Bible Study Articles
Learn more about how to use Olive Tree’s Bible Study App and other products for Bible study.
From Olive Tree Staff: Ben Backstrom
I currently lead a Bible study at my church and being an Olive Tree employee, I naturally want to utilize our software to meet the needs of our group as well as my own needs in preparing for our study. Like most of us, I am pretty busy and need to make the most of my time spent on preparing for our meeting. In this post, I’ll walk through the steps I take each week to prepare for the Bible study I lead. Olive Tree’s software makes each step easy.
I use the Android application primarily, since I have both an Android phone and tablet. However, I also use the Windows and Mac applications when available. The screenshots come from my Android phone.
Each week, we go through a chapter or two from a book of the Bible. We are currently studying Acts. We created a Facebook group for our small group so that members can post events, prayer requests, and the like to other members in the group. The first thing I do to prepare for our discussion is to post the week’s passage on our small group’s Facebook page. This is easy with the Android Bible Study App. I simply select the verse number of the current passage and select share. Once I’ve shared, members can read the verses on Olive Tree’s website by clicking the link in the post. I can also choose to add comments to the message if I like:
Now, all group members can see the week’s passage from the Olive Tree website.
My work at Olive Tree includes converting the text of original works so that Olive Tree’s application can display it, so I am blessed with a familiarity of the books we offer. Of these, there are several that I use repeatedly to prepare for the study.
1. Archaeological Study Bible: This resource provides a wealth of knowledge about the cultural background of the Bible. I often use it as a starting point to understand basic concepts about the week’s passage. For our current book (Acts), the maps and images give me something visual to present to the group on my Android tablet.
2. English Standard Version: A great free translation available with the Olive Tree application.
3. NIV Study Bible: Since most of the members in our group use the NIV, I usually consult the Study Bible for insight on why the passage was translated the way it was. The notes highlight specific words used in the NIV translation and why they are significant to the passage.
4. NASB Strong’s: I find myself using this Strong’s Bible most often. A Strong’s Bible is especially useful during group study when someone has a question about a word in the passage.
One of the benefits of having Olive Tree on several platforms is that I can access my study materials anywhere. If I have some free time and my laptop is available, I can use the Mac or Windows app. If I’m away from my computer, I can access the app on my Android phone or tablet.
The ability to sync my notes and highlights makes the app even better. I facilitate the group exclusively from the notes I make in my Olive Tree app. I’m often on the go and can’t sit down at my laptop to study very often. So, it is great to have Olive Tree on my Android phone. I can study a passage and make notes on my phone, then sync those notes to my tablet, which I use at the study.
Those are a few of the ways I use The Bible Study App to prepare for and engage my small group.
How do you use Bible software to prepare for your personal or group study?
This week, Olive Tree has an awesome sale on A Visual Guide to Bible Events. The book’s introduction states that its purpose is to be “a door through which to enter the world of the Bible and encounter the power and love of our Lord Jesus and the unity of Scripture.”
This resource does just that. This book is not written in your typical research academic resource. Rather, it has a conversational tone to which any person can relate. A Visual Guide to Bible Events is packed with over 500 photographs and maps brings a heightened awareness to the biblical text like no other.
For example, take the seven churches of Revelation.
With the addition of the map, you can visualize how John’s letter carrier would have made a circular trip and how closely the seven churches were geographically. You can also see the length of the Israelites’ detour around Edom in Numbers 20:14–21 and Deuteronomy 2:1–8.
Looking through the beautiful full-color photographs gives a sense of being “in the action” and gives a sense of realism and depth like no written resource could.
Another example is a section of the Jerusalem wall during Nehemiah’s time.
Or, seeing a scale model of the temple and envisioning what it would have been like to be with the early church in Solomon’s Colonnade.
Perhaps even seeing a picture of an altar to an unknown God and how that would have affected the Apostle Paul.
Bible history told and shown in this context is insightful for all those wanting to deepen their Bible knowledge. The Bible Study App enhances this resource to strengthen your Bible study. As you’re reading through A Visual Guide to Bible Events, tap or click on a scripture reference to instantly see the Bible text. You can also use the split screen feature to view the articles and pictures while reading your Bible to augment your daily reading.
