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HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE
waters at a beach can either be inviting, or terrifying, depending on
the person. To the person who has never learned to swim they terrify
because they are not prepared to swim. There is death out in the deep.
But to the trained swimmer, it invites them to venture forth to the
cool, clear water. It all depends on the preparation.
This is much like
Bible study. Those who have never studied from God's word often feel
inadequate to the task, not know where to start. But those who spend
some time in preparation feel much more confident in their study.
I. WE NEED TO HAVE
SOME UNDERSTANDING OF THE VARIOUS FIGURES OF SPEECH.
A. A working
knowledge of metaphors and similes helps.
1. A simile is a
word or phrase by which anything is likened in one of it's aspects
to another. A simile uses the words like, as, or so.
a. Psalms 52:8 -
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God:
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."
b. Matthew 23:27
- "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful
outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all
2. A metaphor is
an implied comparison. It does not used like or as. The metaphor is
usually more pointed than the simile.
26:26-28 "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and
blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said,
Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and
gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed
for many for the remission of sins."
b. Luke 13:31-32
"The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying
unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill
thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox,
Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow,
and the third day I shall be perfected."
B. A need to
1. Parable -
"to throw; hence a placing beside or together, a comparing, a
2. Some parables.
a. The Parable
of the Sower - Matthew 13:3-23
b. The Parable
of the Ewe Lamb - 2 Samuel 12:1-6.
c. The Parable
of the Vineyard - Luke 20:9-19
3. The purpose of
a. To reveal
truth, making the people to understand the unknown by comparing to
something that they know.
b. To conceal
truth, from the minds of those who had no right to it.
13:10-13 "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why
speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said
unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of
the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For
whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more
abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away
even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables:
because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither
do they understand."
c. To preserve
the truth for future generations.
d. To cause men
to agree with truth before they realize it was referring to them.
1. 2 Samuel
12:5-7 "And David's anger was greatly kindled against the
man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that
hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore
the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had
no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man."
4. A couple of
things to remember in interpreting parables.
a. Seek out the
main purpose of the speaking of the parable. What is the context.
b. While there
is always some symbolism in parables, care should be exercised not
to read too much into the parts of the parable.
c. Seek out the
main lesson in the parable. Avoid "flights of fancy" in
D. An understanding
of the difference between Figurative and Literal language is valuable.
1. A look at the
context will usually tells us the difference.
2. A word of
sentence is figurative when the literal meaning involves an
a. Psalms 18:2 -
"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my
God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn
of my salvation, and my high tower." (Obviously God is not a
literal rock, etc. but is strong to defend like these things.)
3. When the
Scriptures are made to demand an action which is wrong, or forbid
good, it must be taken figuratively.
18:8-9 talks about the mutilation of the body. Is it literal? No.
It is intended to teach the importance of putting Heaven first.
4. When the
Scriptures clearly identify a passage as figurative we should accept
a. John 2:18-22
says that Jesus could raise up the temple in three days if it was
destroyed. John explains that Jesus was speaking of the temple of
his body, not the physical temple.
5. Let the writer
explain the figure.
a. In Ezekiel 37
we read of the valley of dry bones. Many wild theories have been
spun concerning this passage. But Ezekiel explains it as referring
to the house of Israel coming back from Babylonian captivity.
E. Several other
important figures of speech.
1. Hyperbole - A
deliberate exaggeration of a meaning intended to emphasize a truth.
a. Used a great
deal in the Old Testament. An eastern custom.
b. Genesis 13:16
- "And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that
if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed
also be numbered."
c. Also Judges
7:12; 1 Kings 4:29.
2. Proverb - A
short pithy (concise) saying which teaches a valuable lesson.
Thought of as a wise saying. These teach general truth.
- The endowing of inanimate objects or animals with human
a. Isaiah 13:7-8
"Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart
shall melt: 8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall
take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that
travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall
be as flames." (at the downfall of the king of Babylon)
Anthropomorphism - Assigning human characteristics to describe God
and His actions.
a. Such phrases
as the eyes of God, His arms, His ears, etc. are used to help the
reader understand the work of God, not to suggest that He has
arms, ears, etc. like men.
III. A PROPER USE OF
DIFFERENT STUDY AIDS IS IMPORTANT.
A. There are some
study aids which are worth their weight in gold.
1. A good
concordance. This is a book which show every word that appears in
the Bible and where they appear. The good ones also have useful
greek study aids which are geared to the average study which has no
knowledge. The three most common, in order of their value are: Strongs,
Youngs, and Crudens.
