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How can we read, understand, and comprehend the Bible?
The Bible is the mind of God revealed within our physical world through Scriptures. Do not look upon this as some small thing or view lightly
how God has revealed Himself through the law written upon stone and with ink forming letters penned upon paper, revealing His eternal love and plan for mankind.
They are truly "living words" revealing the mind, heart, and will of God and not to be read as other writings. They are literally to be "incorporated into"
our mind, heart, body and soul for our edification and "spiritual transformation". Please carefully consider this process and how the plan of salvation is revealed from God,
to a man, then from a man to the written word, from the written word to the mind of the reader, then from millions of readers who verbally shares Gods word with others. Think upon this.
Scriptures are not to be read as other books written by mortal men, women, or promoted by spiritual organizations.
The Bible is not intended to be read from cover to cover and then placed on a shelf assuming the reader understands what was written.
Before you begin to read Scriptures pray, because without Gods spirit you will not truly comprehend and assimilate what you are reading.
How to study the Bible:
Every sincere Christian wants to have a more meaningful personal Bible study, to understand the Bible better.
While learning the Bible is the joyful task of a lifetime, I'd like to offer suggestions that can enrich your Bible studies.
Here are two examples of how to study the Bible.
HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE: EXAMPLE 1
There are a number of ways we can study the Bible, but one of the most effective and simple approaches to reading and understanding God’s Word involves three simple steps:
Step 1: Observation—What does the passage say?
Step 2: Interpretation—What does the passage mean?
Step 3: Application—What am I going to do about what the passage says and means?
How to Study the Bible in 3 Steps
Step 1: Observation
Observation is the first and most important step in how to study the Bible. As you read the Bible text, you need to look carefully at what is said, and how it is said. Look for:
● Terms, not words. Words can have many meanings, but terms are words used in a specific way in a specific context. (For instance, the word trunk could apply to a tree, a car, or a storage box. However, when you read, “That tree has a very large trunk,” you know exactly what the word means, which makes it a term.)
● Structure. If you look at your Bible, you will see that the text has units called paragraphs (indented or marked. A paragraph is a complete unit of thought. You can discover the content of the author’s message by noting and understanding each paragraph unit.
● Emphasis. The amount of space or the number of chapters or verses devoted to a specific topic will reveal the importance of that topic (for example, note the emphasis of Romans 9 and Psalms 119).
● Repetition. This is another way an author demonstrates that something is important. One reading of 1 Corinthians 13, where the author uses the word “love” nine times in only 13 verses, communicates to us that love is the focal point of these 13 verses.
● Relationships between ideas. Pay close attention, for example, to certain relationships that appear in the text:
—Cause-and-effect: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).
—Ifs and thens: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
—Questions and answers: “Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty” (Psalms 24:8).
● Comparisons and contrasts. For example, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21).
● Literary form. The Bible is literature, and the three main types of literature in the Bible are discourse (the epistles), prose (Old Testament history), and poetry (the Psalms). Considering the type of literature makes a great deal of difference when you read and interpret the Scriptures.
● Atmosphere. The author had a particular reason or burden for writing each passage, chapter, and book. Be sure you notice the mood or tone or urgency of the writing.
After you have considered these things, you then are ready to ask the “Wh” questions
Who? What? Where? When?
Who are the people in this passage? What is happening in this passage? Where is this story taking place? When in time (of day, of the year, in history) is it?
Asking these four “Wh” questions can help you notice terms and identify atmosphere. The answers will also enable you to use your imagination to recreate the scene you’re reading about.
As you answer the “Wh” questions and imagine the event, you’ll probably come up with some questions of your own.
Asking those additional questions for understanding will help to build a bridge between observation (the first step) and interpretation (the second step) of the Bible study process.
Step 2: Interpretation
Interpretation is discovering the meaning of a passage, the author’s main thought or idea. Answering the questions that arise during observation will help you in the process of interpretation. Five clues (called “the five C’s”) can help you determine the author’s main point(s):
● Context. You can answer 75 percent of your questions about a passage when you read the text. Reading the text involves looking at the near context (the verse immediately before and after) as well as the far context (the paragraph or the chapter that precedes and/or follows the passage you’re studying).
