Studying the Bible is one thing people often think is difficult, I was there too so I understand, but after being taught how to properly study the Bible effectively, I can surely say that it isn’t such a problem for me anymore. I use as much available tools as I can to understand it. Paul said in Ephesians 3:4,
“Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ”Ephesians 3:4 KJV
Firstly, let’s understand that the Bible is the written word of God and it is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)Firstly, let's understand that the Bible is the written word of God and it is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be… Click To Tweet
Another thing to note is that the main focus of the Bible is Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was the preparation, the Gospels were the manifestation, the Act of the Apostles was the propagation/proclamation, the Epistles are the explanation and Revelation is the completion.Another thing to note is that the main focus of the Bible is Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was the preparation, the Gospels were the manifestation, the Act of the Apostles was the propagation/proclamation, the Epistles are the… Click To Tweet
Next on, I’ll be telling you some ways to rightly interpret scriptures:
Ways to Rightly Interpret Scriptures.
- Read the word of God thoroughly. It is very powerful as well as it is delicate, it is here to guide us. It shouldn’t be read like a storybook or a novel but as what it really is, the WORD OF GOD.
- Roll out the As. I’ll tell you what they are:
- Author: You have to know who wrote the book of the Bible you’re studying.
- Audience: Who was the book written to? Majority of people these days try to claim for themselves things which were written for the Jews and only the Jews. If you aren’t a citizen of the 12 tribes of Israel, you’re not a Jew. We’ll look more into this later on.
- Aim: Why was the scripture written? You have to understand why it was written. If it was written to the Jews, was it an instruction for them alone? If it was to the believers, was it an instruction for us, exhortation, or knowledge?
- Application/Acknowledgement: This is the final A. You either apply what you’ve learned to your life (note that you should have understood if that scripture was for you or not) or you acknowledge what was written there, for knowledge sake.
- Read in context. When studying the Bible, you don’t just pick out a random verse and walk with it. It’s no different from walking into the middle of a conversation and misunderstanding it. The pretext (verses before) and post-text (verses after) must be taken into consideration when studying the Bible. This helps in truly understanding the 4 As also. The Bible was never written in chapters and verses but in books and letters. You have to start from the beginning to understand the middle and the end.
Hope you’re following? 🙂
- Coherence of scriptures: Let scriptures interpret scriptures. How? You may ask. Well, it’s the same thing as saying scriptures don’t contradict themselves. There is an understanding in scriptures and they are linked, so you should be able to understand why something was written in one part from the other part. Say, the Old Testament and the New. This is where this comes into play, “The Old Testament is the new Testament concealed and the New is the Old revealed.”
- New Testament Light: Study the Bible in understanding of the New Testament. That is to say, in understanding of what Christ has already done and who He is, what He has called us to be.
- Use of Lexicon/Concordance: This for one has helped me in so many ways. Firstly, take note that the OT (Old Testament) was written in Hebrew/Aramaic and the NT (New Testament) was written in Greek. A lexicon is a book containing an alphabet arrangement of the words of a language and their definitions. You have to also understand that the Greek dictionary has more words than the English, and so there were some restrictions in the some translations like the KJV, which is also a beautiful translation by the way. There are lexicon apps on the Play Store and App Store.
- Have a sound Bible teacher. You must understand the Bible rightly to know if your Bible teacher is sound and right for you.
- Make personal commentaries. That is, write down your understanding of what you have studied.
Next up, we’ll be looking at barriers to Biblical Interpretation.
Barriers to Biblical Interpretation in Effective Bible Study
- Language: Like I stated above, the OT was written in Hebrew/Aramaic and the NT was written in Greek. A lexicon/concordance helps with this. I recommend Strong’s, it’s quite popular.
- Figures of Speech: There are some similes and metaphors in the Bible and often times, they are figurative. An example is, ‘I am the door…’ (John 10:7).
- Cultural Context: The Jews, like most cultures these days, had their own cultural practices. For example, the covering of hair was a symbol for married women in those days. It was and is not for non-Jews A.K.A Gentiles.
