I have been wanting to tell you all the nitty gritty of our approach to study the bible in our school. My hope is that you will try and tackle a book of the bible using this method. I encourage you to start with a small book, in order to get the hang of the process. We started with Jonah, which was a good size to learn on (four short, sweet chapters).
Remember to always start with a prayer and to pray through each of these steps! Bible study should be dependent upon the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word and is the ultimate Interpreter.
Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, so that I may behold the wondrous things out of your law.”
- Read Through the Entire Book: This should be done OUT LOUD and in ONE sitting (no long breaks). Grasp the big picture and the overall idea and atmosphere of the book. It might be good to jot down your first impressions.
- Paragraph Titles: Using the paragraph’s in your bible, give each one your own title. Don’t go over four words and use only the words in the text. Example: “Philistines War Against Israel” or “Glory Departed from Israel”. They don’t need to make grammatical sense as long as you can follow the flow of the book.
- Book Outline: Outline the large sections of the book. Where are the big breaks? Is it broken up by geography (Egypt to Sinai)? By theme (Unity and Love)? Biographically (King Saul to King David) or Chronologically (Theocracy to Monarchy)? Hint: Most epistles are arranged by topics or progression of thought, where narratives are organized more by geography, biography, etc.
- Basic Required Information: Research the historical background, authorship and original audiences and the genre of literature you are studying. You can use http://www.blueletterbible.org or http://www.biblehub.com to easily access bible dictionaries. If you are interested in more resources let me know and I will send them your way!
- Observe the Text: Go through the text paragraph by paragraph and make observations. Remember that observations only answer the question “What does the text say?” not “What does it mean?” This is a great time to look of definitions to words you don’t know, or check out the Strongs Encyclopedia for the greek and hebrew definitions of words. You can be as detailed or as surface as you want. The more you observe, the better your interpretations will be.
- Interpretations: Ask interpretive questions based on your observations and answer them. These questions will be asking what the author intended to communicate to the Original Reader. Why was it significant to THEM? This is the crux of the method. In order to answer these questions, you must understand WHO the original readers are. Example: the original readers of Genesis were the nation of Israel during their years in the wilderness of Sinai. Why did THEY need to know x or y?
- Timeless Truths: Based on the answer to your interpretation, draw timeless truths that apply to everyone at all times. Example: When God is with you, no one can prevail against you.
- Interpretive Summary: At the end of each chapter, write a short paragraph on the overall interpretation for the whole segment (for the original reader).
- Final Book Analysis: If you decide to go through the entire bible book by book (do it!), it would be worthwhile to write a final book analysis, which is a summary of the theology of the book and its correlation to other books in the bible.
- Application: Finally, you get to apply this to YOU and your life! Go through the book and pick out the timeless truths that most impacted you. Journal about how you can apply that truth to your life right now. This is the MOST important step. We do not want to be hearers of the word, but DOERS of the word. Let’s live it out and change the world! 😉
There is so much more I could say about each step, so let me know have any questions on the method or how to apply it to daily bible study. God’s word is so rich and rewarding. If we want more of God in our lives, this is the first place to start. He has given us so much information about His character, goodness and plan for humanity in the bible, what could be more deserving of our time?
In other news…below is a short promotional video I made for YWAM Kauai when we were there over the summer: