Bible Study Articles
Learn more about how to use Olive Tree’s Bible Study App and other products for Bible study.
Waiting in line is the pits. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone exclaim, “Yes! This line is incredibly long, I’m going to be here forever!” so I’m going to assume that no one likes waiting in line. Having recently gotten married, I had the unfortunate pleasure of waiting in some of the most notoriously long lines, including the county courthouse, the DMV, the Social Security Office and my bank, so I know a thing or two about waiting in line.
I’m generally not a very patient person and I find that I get less and less patient while standing in line for something. I realized that my impatience was becoming a problem when I found myself diving in and out of lines at the grocery store trying to (more…)
At church, my pastor is preaching through a series of Bible passages that all have to do with roads, drawing an analogy to the life of Christian discipleship. So far we’ve learned about the journey of the Magi in Matthew 2 and the narrow gateway to God’s Kingdom in Matthew 7. Yesterday, my pastor preached about the blind beggar in Mark 10:46-52. Here’s the passage:
46“Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!”
48“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. (more…)
Reading and studying the Bible are important disciplines for all Christians, but the concept of Bible study can be more elusive. In Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods, Warren starts out by saying, “I have discovered that most Christians sincerely want to study their Bibles on their own, but they just don’t know how.”
There are many classes, books and seminars full of theories and methods to teach you how to study the Bible. I took a class in seminary called Principles of Inductive Bible Study, and to this day I can hear the professor’s voice in my head. Every day the professor would ask, “What’s the first step in inductive Bible study?” and as a class we had to respond in unison, “Observation!” Then he would ask, “What question do we ask in the first step of Inductive Bible Study” and in unison we would again respond, “What does the text say?!” Often he would repeat these questions over and over until he felt we responded enthusiastically enough. He drilled into us what he believed to be the right steps for inductive Bible study, but his was just one out of a multitude of Bible study methods.
I’d recommend taking a look at How to Read the Bible Book by Book and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart as good introductory Bible study resources. Learn To Study The Bible by Andy Deane, and Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul are also helpful for picking up good Bible study tools and habits. Study Bibles, like the NIV Study Bible can provide notes, cross references and other insights into the text to help you in your Bible study. I have several study Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries and other resources that I consult when studying a particular passage of Scripture. However, don’t get too bogged down with study books and miss out on the truths you can glean from digging into the text on your own.
Here are some things I do when studying the Bible (don’t worry; I won’t make you memorize these!):
Context, Context, Context
I start by looking for the historical context: the author, style of writing, time period, audience and the historical background that surrounds the text. I then focus on the biblical context. I read the previous and subsequent chapters to get a full picture of the passage. Finally, I look for how the passage is applicable to my life.
I like to read the passage through three times. I write down repeated words or phrases, metaphors, similes, exclamations or anything that stands out. If anything reminds me of another passage I’ll look it up and compare. I like to pick out a couple of the repeated words and phrases for a quick word study, looking for other places those words are used in Scripture using my Strong’s Bible.
I like to re-write the passage of Scripture in my own words, taking into account all of the work I’ve done up to this point. I then summarize my study in three sentences or less. I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture, but I’ve found that re-writing the passage in my own words helps me to recall the verse, even if it isn’t exact.
Do you have steps for Bible study that you follow? Is there a resource that you find especially helpful for your study? Let us know by leaving us a comment.
We’re a week into the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan, and we’ve been reading the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the striking account of the power of God in the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
These stories remind us that our individual stories fit into God’s overarching plan of redemption. Our intention with the Reading Plan is to throw you headlong into the full biblical narrative. The authors of the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook also want to bring your story in line with God’s story.
An excellent companion to the Olive Tree Bible Reading Plan, the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook is split into three sections:
- The first section explores the Bible’s organization, explains the basics of each book of the Bible, and gives a cultural and historical framework for the Old and New Testaments.
- The second section deals with the inspiration of Scripture and the steps taken to bring Scripture into the form we know it today. Topics explored in this section include the New Testament canon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible translation, and more.
