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How to Study the Bible

How to Study the Bible

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Published by tsupasat
A brief lesson on the inductive method of bible study, including observation, interpretation, and application. This is meant for small group or one-on-one teaching.
A brief lesson on the inductive method of bible study, including observation, interpretation, and application. This is meant for small group or one-on-one teaching.

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Published by: tsupasat on Jun 13, 2009
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01/28/2014

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How to Study the Bible
Ways in which we can study the Bible
We can study the Bible in many different ways. Rick Warren’s 12 Bible StudyMethods lists a number of ways to study the Bible in addition to the following:
Devotional Bible study
Every Christian should read the Bible as part of their personal devotional time.When you read the Bible as part of your devotional time, read slowly and stop to think about things that impress you. Devotional Bible study should be coupled with prayer.
Word study
Using a concordance, check the number of times a word is referenced in theBible. If you have a Greek-English Bible dictionary or Hebrew-English Bible dictionary,you can see what Greek or Hebrew word was behind different instances of an Englishword. If you don’t have these resources, the Amplified Bible provides an expandedtranslation that gives more insight into the traditional reading.
Observation, interpretation, and application
The first thing people often ask themselves when reading the Bible is, “What doesthis mean?” The problem in answering this question is that we often interpret Scriptureaccording to our own background (21
st
century, culture, Christian tradition) withoutconsidering what the author intended or what the intended audience read into thatScripture.For example, when we read Jeremiah’ prophesies we need to understand that Godwas warning the Israelites and other nations through Jeremiah. Only after we understandwho was talking, who the audience was, and what the issues were, can we properlyinterpret the Scripture to mean something for ourselves.There are three steps we should follow in order to properly read a portion of Scripture. Taken together, these steps are the
inductive
method of Bible study:1.
Observation
This is evidence-gathering. First, we need to know something about thecontext of the passage. If you have a study Bible, you can get this by reading theintroduction to the Book. That will usually tell you the author, date, audience, and purpose of the writing. Next, read the passages before and after the particular part you are focusingon. Try to understand for yourself what is going on. Who is talking to whom? What isthe author trying to say? Ask the questions
who, what, when, where, why,
and
how
.Read the particular passage in question. Note the words that stand out for you,using a separate piece of notepaper, if needed. Is there a turning point to the passage?What words are repeated? What are the metaphors or themes used? (For example: awayward wife, a courtroom scene, a shepherd and his flock, a master and his slaves, afield or harvest, etc.) Why are those themes used—what is the key characteristic thatis conveyed?
 
If you have a Greek word dictionary and are reading in the New Testament,such as Vine’s Expository Dictionary, you should use it to look up the full meaning of interesting words. Another way to do more in-depth word study is by examiningdifferent English translations, especially translations that are very different from theone you usually use. The New Living Translation often has good paraphrases that areeasy to understand, whereas the New American Standard Bible offers a very literalreading.
2. Interpretation
This is the part where we start figuring out what it all means … but first onlywhat it meant for the author and the intended audience! If we’ve done a good jobobserving, the interpretation part should not be too difficult. Try your best to think about why these words and images were used. Who was angry, sad, or happy, andwhy? What did they do?Only after you’ve tried your best to determine the intent of the author and themeaning for the audience, then you can reference your commentary in the study Bibleor in a separate commentary. (A commentary is a book where someone has observedand interpreted the passage.)
3. Application
The final step is to determine what the passage means for your own situation — 
here and now
 —based on what it meant to the author and audience
then and there
.What are the similarities between the audience (or author, sometimes) and yourself?Usually, by this time, you’ll have already figured out the application.Oftentimes, it’s very difficult to keep from doing application during the previousstages. But if you are patient and methodical, the wait will be worth it.
General guidelines for Biblical interpretation
DoDont
1. Read entire chapters together1. Read a sentence in a way that ignores ocontradicts the context.2. Check cross-references (or end-of- paragraph references) to make sure your interpretation does not contradict other  parts of the Bible.2. Ignore obvious contradictions betweenyour interpretation and other teaching of the Bible.3. Reference several interpretations to getthe full meaning of a verse.3. Write off certain Bible interpretations aswithout value—they have different purposes.4. Research the background of a book,including the author, cultural setting, andhistorical context.4. Assume that all stories can apply inevery circumstance.5. Remember that God is the hero of thestory and that people in the narratives arenot necessarily good examples to follow.5. Think that we should follow everyexample simply because it is recorded inthe Bible.6. Realize narratives can teach us principles.6. Forget the different between explicitteaching and principles taught implicitly.

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