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 Notes 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.
Today is the first Thursday in May, a day set aside by our country’s leaders as a national day of prayer. The Bible speaks of prayer often and encourages us with numerous examples of people who spent time in prayer. Examining the lives of those prayerful individuals in the Scriptures reveals that they are no different from you and me; they have their shortcomings and, in many cases, it is only through the Lord answering their prayers that they succeeded.
Learning to Pray from Moses
Moses’ example—that is, his overcoming his fear of public speaking and leadership—speaks volumes about prayer. Moses knew he wasn’t a capable leader of his people, so he spent much of his time in conversation with the Lord, often pleading for God to have mercy on the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. It was only through his conversations with the Lord that Moses was able to deliver Israel from Egypt.
Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ [God] said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ (Ex. 3:11-12 ESV)
Moses continued to ask the Lord for guidance, and when it was clear Israel would need a new leader to take them in to the land, he appealed to God, saying:
‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’ (Num. 27:15-18 ESV)
God provided Joshua to be the new shepherd to the Israelites, a direct answer to Moses’ prayer. However, not all of Moses’ prayers were answered. In Deuteronomy 3:23-28, Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Promised Land with the Israelites.
And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’
But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ (ESV)
God’s answer to our prayers, like His answer to Moses’ here, may be “no,” but the truth still remains that God is willing and ready to listen to our prayers, but we must be equally willing to speak to Him and listen for His answer.
As a Christian, prayer is an important part of spiritual life. It’s a time when we draw into the presence of our Lord and offer Him our praise, thanksgiving, supplication and repentance. We want to encourage you today and every day to spend time taking advantage of the privilege of speaking to our Lord personally and intimately through prayer. The writer of Hebrews invites us to do the same:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16 ESV)
People sometimes ask me what I would suggest for their Bible study library. While this is a difficult question, many Bible teachers point to the same basic resources to make a well-rounded library.
Sorry to be Captain Obvious here, but you need a Bible. The most important component of a Bible Study library is a solid Bible text. I also suggest two or more translations to allow for a “Bible Translation Comparison” Bible Study method.
Here’s a short list of Bibles available for The Bible Study App:
- King James Version (KJV) FREE for The Bible Study App
- English Standard Version (ESV) FREE for The Bible Study App
- New International Version (NIV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
- Other Bible Translations Available
2. Cross References
After you’ve thoroughly read the scriptures for yourself, read all of the related verses for that text. The Bible Study App has some great resources to help you find all of the cross references. These are helpful because they will save you tons of time and effort just looking up the references.
3. Bible Concordances
Concordances are great tools that give you a list of verses that contain that root word in the Bible. However, be careful that you do not JUST use a concordance in your preparation. Concordances are a great place to BEGIN, but are never the END of your Bible Study.
With that “don’t try this at home” disclaimer, I do suggest using a digital Bible with Strong’s numbers integrated into the text for your Bible study.
- King James Version – with Strong’s Numbers
- Other Bibles with Strong’s Numbers Available
- Olive Tree KJV Concordance
- Other Concordances Available
4. Bible Dictionaries
Dictionaries give you more explanation and meaning for specific words. They also help us to keep our Bible Study on track.
- Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible
- Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), 2nd ed.
- Other Bible Dictionaries Available
5. Bible Study Notes
There are multiple Bibles that have study notes written by scholars and trusted authors that will assist you in better understanding the Bible. I recommend choosing one that corresponds to your preferred translation (KJV, ESV, NIV, NLT, etc.)
- NIV Study Bible Notes
- NKJV Study Bible
- HarperCollins Study Bible Notes
- HCSB Study Bible Notes
- Other Study Bibles Available
6. Bible Maps & Atlases
We are far removed from Biblical times. Bible maps and atlases help us visualize locations, actions, and events in the Bible.
- Olive Tree Bible Maps
- Zondervan Atlas of the Bible
- Bible Maps – Then and Now
- Manna Bible Maps Study Set
- Other Maps & Atlases Available
7. Bible Handbooks & Bible Commentaries
After you’ve studied the Bible for yourself, it is often helpful to read trusted Bible scholars to see how they explain the text you are reading. These resources are also helpful to explain difficult passages or clarify the meaning behind Bible customs and events.
- The Essential Bible Companion
- Key Word Commentary
- IVP Bible Background Commentary
- Other Commentaries Available
Olive Tree’s Bible Study Collections
To make it easier, Olive Tree has bundled collections of resources to help you dig deeper into God’s word. These bundles give you the basic tools that you need like the study tools mentioned above. All of these wonderful resources are designed to be integrated into the Resource Guide within The Bible Study App for a seamless and easy-to-use Bible study experience.
- Choose from the following Bible Translations: NIV, NRSV, NKJV or HCSB
- A Study Bible that corresponds to your Preferred Bible Translation
- Bible Dictionary
- Everything in the Essentials bundle
- Strong’s Tagged Bible
- Essential Bible Companion
- Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
- Expanded Maps
- Everything in the Standard bundle
- Key Word Commentary
- Expository Dictionary
- Bible Concordance
- and even more Maps
- Everything in the Expanded bundle
- More Commentaries
- Bible Encyclopedia
- More Cross-references
- A Bible Atlas
Using these and tools will deepen your Bible study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
By Olive Tree Employee: David Mikucki
The great part about this resource is that anyone can use it. You don’t need to be seminary trained or have years of experience. You can just tap and read. The tool is powerful and practical enough to be useful even for personal study.
As with many powerful tools, this resource can do more if you know how to use it. It can also be somewhat dangerous if you don’t know how to use it. We don’t just want to provide you with the resource; we want to help you get the most out of it and avoid the dangers of misinterpretation. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic features of the ESV with Strong’s and about how to get the most out of each of them.
Tap to See Greek/Hebrew Word
The first feature is the most obvious. As soon as you tap, you can see what Greek or Hebrew word is behind it. This is the first thing you’ll see when you tap on a word. It’s probably most helpful for people who know Greek or Hebrew.
Now, if you tap on a darker word and it doesn’t open to do anything, that means that the word isn’t explicitly in the Greek or Hebrew text. The word was added by the translators in order to help the sentence make sense. We do this all the time in English, leaving out words because they’re assumed. Of course, the words left out in Greek aren’t necessarily the words we can leave out in English. Different languages have different rules for what’s important and what can be left out.
The takeaway here is that, while a word might not be in the original Greek or Hebrew, that doesn’t mean the word isn’t implied by other words. Sometimes the translators of the ESV add those words so that we English readers won’t be left scratching our heads.
Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary
The Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary is what appears when you tap a word that does have a Greek or Hebrew word behind it. This is a really handy tool because it will show you all the ways that the word gets translated throughout the Bible and give you an idea of how common each translation is. This can give you a fuller idea of what the word meant in the original language.
The thing to keep in mind here is something that all languages share in common: just because a word can mean something in one place, doesn’t mean it means that thing everywhere else. How and where a word is used in a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book is a critical part of understanding what the word means.
Many words in English have several diverse meanings. For example, the word “dodge” can mean to get out of the way of something. It can also mean to lighten part of an image or photo (like the “dodge brush” in image editing programs). If you were to simply look up the dictionary definition and pick the first one, you could find yourself very confused. Another example is the English word “love.” When someone says “I love ice cream,” he means something very different from when he says “I love my wife” (or at least he ought to).
The point here is that we want to let the dictionary help us get an idea of what the word can mean, then let the context of the passage determine what the word does mean. If we’re in a class on photography, “dodge” probably doesn’t mean “get out of the way.” It probably means “lighten.” But we wouldn’t want to make that assumption in gym class.
View All Occurrences
This is probably my favorite feature in The Bible Study App for word studies. It’s the button that says “Search for g5457” (or some other number). This feature allows you to search for everywhere in the Bible where that particular Greek or Hebrew word is used. Since a translation might translate one word twelve different ways, it’s hard to know when that word is being used. But this feature can help.
The best way to use this feature is to start with where the word is used closest to the verse you’re studying, then work outward from there. Look in the verse, then the chapter, then the book, then other books the author has written, then in the whole Bible.
In this way you can get a sense for how a certain author used a particular word in its context, in all his writings, and how the word gets used throughout the whole Bible. While this doesn’t necessarily result in the same mastery of the word that a scholar might have, it certainly does help us to better understand the word and the passage we found it in.
Generally speaking, this isn’t going to completely change the way you read a passage of Scripture. The translators know the languages a lot better than most of us, so most often we’ll end up agreeing. But doing a word study can help us discover a richness to the word that we otherwise might not have seen. It can also help us to connect things in Scripture that we otherwise might not have thought to connect.
Look Up Word in Dictionaries
The Look Up feature allows you to look up a word in any Greek/Hebrew dictionaries that you might have. There are a lot of really helpful dictionaries out there by scholars who have already done the work of a detailed word study. They may also include information about where the word came from and how it was used in books outside the Bible. These can be extremely helpful to supplement the word studies that you’re already doing with the ESV with Strong’s. Here are a few you might find helpful:
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Tools like the ESV with Strong’s and Bible dictionaries can be really helpful in understanding what God has to say. We should pray that, in our study, we will allow God to correct us with what we learn about the words of Scripture. This is very different from using the tools to bend God’s words to mean what we want them to. Humility and openness to correction are important here.
If we come to the Scriptures with our tools, ready to be taught by the Scriptures, then we will be in the right place to see God’s love for us in Christ and how we are to live in light of that love. We hope these tools prove helpful in your studies.
Psalm 119:130 (ESV)
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple
There are quite a few words that you’ll only ever hear in church. For instance, you’ll often hear invitations to a ‘fellowship’ activity announced on a Sunday morning, but the chances are you won’t use the word fellowship to invite your friend over for a BBQ or to watch the Super Bowl. One word that is used today, in churches all around the world, is the word Amen. Although many people use it in the right context, some may not actually know what it means. So what does the word Amen actually mean?
Amen is an ancient Hebrew word and is primarily used in three ways in the scriptures:
At the beginning of a discourse/statement/sermon. In these cases Amen would often mean (and be translated) as verily, or truly.
- Matthew 5:18 is an example of this:
“For truly [Amen], I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
In the Old Testament it’s also used as a descriptor of the character of God being true and/or faithful.
- Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful [Amen]God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”
See also: Isa. 49:7, 65:16.
The most common placement of Amen is at the end of a prayer, sermon, or statement - as an agreement. It could then be translated as ‘so be it’, ‘so it is’, or ‘may it be fulfilled’. These still have the similar ideas of truth, faith, or belief in.
- The Bible actually ends with this affirmation in Revelation 22:20-21: “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”
So, while many people haven’t researched the Hebrew roots, chances are, most have always had a basic understanding of what Amen means and have been using it in the right context. Hopefully this helps give you a bit larger picture of the meaning and you can shout, “Amen” with more authority the next time your Pastor is preaching.
If you’re interested in doing similar word studies on your own, consider buying a Bible with Strong’s or a Bible Dictionary like Vine’s that make word study as easy as a click or tap in The Bible Study App.
Right now we’re doing a special giveaway and you can get the ESV with Strong’s for free.
Apologetics gives us a rational, reasoned defense of the Christian faith. While apologetics can’t prove anything (which is true of all systems of belief, such as humanism, atheism, and other religions), it does show us that we don’t have to put our brain on the shelf when we become followers of Jesus.
Watch the video below to hear Dr. Bill Mounce as he explains what Apologetics can and can’t do.
Want to learn more?