- The third section of the Handbook addresses how we use and understand the Bible, including information about literary features in the Bible, archeology in the Bible, and issues of authorship.
There is something new for every student of Scripture. This invaluable resource will give you a broader and deeper understanding of the historical and cultural roots of God’s Word. At the same time, the Word of God transcends time and space in its message. Yesterday, today and forever, the Good News is that God in Christ “proclaim(s) good news to the poor…, liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Download the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan today for free here by logging into your Olive Tree account. After today, the Reading Plan will be sold for 99 cents.
When I was a sophomore in college, I took an Old Testament Survey class in which we read the entire Old Testament in one semester. I remember reading the syllabus during our first class and balking at some of our homework assignments. Read Psalms 76-150 for Wednesday’s homework. Read Isaiah for Friday. Yes, that’s right. Read all of Isaiah.
Without a doubt, the volume of reading that semester was a challenge. But in hindsight, I am thankful for the lightning-speed pace with which we moved through the Old Testament because it revealed an overarching narrative to the Bible that I’d never noticed. There is a profound continuity between the Old and New Testament. God really is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and his desire is for the salvation of all people, first for the Jew and also for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
When we were discussing overarching themes for the summer here at Olive Tree, we got hooked on this idea of reading through parts of the whole Bible in one summer. Rather like New Year’s, summer carries its own set of resolutions and to-dos. We invite you to make Olive Tree’s Summer Bible Reading Plan your goal for the summer.
Here’s the lowdown on reading plan:
- The reading plan organizes the Bible’s 66 books into eight literary genres: Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, Gospels and Acts, Paul’s Letters, and the General Letters/Revelation.
- Each genre and book of the Bible includes a succinct introduction written by Olive Tree staff members that will help both mature and new Christians understand the basic historical context and themes.
- The plan’s dates are from June 1 to September 11. In most cases, you’ll be reading several chapters a day.
- The plan will be available as a free download until Friday, June 8. After that, it will be available at OliveTree.com for 99 cents.
Olive Tree is excited to help you dive into the Word of God. Our end goal for the Summer Reading Plan is that you become so steeped in God’s story that it begins both to define and transform your life.
“Let your roots grow down into [Christ Jesus], and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7, NLT)
Most beginning students of Hebrew are never able to make the jump between studying Hebrew grammar and vocabulary and being able to read and study the Hebrew Bible on their own. I’ve found this to be true in my own studies, when teaching Hebrew to others, and in talking to other teachers and students of Hebrew. Many students have similar struggles with Greek, but in my own experience of teaching dozens of Greek classes, I found that the rate of success is significantly higher, and that a fair number of students eventually reach a level of competency at which they can work through most passages in the Greek New Testament.
This pattern was true in my own studies. I was fortunate enough to begin learning Greek at about fourteen years of age, and by age sixteen, I had read through the Gospels on my own. Someone had told me early on not to use an analytical lexicon since it could become a sort of crutch, and to parse each word on my own, which I faithfully did. The result was that after working through the entire New Testament, I had a very thorough understanding of Greek morphology and could parse nearly any noun or verb form with ease.
Imagine my shock then when I tried to make the same transition into reading Hebrew. There were so many irregular verbs or verbs with disappearing letters! This didn’t bother me too much at first, since I could generally page through the dictionary and find the root. What really gave me trouble though were the verbs that dropped the first letter of the root, or even the occasional verb that lost two letters. How in the world was I supposed to find the root in my lexicon? I had dealt with irregular verbs in Greek, and my solution was simple and effective: memorize them all. I began the same process in Hebrew, but with several times more words to memorize, it was a long and slow process without much immediate payoff. I finally broke down in frustration and purchased an analytical lexicon.