● Cross-references. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. That is, let other passages in the Bible shed light on the passage you are looking at. At the same time, be careful not to assume that the same word or phrase in two different passages means the same thing.
● Culture. The Bible was written long ago, so when we interpret it, we need to understand it from the writers’ cultural context.
● Conclusion. Having answered your questions for understanding by means of context, cross-reference, and culture, you can make a preliminary statement of the passage’s meaning. Remember that if your passage consists of more than one paragraph, the author may be presenting more than one thought or idea.
● Consultation. Reading books known as commentaries, which are written by Bible scholars, can help you interpret Scripture.
Step 3: Application
Application is why we study the Bible. We want our lives to change; we want to be obedient to God and to grow more like Jesus Christ. After we have observed a passage and interpreted or understood it to the best of our ability, we must then apply its truth to our own life.
You’ll want to ask the following questions of every passage of Scripture you study:
● How does the truth revealed here affect my relationship with God?
● How does this truth affect my relationship with others?
● How does this truth affect me?
● How does this truth affect my response to the enemy, Satan?
The application step is not completed by simply answering these questions; the key is putting into practice what God has taught you in your study. Although at any given moment you cannot be consciously applying everything you’re learning in Bible study, you can be consciously applying something. And when you work on applying a truth to your life, God will bless your efforts by, as noted earlier, conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ.
Content provided by: OnePlace.com. Used by permission.
HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE EXAMPLE 2:
Bible Reading vs. Bible Study
[Bible study is enjoyable] First, recognize that Bible reading and Bible study are both important, but different. In order to grow, you need to read the Bible every day as part of your time with God -- your devotions or Quiet Time. During this daily time with God I recommend prayer, wide Bible reading, praise, thanksgiving, confession, and meditation -- these are ways to reach out to God with your spirit. Bible reading is one way of letting God refresh your spirit and speak to your mind.
If you really want to learn the Bible, I recommend that you read broadly rather than narrowly. A one-verse devotional may be quick, but it won't really help you understand the Bible. I try each morning to read one chapter from the Old Testament, one chapter from Psalms or Proverbs, and one chapter from the New Testament. If I'm consistent, this will get me through the Old Testament once each year and the New Testament twice. That's an example of broad reading and takes five to 10 minutes a day -- 15 minutes if the day's chapters are long.
But Bible reading as part of your daily devotions should be separate from your times of Bible study. For example, right now in the New Testament I'm reading the Epistle to the Hebrews. I'm realizing that though I've read it many times, I need to dig in and figure out what it's really saying. That's where Bible study comes in. Bible study takes a longer block of uninterrupted time. Perhaps you'll set aside 30 to 45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday nights for in-depth Bible study, or an hour on Saturday mornings before the family is up -- or perhaps longer. Blocks of time are important to Bible study.
Learn to Ask Questions
The real key to Bible study is being inquisitive, learning to ask questions of the text. First, read the passage. Then be a detective; look for clues. What's going on? What stands out to you? What don't you understand? Look for anomalies -- things that you might not expect to find here. Consider, for example, the familiar dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus:
1 "Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'
3 In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'
4 'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!'
5 Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again." 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'" (John 3:1-8, NIV)
Several questions occur to me as I read this:
Where does this incident take place?
What did members of the Pharisee party typically believe? How were they viewed in society?
What does it mean that Nicodemus is a member of the "Jewish ruling council" or Sanhedrin? What does this tell me about him?
Why did he come by night?
Why does Jesus respond as he does to Nicodemus' introductory remarks in verse 2? Isn't Jesus a bit abrupt or rude in verse 3?
Is Nicodemus' response in verse 4 mocking or is it a sincere question?
What does "born of water" mean in verse 6? What does "born of the Spirit" mean? What does "born again" mean in verse 3?
What does the wind analogy in verse 8 teach us about the Holy Spirit?