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are important. Most of the ones
available are conservative and very useful in learning about places,
people and things found in the Bible. There are several good ones on
3. Bible Atlases
are important when studying the Bible. Most will show various maps
of Israel at different time periods, Paul's missionary journeys, the
Roman Empire, and other useful maps. Baker Bible Atlas is
probably the best.
B. Some other useful
Bible study tools.
1. Commentaries -
These are writings which take books of the Bible apart by verse or
section and expound on the meaning. There are multitudes of them
available. Some are very conservative. Some are extremely liberal.
They range from under $100.00 for the whole Bible to nearly a
$1,000.00 for a set. These are very helpful if one keeps in mind
that they are the opinions of men and must therefore be understood
in light of clear passages. Some of the better ones: E. M. Zerr,
James Burton Coffman (both Gospel preachers), Albert Barnes and Adam
Clarke (both conservative but not members of the churches of
books - These are written by brethren and have a wealth of valuable
information about the Bible. Some are whole volumes of individual
books of the Bible.
IV. A GOOD,
CONSERVATIVE TRANSLATION IS ESSENTIAL TO PROPER STUDY.
A. We should pick a
translation that seeks to be as close to the original language without
any particular bias as possible.
1. We should
remember that the Bible is "God breathed" and thus must be
as faithfully translated according to the original wording as
a. 2 Timothy
3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be
perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
2. It is
impossible to pick men to translate that have no preconceived
opinions about doctrine. However, it is possible for scholars to lay
them aside and translate simply according to the text.
B. Some guidelines
in picking a primary translation for regular study.
1. Pick one that
is a translation, not a paraphrase. For example, many got on the Living
Bible "bandwagon" for a while. But it is a
paraphrase, not a word for word translation. It was the product of
one man, Kenneth Taylor, who brought in many of his personal
doctrinal biases into the text. It has some good renderings and may
have value as a secondary source, like a commentary, but should
never be used as final authority.
2. Pick one that
is a product of a number of known, scholarly, translators, not a
few. The more translators working, the less the chance of letting
personal bias enter.
3. Pick one that
has stood the test of time. One does not have to be centuries old,
but it should have been around long enough to receive a wide review
4. Pick one that
has a reverent tone. Modern translations are not wrong in
themselves, but many are "modern" to the point of
vulgarity and coarseness.
5. Look for one
that is not pushing any particular agenda or doctrine.
a. The New RSV
takes out the personal pronouns when referring to God. This
reveals a personal bias toward the feminist movement and clearly
mistranslates the word. The Bible uses male pronouns when
C. Some personal
1. I stress
personal. These are not meant to be inspired, but based on personal
experience. They are not meant to be binding on anyone but are meant
personal preferences about versions, there are several that are good
and ones that I could recommend without any reservations. The King
James Version is tried and true, solid, and has stood the test
of time. The American Standard Version of 1901 is probably
the most accurate of the various translations, but is difficult to
get and not in wide circulation. The New King JamesVersion
keeps the beauty of language of the Old King James and put much of
the archaic language of it in a more modern form. If starting over I
would probably begin with this one. (After much study and
consideration, I have chose to use the NKJV. )
3. Concerning some
of the others. They will vary. They range from the New American
Standard, which is valuable in the Old Testament, to the Good
News for Modern Man, which is chock full of doctrinal error. The
other range in between. The New International Version could
be acceptable if not for the fact that there are several clear
passages, such as Psalm 51:5 which clearly states that David was
born a sinner in the NIV. The Revised Standard Version
mistranslates virgin as "young woman" thus contradicting
4. It is good,
however, to have access to a broad spectrum of versions for
comparison purposes in study. An excellent tool is a book which has
several version parallel.
5. One another
important suggestion. Many will buy the best when it comes to cars,
homes, appliances, etc., and scrimp on a Bible. But a good study
Bible which has various study notes, concordance, Bible dictionary,
Bible atlas, and marginal notes. These are not inspired, but a
conservative study Bible can help immensely. Two good ones are the Thompson
Chain Reference Bible and the Dickson Bible. There are
other good ones. In my opinion, the NKJV Thompson Chain Reference
Bible is the finest Bible of the market. A little extra money
spent here will bring handsome rewards.
CONCLUSION: This brief
series on How to study the Bible has not been intended to be exhaustive.
It is intended to encourage further study and a renewed desire to learn
what God has given to us in His word. Let's open up our Bibles more and
learn our responsibilities to our God.
1999 by Grady Scott may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes at no
cost to others.
What is The Bible?
1, Part 2,
How to Study the Bible? Part 1,
Part 2, Part
b. Who is Jesus? Part
1, Part 2,
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