The analytical lexicon helped me considerably, but still not enough to make the jump to fluent reading. It allowed me to consistently work through a passage without getting completely stuck, but it was very slow. Often my progress through a passage was reduced to a crawl. I eventually made it through the entire book of Genesis after a year of consistent reading. I was discouraged by this relatively slow pace. After all, I had made it through John’s Letters, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Matthew, Mark, John, and Revelation in the same period of studying Greek. I gradually lost interest in Hebrew and spent more time developing my proficiency in Greek and Latin. I even learned Syriac during that time period and was amazed at how much easier it seemed than Hebrew.
My interest in Hebrew didn’t return until I was asked to tutor some students in it. I was teaching classics at a small private high school and a couple of seniors asked if I would help them learn Hebrew. During our first few sessions, I was struck with how much better I understood Greek and Latin, and how shaky my understanding of Hebrew verb forms seemed in comparison. I chalked it up to the fact that I had never done as much reading in Hebrew. I knew that if I wanted to help these students reach a point where they could read Hebrew prose that my own reading abilities needed to improve.
Fortunately, there was a new resource available that allowed me to improve my reading skills. It was A Reader’s Hebrew Bible published by Zondervan. It had all of the high frequency words in a glossary in the back. Any words that were not high frequency were listed on the bottom of each page of text. I already knew all (or nearly all) of the high frequency words, so this allowed me to read quickly over a passage without a separate dictionary. If I was unsure what the root of a word was, I could just look at the bottom of the page. I started by rereading the book of Genesis, which took me just over a month (compared to over a year the first time through). I was worried at first that this was only a crutch and that I wouldn’t actually learn to read Hebrew any better, but was pleased when I began recognizing more and more words that were not in the high frequency lists and was able to identify them without look at the bottom of the page. This renewed my interest in reading Hebrew, and I revived the practice of reading each day from my Hebrew Bible. Consequently, my understanding of the language and my ability to teach it increased significantly over the next year or two.
I eventually left my position at the school and started working for Olive Tree Bible Software. I was immediately amazed with Olive Tree’s parsed text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. It allowed me to look up the parsing for any word in the Hebrew text by simply tapping on it. As much as I liked my Reader’s Hebrew Bible, this was even better! I could access not only the root and definition, but also the full parsing with a simple tap of the screen. I could even open up a commentary, an English Bible, or the Septuagint in a split window and set it up to follow along with the Hebrew text. As was the case with the analytical lexicon and the Reader’s Hebrew Bible, I was afraid that this would only be a crutch. Once again, I was pleased to discover that the more I used the parsed BHS with Olive Tree’s Bible Study app, the more my ability to parse Hebrew texts on my own increased.
Looking back, I would say that discovering Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible and Olive Tree Bible Software’s parsed text of the BHS were both key turning points in my efforts to become fluent in reading Hebrew. After first finding each of these resources, the amount that I read from my Hebrew Bible increased dramatically. After using each of these resources, I found that my ability to read Hebrew without a dictionary had increased drastically. If someone asked me for a good print resource to break into reading the Hebrew Bible, I would highly recommend A Reader’s Hebrew Bible. If the same person had an iPad, iPhone, or Android device, I would recommend even more strongly that he or she purchase OIive Tree Bible Software’s parsed BHS. After all, it provides not only the root and definition, but the parsing information as well. The price may seem a little high at first, but is really not much if you consider what it would cost to purchase and carry around printed copies of each of the three resources it contains.
Breaking into reading my Hebrew Bible on my own on a regular basis was a huge challenge. I started out completely unassisted and wasn’t able to make a lot of progress. Even when using an analytical lexicon, I wasn’t able to get very far. When I use Olive Tree’s parsed Hebrew text, I’m amazed at the beauty of the Hebrew text and incredible functionality that it provides. I often think about how much time I could have saved and how much frustration I could have avoided if I had a resource like this when I was first learning Hebrew. I’m glad that students today have such a great resource available and am proud to be part of the company that provides it.
Matt works as a Digital Content Engineer, producing the resources we are proud to offer within the Bible Study app.
The product details for our parsed BHS text can be found here.