Olive Tree just released Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament for The Bible Study app. According to the series foreward, the commentary series was named “Paideia”, which is Greek for “education”, to reflect:
(2) the fact that the New Testament texts as literary unities are shaped by the educational categories and ideas of their ancient writers and readers; and
(3) the pedagogical aims of the texts themselves—their central aim being not simply to impart information but to form the theological convictions and moral habits of their readers.
Although this series is intentionally aimed at “MA students in religious and theological studies programs, seminarians, and upper-divisional undergraduates” the authors do not go into so much theological detail as to leave the rest of us lost in a sea of research.
Paideia is also different in that the series is not a “verse-by-verse” commentary, but rather looks at the final form of the Biblical text in large units of thought.
As such, each commentary is broken out into three sections:
(1) introductory matters
(2) tracing the train of thought
(3) theological issues
Paideia also has several maps, photos, and charts that help make the biblical text more accessible to those without original language, biblical and extra-biblical historical backgrounds and preparation.
Here are a few Examples:
The Paideia commentaries are even more powerful with The Bible Study App. Use the split window to read your chosen Bible translation on one side of the screen while the corresponding Paideia commentary will sync with your reading in your split window. Or, use the pop-out windows to view the content separately. If you are using the Windows 7 app, this is especially helpful if you have two monitors.
When I first heard about the Archaeological Study Bible, I wasn’t sure what to think. My initial thought was how could there be an entire Bible devoted to archaeological study? And honestly, how could a study Bible devoted to archaeological study not be a snoozer? So, I got a copy of the Archaeological Study Bible and began looking through it. Wow, was I impressed (and wrong)!
The Archaeological Study Bible is a great resource. There are 520 articles covering five main categories: Archaeological Sites, Cultural and Historical Notes, Ancient Peoples and Lands, the Reliability of the Bible, and Ancient Texts and Artifacts. The Bible Study App enriches the Archaeological Study Bible. As you read through your Bible, the split screen and resource guide keep you synced with your reading.
Here’s an example of an article on the Zealots and Essenes (screenshots from an iPad):
Also included are almost 500 full-color photographs throughout the text. Here’s two examples:
Throughout the text there are detailed charts like this one:
At the end of the Archaeological Study Bible there are several maps that help you get an idea of the placement of biblical events:
The authors of the Archaeological Study Bible also included detailed book introductions for every book of the Bible. Other study tools include a glossary, extensive concordance and several indexes to help you find articles relevant to your study.
The Bible Study App enhances this resource when articles reference other articles within the Archaeological Study Bible. By tapping or clicking on the hyperlink, you can go directly to the related article, view in the Split Window, or view it in a Popup screen.
As you can see, you can spend hours learning the historical background of the Bible and the settings in which biblical events took place. The articles and pictures will give you insights into the Bible and make you feel like you could have been there.
The Olive Tree Concordance is a great resource to use within The Bible Study App to enhance your study and we have several good ones available with the ESV, NKJV and KJV translations. Why should you use a concordance in The Bible Study App? Read below to see what a concordance can do for you.
Screenshots are taken from The Bible Study App running on Windows.
Dictionary Look up
As you read along in your Bible or other resource, you can highlight a word and select “Look Up” from the menu of options. Immediately The Bible Study App searches your library for resources related to your selected word.
Click on the Olive Tree Concordance from the list of articles to see the entry for the selected word. Similar to a traditional concordance, the Olive Tree concordance gives you a listing of all the other places in the Bible where that word is used. The Bible Study App goes beyond the traditional concordance by creating hyperlinks for all the verse references, so as you click on one, a pop up window will take you to the Bible text, making a word study quick and easy.
You may have noticed that there is a number listed next to each verse reference in the concordance. This is the Strong’s number for your selected word. Strong’s numbers represent the word in the original language that was translated into your English word.