- Allegorical Interpretation: This is saying what wasn’t meant to be. Figurative texts should be seen as such, it is figurative when it is contrary to the text. It is also purely literal when meant to be. I’ll give a personal example and it’s a story I share, if you know me personally. There was a time when I couldn’t really understand or properly study the Bible, I would open any random chapter in the New Testament and just read it. One exam period, I opened up the story where Jesus fed 5,000 and there were 12 baskets filled of leftovers. I got my “rhema” lol. Note that rhema means spoken word of God, not a personal or deeper revelation. Moving on, it got me so excited as I related those 12 baskets to all the courses I was to write that semester, and bad enough I preached it to people as a means of exhortation after prayers that day. Whenever I think back, I just realise how silly that was and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come.
Wrong Interpretations of the Bible/ Bad Habits.
- Cherry Picking: this is choosing verses to suit you when they’re not the right interpretation. An example is what I did with the feeding of the 5,000 story.
- Over-generalisation: do not include yourself in an audience that isn’t yours.
- Over-symbolisation: taking something for what it’s not.
- Random selection: this can be avoided by having a Bible study plan. Understand that the Bible was written for us.
- Saying only the Holy Spirit can teach you. Ephesians 4:11-14 guides us,
“And he gave some, apostles; some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”Ephesians 4:11-14 KJV
Notions to Drop When Learning How to Study the Bible Effectively
- The Bible is too hard to understand.
- It is only for the preacher/pastor. Every believer has the responsibility of studying the Bible.
- The Bible is purely a book of literature.
- It is completely spiritual.
- Preconceived notions.
- Pride/Ego. Be able to unlearn and relearn. Be teachable and open to corrections.
In summary, all we have done is called HERMENEUTICS: the study of rightly interpreting literary texts and scriptures. There are 2 principles of Hermeneutics:
- EISEGESIS: reading your own interpretation of scriptures.
- EXEGESIS: going empty to obtain the right interpretation of the scriptures. This is the right was to study.
Laws of Hermeneutics.
- Literal Interpretation: when the literal and obvious meaning of a text makes sense, seek no other meaning. Don’t try to be creative with scriptures else you fall into error. You can only be creative in your delivery of it.
- The Law of First Mention: the first mention of a concept usually presents the general format of it and is used throughout the Bible. We’ll talk more about this when I write on TITHING.
- The Law of Single Mention: when a concept is mentioned only once, do not feel the urge to fill in the blank spaces, doctrine cannot be drawn from such. Doctrine is formed when there is sufficient scripture about that same concept.
- Law of Emphatic Mention: take good note of things mentioned repeatedly and place emphasis there. Things like grace, salvation, love, etc.
Keys to Bible Study.
- Interpretation is discovered, not created. There is a proper way to study the Bible as I have listed above in the first section.
- Build a culture of knowledge and honour for the word of God.
- Be diligent and consistent. No matter how simple something is, it is only as simple as you have repeated it.
- Bible knowledge cannot be imparted, it takes time.
- After highlighting scriptures, memorise them and LIVE them.
Phew! We have come to the end of this blog post, I hope you enjoyed reading every word. We would be practicing how to study the Bible effectively this month with the book of Romans, please join us. You can leave a comment to tell me what you think or to ask questions and please share this to as many people as need it, I know how it is to not properly understand the Bible and it only gets better when you understand what you’re reading. And finally, a special thanks to my teachers, Pst. Kenneth Olusanya and Pst. Emmanuel Iren for imparting their teachings. I’m forever grateful!
I love you and God loves you so so much. Selah!
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How To Study the Bible FAQ
What is the Bible?
The Bible is known as the word of God and centres around Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour the world and the God of Christians.
What is the purpose of studying the Bible?
Studying the Bible is done personally or as a group to grow in the knowledge of who Jesus is and the journey through the fulfilment of the salvation plan.
How do you start reading the Bible?
Most people start from the New Testament because it brings to light the types and shadows filled in the Old Testament. It is also a good way to understand certain references made in the OT.
How do I create a Bible Study plan?
There are several effective ways including- studying a book at a time or understanding a concept by searching scriptures for what it means (like love, salvation, etc.).
How do I study my Bible effectively?
You can do that by:
1) Having a Bible study plan/timetable
2) Studying in a quiet place, free from distractions.
3) Using a lexicon/concordance.
4) Reading in context
5) Understanding the culture of the people being addressed or talked about