You open your bible, flip through a few of its pages, and let out a sigh of overwhelm. I get it, studying the bible can feel intimidating, even scary. I know you want to dive into God’s word; and I know you are anxious to learn more. But, you’re not too sure where to start. While studying the bible can seem like a challenge, it’s actually pretty simple once you have the right tools in place. Are you ready to embark on this life-changing journey with the God of the universe? Are you ready to learn and grow as the Holy Spirit speaks into your life? Then keep reading because I am going to show you how to study the Bible even if you are a beginner.
Now, before you start any bible study, I recommend having these resources nearby.
- Bible Dictionary/Commentary
Why are there so many Bible translations out there and which should I use?
Does that question sound familiar? Yes? Well, I’ll break it down for you. There are three major types of bible translations and each serve a different purpose for us as readers. These include the word for word, thought for thought (or meaning for meaning), and paraphrased Bible versions.
- Word for word follows the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts most accurately. These are direct translations. Examples of these include the King James Version, English Standard Version, and the New Revised Standard Version.
- Thought for Thought versions convey scripture in its most understandable wording. Ancient cultural “slang,” sayings, and expressions are replaced with modern ones that can be easily understood by today’s reader. These include the New International Version and the New Living Translation.
- Paraphrased versions are the least accurate to the original text. Authors are given a great amount of freedom in interpretation, so some passages may stray slightly from its original meaning. However, they are very easy to read in modern language. A popular paraphrased Bible translation is The Message translation.
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Which Bible translation should I use?
Ultimately, the decision is up to you but I recommend having a word for word version for deep study. When studying the Bible, you want your interpretation to be as accurate as possible so that you don’t miss anything. Sure, these might be a bit harder to grasp but that’s why we have so many tools and resources available to us to make understanding them easier.
I study with an English Standard Version from the Daily Grace Co. and use a New International Version if I’m just reading quickly or trying to get the overall gist of a particular bible passage. I’ll use a paraphrased version for entertainment, quoting, or if I want to share scriptural encouragement with someone who is completely new to the bible.
What Bible Study tools and resources are available for use?
There are many Bible study tools and resources you can use when studying the Bible. Here are a few of them.
- Bible Study Tools – A database of over 20 Bible translations, commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. It also includes popular history books, texts, and writings on the beginning of the early church, Bible lexicons, maps, guides, and other resources to enhance your bible study experience.
- Blue Letter Bible – This is very similar to Bible Study Tools. It contains in depth study software that include commentaries, concordances, Greek and Hebrew word tools, sermons, and commentaries. I personally use the Blue Letter Bible in my personal Bible Study.
- Bible Gateway – Bible Gateway is great because it contains a large database of Bible translations in a variety of languages. I love that you can enter a keyword or topic in addition to a bible verse when searching. It helps if you have a topic in mind but aren’t sure of the specific passage it comes from.
- You Version – Finally, YouVersion is a Bible app filled with a huge database of translations as well. However, its Bible reading plans and devotionals make it unique. They cover a wide variety of topics from healing and freedom to singleness, dating, and marriage.
- She Reads Truth – She Reads Truth is very similar to You Version but its Bible plans are geared towards women. Each devotional has prompts and takeaways to help you grasp the full meaning of the passage as you read. If you aren’t ready to start studying on your own, one of their Bible plans might be a great way to start off!
Why should I even care about going deeper in Bible study? Isn’t surface knowledge enough?
No, it’s definitely not enough! The Bible says that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. (Matthew 5:6) If you only study on the surface, you will only gain a surface understanding. But, God has so much he wants to show you. God’s word will literally illuminate your life and bring hope to dark places. But you cannot receive that light and hope if you do not seek for it. Personally, sometimes in-depth study of a particular passage in the Bible would be my key to breakthrough. Plus, why would you not want to have the fullest possible understanding of your Savior and Creator?
How I study the Bible
It has taken me a while to figure out a Bible study method I really love. My method is still ever-changing. However, I will share it with you in case you wanted to take it and modify it to suit your Bible study needs.
As I mentioned earlier, I use the ESV Journaling Bible from the Daily Grace Co. in Bible Study. I love its wide margins that I can write notes, doodles, and observations in. Yes, I draw in my Bible! (but that’s a topic for another day.)
Let’s go through my routine in steps:
Start off with prayer
I start off in prayer and invite God to open up my heart and teach me through his word.
Read through once without highlighting or taking notes
Next, I dive right in and read through the passage first without highlighting or taking notes. I want to get an overview of what the passage is saying before I try to look for details. As I am reading, I do make a mental note of anything that stands out so I can come back to it later.
Read through a second time and highlight, circle, underline, and make note of any observations
I read through a second time and highlight, circle, underline, and make note of my observations. I write down my questions, the things I find shocking, and the comments I have. If I feel convicted about something, I write that down too so I can pray about it later. Try to have no reservations in this step. You don’t have to be perfect, simply write down any observation that comes to mind.
Look into Bible study tools
Next, I consult my Bible study tools. Most days I’ll use a commentary but sometimes I’ll also use a concordance to look up what words mean in the Hebrew or Greek text. I’ll also cross-reference at times, especially if the passage I just read reminds me of anything I’ve read before. Commentaries and sermons from theologians are great but I always try to remember to allow the Holy Spirit to lead by Bible study. Ultimately, he knows his word better than anyone else. That being said, I take everything I read with a grain of salt.
Pay attention to the historical context
After this, I take a look at the historical context surrounding the passage. What was going on when it was written? Who was it written to? When was it written? Where was it written? You can discover some of the historical context right in the passage itself but there are also historical resources you can use to get a deeper understanding of the social/political/economic climate the passage was written in.
Consider the meaning for today and its personal application for my life
Finally, based on my understanding of the passage from my Bible study, I think about its meaning for today and it’s personal application for my life and walk with Christ. I choose 2-3 takeaways and focus on them throughout the day. I also consider what the passage reveals about me as a human being. Does it speak of any hidden sin, attitude, or thought pattern that I need to repent of? Is it challenging me to draw closer to God? To trust him more? To have faith? I ponder these questions in prayer and ask God to help me through whatever he has revealed through his word.
A few other things you should know
I study one book at a time, instead of skipping around. This helps me to fully grasp the meaning of the book overall and how each chapter relates its message. I am currently studying the New Testament and have been doing so for about a year. I go in the canonical order and finish one book before going to another.
Also, I only study one chapter per day. Going slowly helps me to really take in and absorb the meaning and application of what I am studying.
Other Bible Study Methods
My technique is not the only one out there. There are so many others. In fact, I would encourage you to draw from the various methods to create your own. Your most effective bible study will be the one personalized to you. I won’t go into detail but here are a few of the other types of Bible study methods out there.
- Book Studies
- Color Coding
- Topical Studies
- Bible Verse Mapping
I hope this article was helpful for you. My final advice would be to choose the method that’s simplest for you. Take other methods and modify as necessary to fit your needs. The most important thing is that you have a clear understanding of scripture, are applying it to your life, and that you remain consistent in study.
God has placed no pressure on you to know everything. It’s okay if you don’t. This is a learning process, and if you knew all of it, there would be no need to study. Take a deep breath, open your Bible, and begin reading. Remember to go at the pace most comfortable for you. Please don’t let anyone rush you. Now, go and study!