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How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro

How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro

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Published by Ed Cyzewski
A simple guide to the basics of studying the New Testament.
A simple guide to the basics of studying the New Testament.

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Published by: Ed Cyzewski on Aug 05, 2010
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How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro by Ed Cyzewski
The Bible can be tough to dive into. Where should a student of scripture begin? MostChristians want to understand Jesus and the letters that his followers wrote, but they can be tough to figure out.When we ask questions such as, “Why did Jesus say that?” or “Why did Paul writethis?” we will encounter a great deal of complexity and mystery. If we can’t answerthese first questions, then it will be even more difficult to discern what they mean for ustoday. This application to everyday life is the real pay-off for Christians.Studying the Bible well takes some time and effort, but just about any Christian canlearn how to study it effectively with some direction. After investing time into the studyof scripture you’ll soon find it easier to read. Certain themes and connections willemerge, and you’ll not only arrive at a better understanding, but a greater ability toapply it to your life.Here’s a look at some simple steps toward effective study of the New Testament.Ouch! Really? Doesn’t the Old Testament have a bunch of laws, poems and propheticoracles that are tough to understand?I know that it can be daunting to begin with the Old Testament, but in order tounderstand the world of the New Testament, the Old Testament is required reading. Infact, we run the risk of grossly misinterpreting the New Testament without a propergrounding in the Jewish beliefs that shaped Jesus and his contemporaries.When reading the Old Testament you should pay attention to the larger motifs such asexodus and deliverance, exile and restoration. Take note of locations such as thewilderness, rivers and seas, and mountains—what happens at these locations and whythey are significant.Read the first five books of the Old Testament (The Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,Numbers, Deuteronomy) looking for how to relate to God, as well as any mentions ofcovenants and in particular how to keep or break a covenant. As you move on to thehistorical books of Joshua through Chronicles these themes of covenant, righteousness,
Step One
Read the Old Testament
How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro
by Ed Cyzewski
How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro by Ed Cyzewski
punishment, and deliverance will come up. The prophets, priests, and kings in these books flesh out what it means to keep or to break a covenant with God and whathappens as a result.These themes will also be significant throughout the prophetic books (both minor andmajor prophets) with a greater emphasis on judgment and restoration. The poetic andwisdom literature delves into both worship and deeper theological reflection in light ofthe laws of the Torah and the events recorded in the historical books.You don’t have to read the whole Old Testament straight through or even necessarily allof it to benefit from it. Provided you at least know something about the first five books,the stories in Samuel and Kings, and a few key prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiahyou’ll notice many significant points in the New Testament.Unless you understand the laws for things such as the Sabbath and skin diseases or theexpectations for the Messiah as explained in Isaiah, the actions and teachings of Jesuswill be difficult to understand. Understanding the Old Testament is essential in order tomake sense of the New Testament.
Suggestions for Reading the Old Testament
Pick several translations based on the books you’re reading.
For tough books such as Numbers and Chronicles use the New LivingTranslation (NLT) or The Message for their attention to easy reading.
For poetry and possibly for the prophets use the New Revised StandardVersion for its attention to literary forms.
For the historical books use literal or mostly literal translations such asthe New International Version (NIV), the New Revised Standard Version(NRSV), or the English Standard Version (ESV). The NLT will beadequate as well.
Read five chapters each day.
Look up background information for each book in a study Bible, a Bible dictionary, oran online reference site—even
is better than nothing. In order to understandwhat’s actually “in” a biblical book, don’t spend your time on editorial or redactortheories such as JEDP, since they’re highly debated in many circles and will do little tohelp you with a book’s actual content.
You can find most translations online at Bible Gateway:www.biblegateway.comorthe NET Bible’s translation with excellent footnotes atwww.bible.org.
How to Study the New Testament Like a Pro by Ed Cyzewski
While the Old Testament is essential for understanding the New Testament, roughlyfour-hundred years transpired after the last Old Testament book was written. Newinterpretations of the Old Testament emerged in between the testaments, theIntertestamental period, due to religious, political, and socio-economic events.Israel began this period under Medo-Persian rule. Then the Greeks took over before a Jewish Dynasty revolted and took control. After a brief time of Jewish rule the Romans,those mentioned in the New Testament, took over.During these tumultuous years Jewish writers penned a series of books known asIntertestamental literature. Some of these books developed a strong sense of theapocalyptic—anticipating the immanent return of God to save his people and to punishevil-doers. Out of that fertile ground Messianic movements rose up and various Jewishsects emerged with different applications of the Old Testament to their situation. Manyscholars today view Jesus as a prophet in the apocalyptic tradition.In order to better understand how people responded to Jesus, we need a clear picture ofnot only the Old Testament but also how his contemporaries read, interpreted, andapplied it to their times. John the Baptist, Herod, The Pharisees, the crowds, and thedisciples come to life when we read about Jesus with an awareness of his setting, theexpectations of his audience, and the tumultuous period leading up to his ministry.
Suggestions for Historical Background Research
Your best sources will be Bible Dictionaries and commentaries. Some basic Bibledictionaries are fairly inexpensive to purchase in sets of two or four if you wait for theright sale at Christian Book Distributors, though many churches should have some basic dictionaries on hand in a library. My favorite is the InterVarsity press seriesthat’s available on a more affordable CD-ROM.
Some local libraries may carry some worn dictionaries or commentaries that could beof use for extracting historical information.
For those with a little extra time, there is a wealth of information on theIntertestamental period’s literature on the New Testament in Larry Helyer’s book
 Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period
I know you’re thinking it, so I’ll just say it:
. Yes, you can learn a ton aboutthe world of Jesus by reading articles on
about the various groups, events,and characters that shaped the world of the New Testament. For starters, look up theHasmonean Dynasty and read about its fall to the Roman dynasty of Herod.
Step Two
Read Historical Background

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