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HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE

By Ernst S. Sibberson - W8LEC

 

INVEST IN YOUR BIBLE STUDY

Serious Bible study demands two things from you—time and money. You must make time for Bible study. Juggle your schedule—wake up earlier, go to bed later, take some leisure time, or eliminate one of  your favorite TV programs.

Serious bible Study will also cost you money. Many reference books are expensive. But remember, mechanics and carpenters make a major investment in their tools—tools that last a lifetime. You also must make an investment—an investment scriptural tools. Obtain a good Study Bible, Bible Atlas, and Bible Handbook or Bible Dictionary to start. If you cannot afford new ones, check out used book stores, garage sales, and flea markets. Just because they are old or used doesn’t mean they’re out of date.

PRAYER

I am as guilty as anyone else when it comes to not praying before reading or studying the Bible. It is essential to ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your scripture reading or study. Before you even begin to read or study the Bible, turn to the Lord and ask for His help. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given to him.” (James 1:5)

DEVELOP GOOD BIBLE STUDY HABITS

Dedicate at least 15 minutes per day at the same hour for Bible study. I recommend early morning before the confusion of the day clutters your mind.

Find a quiet place free from distractions for your Bible Study—preferably at a desk or table. Keep your Bible Study area free from distractions and clutter. Use the same quite place every day. It will take you about three weeks to develop your Bible study habit.

Pick a system or plan for your Bible Study. What are you going to study and how are you going to study it? This can be character studies, book studies, subject studies (marriage and divorce, prayer, the Christian walk, prophecy, word studies, etc.). Don’t let your Bible Study become haphazard or aimless.

Make sure you read a passage correctly. Re-read it several times to make sure you understand what it says, and you are not taking it out of context. Self-recite the passage to make sure you are reading it correctly. Learn to read, reflect, and recall.

KEEP A SPIRITUAL DIARY

Obtain a stenographers pad, spiral-ring notebook, or loose leaf binder for your diary. Do not use loose scraps of paper. They can easily become misplaced and lost. I prefer the hard bound record books found in office supply stores. They open and lay flat—providing a comfortable writing surface. The pages are permanently bound and cannot easily be removed or lost. There are also computer programs available for journals and diaries.

There is no “right” way to keep a spiritual diary. The best way is to write down, in your own words, your thoughts on what the passage said to you. Here are some suggestions:

What message, if any, did God give you?
Was there a promise there from God?
Was there a command to keep?
Was there a biblical principle revealed?
How will you apply God’s Word in your life today?
Why keep a spiritual diary? Here are some reasons:
This is a great method to record your thoughts and emotions.
It develops a mental attitude to listen to God.
It keeps a daily log to keep you consistent in your Bible Study.
It provides a great way to review your spiritual progress


HERMENEUTICS

Don’t let this fifty-dollar word scare you. Simply, hermeneutics is a set of rules that are used in all materials which need interpretation. It is used, with proper adaptation, to art, history, literature, archeology, and translation. A subject or text needs interpretation when something hinders its free understanding. In other words, when a gap exists between the interpreter and the materials to be interpreted, rules must used to bridge this gap.

You the interpreter are separated from Scripture by:

Time or historical gap (your culture is different from that of the text)
Language gap (text and manner of speech of the text)
Geological and biological gap (plants, animals, and terrain in the text)
Philosophical gap (usually a totally different attitude towards life and the universe exists in the text)
Biblical hermeneutics is the study and understanding of those principles that apply to the interpretation of the Holy Scripture—the purpose of the book, the historical background, the culture, the context, meaning of the words, and figures of speech.

UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK

There are 66 books in the Bible. Each book has a specific purpose to the revelation of  Jesus Christ. For example, Leviticus has an entirely different purpose than Romans. When you read a passage in Leviticus, you will not apply it in the same way as  you would Romans. Each of the four gospels has a different purpose in the way it describes Jesus Christ. Each letter Paul wrote addressed different problems relating to the church and individuals.

UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

It is very important to understand the historical background of a passage. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus says, “But I tell you not of resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Does this mean that we are to stand there and take a beating? Absolutely not! Jesus was talking about insults. Most individuals are right handed. If a person slapped you on the right cheek, they would be using the back side of their hand, striking the left cheek would cause the individual to use the palm of the hand. In Jewish society, slapping a person with the palm of the hand was a very high insult. In other words, turn away from insults.

UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE

Another important  subject is the culture. Not understanding the culture could lead to a false interpretation of the scripture. In Romans 12:20, “heaping coals of fire” is not showing a way of vengeance, but rather a way to magnify your enemy’s sense of guilt. Oh, by the way, don’t place your fore finger and thumb together in the “OK” sign in some Middle East countries—it means a nasty insult kinda like our, well, you know.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Misinterpreting Scripture, and taking things out context goes on all the time. It is not difficult to pull a Scripture out context and give it a completely different meaning. Have you ever heard that “money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what First Timothy 6:10 says. It is very important to keep the text in context. By context, I mean the parts of a sentence or paragraph, immediately next to or surrounding a passage. Some passages that seem very difficult clear up nicely when we carefully examine them in context.

UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE WORDS

Another obstacle you will face in understanding the text is understanding exactly what the  author meant when  he wrote the words. Do not presume your definition is correct. Find out what the author meant when he wrote it. This can be a difficult task because you need to understand the English word in our translation, understand the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word in the original text, and understand what the word meant when it was  written. Words change in meaning even in our own generation. Fifty years ago, cool meant somewhere between hot and cold—today it can mean something upbeat.

UNDERSTAND FIGURES OF SPEECH

The Metaphor  -  A metaphor is a word or phrase that ordinarily means one thing and is applied to another thing in order to suggest a likeness between the two. For example, a “copper sky” or “a heart of stone.”

The Simile  -  A simile is comparison between two things, like a  metaphor, only the  comparison is indicated by, “like,” or “as.” For example, “a face like stone,” or “as hard as nails,” or “his eyes were like fire.”

The Analogy  -  An analogy is a similarity between things that are unlike. For example, I like the similarity of our triune God—three in one—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the sun—three sources of energy in one—heat, chemical, and light. Biblical examples are; the Lord and a shepherd, and the saints and sheep.

The Hyperbole  -  A hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that is used for effect—not meant to be taken literally. For example Jesus, in Matthew 7:5, says to take the two-by-four our of our own eye before we remove the speck from another’s eye. In other words, examine ourselves before judging others..

The Personification  --  This is a poetic device which takes inanimate objects and gives them  human characteristics. For example, the mountains sing, or clap their hands.

The Idiom  -  Every language has certain peculiar phrases, which cannot be analyzed by the usual grammatical process. They are a type of expression that defies the rules,  and  depends on the society to supply the definition. The dictionary defines idioms as, “a small group or collection of words expressing a single notion.” For example “that’s a real pickle we’re in,” or “it’s raining cats and dogs. Get the picture?

RULES OF INTERPRETATION

1. Every passage of Scripture has only one meaning. There are no exceptions.
2. The most simple and obvious meaning of any passage is usually the correct one.
3. Always allow the author’s own explanation of a passage to stand.
4. Always interpret a passage in harmony with the context.
5. An interpretation of a passage should always conform to the surroundings of the author.
6. Each passage must be interpreted in harmony with all other passages.
7. Often, one passage will explain another passage. Do not compare passages that are not relevant.
8. A passage must be interpreted in harmony with any idioms it contains.
9. Study all passages on a given subject.
10. Observe the proper balance of Scriptural truth. Do not exaggerate or over emphasize. Let plain passages determine difficult passages.

THE 5 W SISTERS AND THEIR LITTLE BROTHER H

Most journalists and reporters, before writing an article, ask many questions. These questions start with who, what, where, when, and why. They call these words the five W sisters. Then, they follow with a question by their little brother H, how. Keep these five sisters and their little brother in mind when studying the Bible.

Who

Ask yourself who is speaking and to whom is he speaking? Who is this passage about? Who are the main characters?

What

What is the subject or what is happening in this passage of scripture? What did you learn from the passage—the people and what happened?

Where

Where did this event happen? Where will the event happen? Where was it said?

When

When did or will the event occur?

Why

Why would or will this event happen? Why was something said? Why now? Why to this person or group of people?

How

How will this event happen? How will it be accomplished?

 

© Ernst S. Sibberson 1998

 

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