By Megan Rawlings
Do you know how to study the Bible?
Studying is very different from simply reading; to study requires more effort. We study Scripture to gain understanding, and understanding entails more than merely skimming through a passage and letting that be enough.
For example, in Acts 8:26-40, the Ethiopian eunuch was in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah. After the Holy Spirit directed Philip to go over to the man, Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Philip then explained the Old Testament passage in detail, showing how Isaiah had been writing about Christ.
Nine Steps for Studying the Bible More Deeply
If as a Christian you identify more with the eunuch than with Philip, use these steps to begin to deepen your knowledge:
- Choose a book. A good first step for learning to study the Bible is to choose one book and work all the way through it. If you are new to this, start with the Gospel of John.
- Address the starter questions. Seek to answer these questions about the book: Who wrote it? To whom was it written? When was it written? What was happening when it was written? Why was it written? What is the genre and style? What are the central themes?
- Read the book in its entirety. Doing so will help you understand the context of the passage. Then reread the book, perhaps using a different Bible translation. It’s likely you’ll discover a particular Bible version that clicks best with you.
- Write about what you have read. This could involve creating a version of the Scripture in your own words. While doing this, highlight particular sections that stand out. Also, jot down questions that are raised.
- Make a list of key words and repetitious wording in the passage. Use this list as the basis for more study (similar to step 4).
- Research the historical context and culture. A good understanding of the book’s writer and his intended audience is crucial to understanding Scripture.
- Consult commentaries. Use websites like www.bestcommentaries.com to find appropriate and highly rated study aides.
- Study how the book relates to the rest of Scripture. For example, is it Old Testament or New Testament? Is it history, biography, poetry, prophecy, letters . . . ? Is it closely associated with another book? What are its similarities and differences to other Bible books?
- Look for the application. Consider how you might put into practice what you have just studied.
Bible Study Resources
A variety of helpful resources can assist you with these nine steps. Some can be found online, and many are even available for free. Here are five primary tools:
A study Bible is the easiest tool to use and has much to offer. For starters, study notes act as miniature commentaries. The notes are typically arranged verse by verse. A study Bible also contains cross-references, illustrations, introductions to each book, timelines, maps, and an index that make it easy to find any subject matter.
A concordance is an alphabetical listing that shows where words and phrases occur in the Bible. This allows you to better understand the way a word is used in different passages of Scripture.
A Bible dictionary helps to identify people, places, and items found in Scripture. A Bible dictionary typically acts as an encyclopedia too.
A Bible atlas helps the Bible student picture the land mentioned in Scripture. For example, Mark 1 starts by describing how people traveled from various lands to see John the Baptist. A Bible atlas allows you to see how far away those places were and what it took to get there.
Commentaries help put into perspective what is being taught in Scripture. It can be easy to miss information as we read. A cultural fact might be overlooked because we tend to read through a twenty-first century lens. Commentaries are great tools . . . but don’t immediately run to them! It is important to wrestle with the text to become a better student of God’s Word.
The Next Step: Equipping Other Women
As important as it is to personally study the Bible, a key next step is to train up others to do the same.
I have been openly critical of women’s ministry that relies on watching a video and then discussing, “How does that make you feel?” What is biblical about that? Instead, we need to increase our knowledge and love of God through serious study of Scripture. That is what I am passionate about. That is what women truly need.
And so I have challenged myself, even as I now challenge you, Let’s equip and teach women to study the Bible.
In the early church, mature Christian women trained the younger women in how to be Christians. Teaching someone how to study the Bible is one of the greatest gifts we can give. When done correctly, studying the Bible can be time-consuming. But as missionary C.T. Studd wrote, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Megan Rawlings is the founder and CEO of The Bold Movement. She is an extrovert, pastor’s wife, and lover of the Scriptures.