we are reading poetry when we read those books.
The book of Proverbs, one of the books of "wisdom" literature, is filled with, well—proverbs. These are proverbs, not promises. They are pithy statements that are generally true and wise, but not necessarily how things will always play out, for example, there are many well-intentioned Christian parents who have raised up their child in the way they should go, but they departed from it when they grew older (22:6). And sometimes, it’s a good idea to answer a fool according to his folly, but other times, it’s a bad idea to answer a fool according to his folly (26:4-5).
Apocalyptic Scripture, such as that found in Revelation, can be hard to understand, but it is helpful to remember it is this type of literature when reading through its fantastical and prophetic visions.
5) Chunk Your Book Into Passages To Study
While it's important to read through the book all in one go before you start, for more in-depth Bible study, we need manageable chunks. Books of the Bible are already divided into chapters, which can provide a useful dividing line as you think about portions of Scripture to study. Many Bible translations have marked chapters into smaller sections with heading titles - these might make sense, too. Or study the whole chapter, and then go deep on one of these sections to find out why it was marked out like it was.
There are no rules here, think about what makes sense. As you go further along in your Bible study, and understand the messages and themes of the book, you may be ready to make your own new "passages for study" from what you've learned.
Bible Study is exciting! The Bible is God's word to us and is "living and powerful." (Hebrews 4:12 KJV). These tips should set you up to get going. And we are just getting started. Watch for Part II for another set of tips for Bible study success!
Bonus Tip: Mark Up Your Bible
Your Bible is meant to be loved and used! Here is one more bonus tip: Write in your Bible! Circle, draw, jot notes, write down questions that come to mind.
So many people are afraid of doing this. However, it is helpful to have all your notes and thoughts and work that you have done in a Bible study at your fingertips.
It is amazing to look back at that work and remember what you learned. It will encourage you afresh in all the Lord is doing in your life. Years later, you’ll have something to pass on to your children, grandchildren, or other relatives who might inherit your Bible from you. Your years of study will encourage them.
So, mark away! We don’t think you’ll regret it.