You get the idea. Your questions of this passage might be different than mine, but that's okay. There are no right or wrong questions. But questions are vital, since they provide direction to where you're going in your Bible study. Give yourself freedom to follow some "rabbit trails," to explore one theme and then another as you get acquainted with a passage.
The questions will vary depending on the passage you're studying, but here are some typical questions:
Who wrote or said this?
When was it written or said?
Where did this happen?
To whom was it written or said?
What circumstance or event prompted this incident or teaching?
Why did the person act as he did? Or say what he said?
How can I apply or emulate or obey what I learn in this passage?
You'll be able to think of more questions. The key is to develop a questioning mind, and you'll learn. You won't find answers to all your questions, of course, but over time many will be answered.
Take Notes on What You Learn
[Write down what you learn in your Bible study]
One main difference between reading and studying is writing down what you learn. This isn't just so you'll remember it later. The very act of writing requires you to formulate your thoughts clearly. Writing forces you to recognize fuzzy thinking for what it is and push beyond it. Write down what your learning because it helps you understand it better.
I recommend that you begin a notebook in which to record your observations or research. Forty years ago I began taking notes on 8-1/2" x 11" binder paper. In the left margin I would record the date. In the top right corner I would record the book, chapter, and verses of the passage I was studying. This made it easy to file my notes in scripture order. I began with a single 3-ring binder, but now my binders fill a five-foot bookshelf and beyond. I look back at some of my early insights and am reminded of how the Holy Spirit has taught me over the years.
Start small, but take notes in a way that can be expanded easily. Another approach is to get a bound book that you can take notes in -- a kind of journal. (I've tried that, too.) Journaling has great value, but a bound notebook that contains many topics is difficult to organize or index in such a way that you can find your notes on a particular verse in the future. That's why I really like the binder paper approach. You could also take notes on a computer, naming the files in such a way that you can find them again or search an entire folder for a word or phrase. It's probably a good idea to print out your notes when you're finished and file them, however, since computer files have a way of getting lost after a few years.
I am so glad I began the habit of note-taking with my Bible study. Now when I study a passage again, I know what I learned the last time I studied it and what I need to explore next. For Bible teachers, small group leaders, and preachers, such a notebook of previous studies becomes especially valuable.
Get a Good Bible Translation
....One of the keys to learning the Bible is to get a good translation. You know, of course, that the Bible wasn't written in English, but in Hebrew (and a bit of Aramaic) in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. There are two types of translations: The best study Bible contains a balance of both. You want a careful, accurate translation for family devotions or public worship. Nearly all modern translations are enriched by the translators working from Greek and Hebrew texts.
That said many modern translations while easier to read have left out words and passages which detract from the meaning relating to important doctrines.....
Learning to Use a Study Bible
After you've decided what translation to use, I encourage you to purchase a study Bible, since it will contain a number of tools in one volume that can help you dig deeper. Nearly every Bible publisher offers a study Bible. Your local Christian bookstore can help you figure out which one is right for you. Here are some of the features that you'll come to appreciate:
Cross References. In a column next to the text, a study Bible lists several other verses with a similar idea or theme. For example, for "Nicodemus" in John 3:1, my Bible refers me to John 7:50 and 19:39 where he appears again. For "Rabbi" in verse 2, the cross references send me to Matthew 23:7 which has nine more references on this topic that I can explore. These cross references won't be comprehensive, but will point out the main passages that discuss this idea.
Bible Book Introductions. It's important to know something about the author, date, themes, circumstances, and intended audience of the Bible book or letter you're studying. In most study Bibles you'll find one to three pages of introductory comments for each book with a brief outline.
Study Notes or Annotations. Study Bibles have footnotes at the bottom of the page to help explain some of the more obscure ideas you'll run across -- a kind of mini-commentary. Remember, these aren't part of the Bible itself, but can often point you in the right direction in your study. These notes are usually indexed for easy reference.
Concordance. You've had a verse on the tip of your tongue, but don't know exactly where it is. A concordance helps you find a Bible passage if you can think of a key word or two that the verse contains. A concordance can also help you find other verses that teach a concept or use a word found in the passage you're studying.
