How to study the Bible

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I’m probably just re-iterating what so many others have said, but it is really important as Christians to read and study the Bible. As you read the spirit breathed passages within the Bible you learn more about God, his character, his nature, and most importantly His love for you.

In this post, I am going to share with you how I go about studying the bible with links to previous Bible Study Post.

1.Format


The bible is composed of many different books each with their own style and formats to tell their message. As such when I go to pick a passage or a book I always consider what type of format it is written in as this will drastically change how I understand the message. For instance, you wouldn’t read a lyric from a song the same way you would read a news article as there are so many linguistic differences between the two.

Examples of book formats

Psalms and Lyrics: When we read books such as the psalms or song of songs, there is a lot of imagery, metaphors and similes to describe human emotions and empathy which cannot be touched or physically seen, so such imagery helps us understand the depths of an emotion that the author is trying to convey.

Historical: Is there to provide recorded accounts of events, they are unlikely to provide you information of the typical day-to-day activities but instead relay key events such as the era, any significant wars and political battles and lineage. Historical books are to be understood on face value and will not provide the opinions of the author.

Letters: are there to convey a message to an individual or groups of people, they are typically written to inform the reader about the writer’s current state or thoughts towards the reader. Understanding the context behind a letter is integral to bible study particularly when applying what is written in the letter to our lives.

Apocalyptic writing: This type of writing is trying to explain things that have yet to happen kind of like trying to explain the concept of a car to a caveman. As such a lot of symbolism culturally relevant to the readers of the text would be used to better illustrate future events. For instance, if I say I saw a rat in your future, most of you would interpret this negatively as rats culturally in this era are seen as detestable creatures. Whereas if I say I see flowers in the future, you may interpret this to mean something positive will happen in the future, as flowers are seen positively in this cultural age.

 

I’ve created a FREE poster which you can download displaying the different biblical literature found in the Bible.

 

Brief FORMAT Bible Study:

” Listen! My love [is approaching], Look Here he comes, leaping over the mountains bounding over the hills”

(Song of Solomon 2:8)
  • This passage is taken from the Songs of Solomon, a book comprised of lyrics to some of the most beautiful love melodies. As such we know it uses a lot of metaphors, similes and even repetition to convey emotions.
  • We know this passage is metaphorical because whoever this lover is ( assuming he is human), is clearly physically not jumping over a mountain as this is nigh impossible without some future technology that can tower over mountains. So we can understand this to be a form of expression to indicate a joyful emotion as humans tend to jump and leap when excited or joyful.

2.Context

Context, context, context is everything when studying the Bible… DO NOT FORGET IT! A lot of people easily misinterpret Bible passages because they take what is written out of context. Context is essentially understanding the background behind a text.

  • When trying to understand the context of a text it might be best to ask
  • Who wrote the passage?
  • Why did they write this text?
  • Who was the author writing to?
  • How would the intentioned reader understand the text and why?
  • When was it written?

It is worth reading the chapter or previous chapters before your text, reading various bible versions of the text, reading commentaries and having a look online to know the period which the book or passage was written.

Brief CONTEXT Bible Study

” Listen! My love [is approaching], Look Here he comes, leaping over the mountains bounding over the hills”

Song of Solomon 2:8
  • This passage was written by King Solomon, a great man in the bible full of God’s wisdom.
  • King Solomon had many wives and concubines as such some people interpret his writings in the Song of Solomon to be a description of his relationship with his lovers. I take the ‘divine’ interpretation which presents Solomon (the man) as Christ Jesus and the Woman (the church) and details the loving relationship which the Lord desires with His church and uses Solomon’s writing as illustrations of this.
  • The songs of Solomon can be described as a long piece of poetry or music, and within this piece, many voices take turns to speak. In this passage, we hear the woman’s voice describing the man, her lover, with tender words and affection. The woman speaks of how her lover is coming to her leaping ( with joy), which indicates that the love she has for this man is reciprocated.

3.Define Keywords

It’s worth defining any keywords or phrases you find in the bible that you don’t understand as this can help you understand the context better, but it also helps direct your study. If you can, have a look at the word or phrase in biblical Hebrew or Greek as some words lose their meaning when translated. Take for example the word ‘Love’, in English this word describes every form of love but in the Greek language there are 4 different words for love:

  • Storge: is the love developed through family bonds such as the love between brothers or a mother and her daughter
  • Philios: Is the love between close friends that is freely given, like the love between David and Jonathan
  • Eros: is the romantic love, the sexual love between
  • Agape: the unconditional love of God

Knowing the various definitions of love found in the Bible helps us be more specific in our study and limits the chances of misinterpreting the text.

Brief DEFINE Bible Study

“I am the Good Shepherd”

(John 10:11)

The keywords we can pick from this scripture is “Shepherd”, “Good” and “I AM”

  • Shepherd- someone who looks after sheep ( a domesticated mammal)
  • Good- is something or someone that is morally right or is well approved.
  • Good Shepherd-When we read a little further we find the definition of a ‘good shepherd’ someone who knows their sheep by heart and is willing to die for his sheep (John 10:14.
  • I AM- is addressing oneself and attribute, it is also the name of God (Exodus 3:14)

4.Be Curious


The worst thing you can do when studying the Bible is not to ask any questions. Be curious, it is in our nature to be curious it is how we learn as children. When you are curious don’t just stop at asking the question go and find out, we have a marvellous thing called the internet use it and when in doubt we have a marvellous friend called the Holy Spirit – use him!.

The best way to be curious is to always ask why?

Brief CURIOUS Bible Study

“I am the Good Shepherd”

(John 10:11)
  • From our contextual knowledge, we know that it is Jesus who is speaking in this passage and as such we know he is describing himself as a good shepherd. We also know that Jesus was not a Shepherd by profession but was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), so why would he call himself a ‘shepherd’?
  • What does a Shepherd represent?
  • If Jesus is the ‘good shepherd’ that who are his sheep?
  • Is he calling us sheep and why?

5.Meditate

Meditating is thinking and pondering over something continuously, and we are called to meditate on the teachings found in the bible (Psalm 119:97) continuously. One of the best ways of meditating is by trying to apply what you have read to your own circumstance. You can also press in prayer on the questions you are still curious about.

After eating dinner I tend not to rush and do anything else and just let my body digest, in a similar fashion let your soul digest all that it has read and learnt.

Brief MEDITATE bible study

  • If I am the sheep, then what is my duty as a sheep?
  • How is Jesus the shepherd in my life, how does he tend to me?

Final Points

Whenever I want to sit down and study the Bible this is what I think about, I know that most of the times I probably won’t get the answers straight away and it may be months later that something from the passage is revealed to me, so I remain patient and continue to meditate on the topic, passage or chapter.

Past Bible Study Posts

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A hungry young Christ focused girl wanting to explore the bible and help others on their walk with God.

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