For example, when you look up “mercy,” you will get a different Strong’s number for the Hebrew words raḥam and ḥânan which are both translated as mercy in English, but have different meanings in Hebrew. When you tap or click on the Strong’s number h7356, the search will bring up all of the verse references in the Bible that contain the Hebrew word raḥam.
In addition to the Strong’s Numbers, you will also receive access to the Strong’s Dictionary when you purchase the Olive Tree concordances. Next to each Strong’s Number in the concordance is a hyperlink to the “Dictionary.” When you tap or click on “Dictionary” a pop up will provide the original language definition. For example, when selecting “Dictionary” for h7356 (raḥam) the entry is:
h7356. רַחַם raḥam; from 7355; compassion (in the plural); by extension, the womb (as cherishing the fetus); by implication, a maiden: — bowels, compassion, damsel, tender love, (great, tender) mercy, pity, womb.
AV (44)- mercy 30, compassion 4, womb 4, bowels 2, pity 2, damsel 1, tender love 1; n m
The dictionary information tells me that raḥam comes from the Hebrew root word with the Strong’s number h7355. I can find the dictionary information for the root word if I click or tap on h7355. The dictionary entry also gives a definition for raḥam and lists the occurrences of the word and how it is translated. There are 44 instances of the Hebrew word in the Bible, 30 of which are translated as “mercy,” four are translated “compassion,” and so on.
As you can see, the Olive Tree Concordances are much more than a list of cross references for each word in the Bible. With dictionary information tied to the original language, these resources are valuable tools for Bible study. Each concordance comes with a copy of the Bible in the selected translation.
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Originally created by Dr. James Strong (1822-1894), the Strong’s Concordance matches every word in the King James Bible to the word it came from in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. This system has been adapted to work with the NKJV translation of the Bible and has proven to be an invaluable resource that is used extensively by pastors, seminary students and scholars of the Bible.
The great thing about Strong’s tagged Bibles in The Bible Study App is that you don’t need to be a scholar to use one, and yet, after a few uses, you’ll feel like a scholar. Here are some quick tips for using Strong’s tagged Bibles in The Bible Study App:
Open the NKJV Bible with Strong’s and you’ll see that some words are a slightly different color. Tapping or clicking on those words will pop-up the Strong’s information for that word. These pop-ups contain a wealth of information, including:
- The Strong’s number (beginning with either a “g” or an “h”) for that word.
- A short definition for that word.
- An outlined list of the different meanings for that word in the original language.
- Often you will also find that another Strong’s number is included as a link. These can be similar words that you can compare or other words from which your current word selection derives its meaning.
You can also go to your settings in the The Bible Study App and turn on the setting to show Strong’s Numbers (Settings – Advanced Settings – Display and Copy Settings). The numbers for the words will appear in the Bible text. Tapping on the number will also bring up the Strong’s pop-up.
At the bottom of the Strong’s pop-up, there are two buttons that perform “look-ups” or searches based on the Strong’s number or the word in its original language.
Look-up by Strong’s Number
The first button contains the Strong’s number for your word. Clicking or tapping on this button will perform a search in your library for articles containing this Strong’s number.
Look-up by Original Language
The second button contains the word in its original language. Clicking or tapping on this word will perform a search in your library for articles about the word in its original language.
Using the Search Function
Strong’s tagged Bibles can quickly create a very accurate concordance. By entering the Strong’s number into the search bar at the top right of the The Bible Study App, you can easily find all of the places within the Bible where that specific word is used. This is different than searching for the word in its English form. In the original language, there is more than one word that can be translated as the word love, for example. Searching by the Strong’s number will find only the specific cases where the word agápē is translated as love, not one of the other forms of the word “love.” Secondly, when you have a Strong’s pop-up open, you can select the word as it appears in its original language form, like αγάπη, and copy and paste it into your search bar to find all of the places in the Greek text were this Greek word appears.
The NKJV with Strong’s is an excellent resource for diving deeper into the biblical text. It offers insight into the original languages of Scripture without requiring you to have any formal training in Greek or Hebrew. This week the New King James Version with Strong’s Numbering is 50% Off through April 15. Be sure to check out this great resource!