Topical Index. In addition to a concordance, some study Bibles have a separate topical index that helps you find scripture references on a particular topic.
Maps. Part of understanding what's happening in narrative passages of Scripture is learning the geography, the location of cities, battles, mountains, valleys, enemies, etc.
Other features you may find include articles on various topics, a brief Bible dictionary, outlines of topics and Bible books, index of place names, time lines, and so on.
Specialized Tools for the Next Step
[Bible study books for serious Bible studies.] Obtaining a study Bible is the place to begin. But as your Bible studies increase, you may want to invest in some more specialized books. Some to explore:
Bible Handbook. Provides a great deal of information about each book of the Bible, life in Bible times, history of the English Bible, etc.
Bible Dictionary. Brief articles on each significant subject, word, and person in the Old and New Testaments. You'll often find helpful summaries of Bible teaching.
Bible Concordance. While study Bibles provide an abridged concordance, you can find an unabridged concordance that helps you find every occurrence of a particular word in the Bible. The best-known of these is Strong's Concordance (based on the KJV) which identifies each Greek and Hebrew word, and gives it a brief definition and a number. Now concordances are available for the NIV and NASB containing Strong's numbering system.
Bible Commentary. Bible commentaries provide an overview and running explanation of each book of the Bible. A good place to start might be with a fairly recent one-volume commentary on the whole Bible. There are also a number of inexpensive commentary series available that cover each book in the Bible, if you want to study a particular book in greater depth.
Word Study tools include an interlinear New Testament that shows the Greek text on one line and a literal English translation below it. A Greek-English Lexicon provides clear, precise definitions for each Greek word in the New Testament. Some of these are keyed to Strong's numbers so they can be used by students who haven't learned to read Greek letters. Similar resources are available for Hebrew as well.
Topical Bible. A topical Bible will give a great many scripture references listed by topic. Great if you're doing a topical or thematic Bible study.
Bible Atlas. An atlas contains more than detailed maps. It also describes the geography and places of the Bible, usually with fascinating illustrations and archeological details.
If you need advice on Bible study books, ask your pastor or the manager of a Christian bookstore. Some of my Bible study tool recommendations are available online.
These days many Bible study resources are available online at no cost, such as Crosswalk Bible Study Tools (bible.crosswalk.com). You can also purchase excellent Bible study software for your computer.
Don't Forget the Most Important Step
It's possible to be so engrossed in Bible study that you forget the most important purpose of Bible study. It's not Bible knowledge for its own sake nor being able to quote verses and recite orthodox doctrine. Ultimately, the purpose of Bible study is to learn exactly what the Bible teaches so that you can apply its teachings to your life.
Perhaps the simplest approach to Bible study is to use the three basic inductive Bible study questions to ask of a Bible passage:
What does it say?
What did it mean to those reading it in Bible times?
What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?
My prayer is that your Bible study results in a heart that is tender to listen to what the Spirit is saying to you through Scripture and a will that is determined to live out in your everyday life what you're learning.
Dr. Ralph Wilson is a California pastor, director of Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries, and author of more than a dozen free online Bible studies from the Old and New Testaments.
Each Bible study is also available in e-book and printed format (www.jesuswalk.com/ebooks). Copyright © 2006, Ralph F. Wilson <email@example.com>. All rights reserved.
The Bible is not just a two dimensional book with words written in ink upon it's pages.....it's a message from beyond our world and more.
The Prince of this world does not want you to know....
" THAT YOUR FAITH SHOULD NOT STAND ON THE WISDOM OF MEN, BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD. "
This is why man's progressive, false teaching, seeker friendly, ego driven, fallen churches are not teaching the true message of Jesus Christ.
Read the following quote from scriptures carefully.
It makes known to you our True Teacher, Guide, and Comforter. God's Holy Spirit not men or man's religions.
"But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."
"But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save (by) the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we (True Believers) received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak not in the words which men's wisdom teach, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." I Corinthians Chapter 2