R. Kent Hughes was in pastoral ministry for 41 years, the last 27 as senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He earned his B.A. from Whittier College (history), an M.Div. from Talbot Seminary and a D.Min. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Kent is the author of numerous books, among them the best-selling Disciplines of a Godly Man. He is also editor of the projected 50-volume Preaching the Word series to which he has made numerous contributions.
Olive Tree recently added seven volumes to the Preaching the Word Commentary series. I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Hughes and ask him to share how this series came about and to reflect about the role a commentary can play in a preacher’s study.
Of the 29 volumes of the Preaching The Word Commentary, you wrote 22 volumes.
How did this project start?
I was [the pastor] at College Church in Wheaton which had lots of students and academics. I was very careful about doing all of my work on my sermons and then making them come alive when I preached. Lane Dennis (President of Crossway) and I were at an event and he approached me about publishing my sermons. We came up with the name Preaching the Word, which comes from 2 Timothy 4:2.
As you wrote a particular commentary, what goals did you have in mind?
The commentaries are homiletically arranged with careful attention to history, background, words, structure, and theology and with a focus on clarity in how they are presented. It’s important to also know that the content of each commentary has been preached live before a congregation.
If you were to pick the type of person that The Preaching the Word series is aimed at, who would it be?
It’s aimed at pastors, small group leaders, and Bible study groups. For preachers, it’s not meant to be a substitute for personal study. It’s important that you do your own work first and then come to a commentary like Preaching the Word. If you come right to the commentary without doing your own study and outline first, then you’ll most likely end up preaching the commentary.
If I’m going to preach on a specific book of the Bible, what role should a commentary play in my sermon preparation?
If it were a small book like Philippians, I’d first read it 30-40 times through, mostly in my preferred translation but also in some others. If you’re able to, also read it in the Greek. Then I’d ask, “What is the big theme of the book?” and look at structure, turning points, and applications – just try to get the text inside of me. Then I’d try and think of how to break up the book homiletically – how many sermons, where to break up the passages, and do my best to outline it.
Then, having done that, I’d open up a commentary and modify my sermon where needed. You should use a commentary like Preaching the Word as a part of your sermon-prep process. But if you use a commentary to start your process, you will become a commentary cripple.
When you look back at your own preaching ministry, what are a few things you wish you would have known as a young preacher that you’d exhort other young preachers toward today?
This matter of doing your own work is very, very important. You can borrow from all kinds of people and not really do your own thinking. The hardest thing to do is to sit down with the biblical text and ask God to help you. Do your own work first and then you can use a commentary to help you adjust.
The New International Commentary Series on the Old Testament (NICOT) and New Testament (NICNT) are highly regarded scholarly resources that are always ranked at the top by scholars, pastors, students, and professors.
1. Resource Guide
Open your preferred Bible Translation in the main window and have the Resource Guide open in the Split Window. You’ll see relevant NICOT/NICNT commentary “hits” in the split window.
The Bible Study App also keeps up with the scripture passage you’re reading in the main window with sync scrolling. This means that as you move along in the Bible text, the NICOT/NICNT syncs to exactly where you are in your study. No more flipping pages back and forth. No more holding the commentary text open on your desk in one spot, reading through your Bible text, and having to go back and find your place in the commentary. You’ll save an enormous amount of time with this feature alone.
2. Search & Look Up Feature
Search the NICOT/NICNT for words or passages. Take “love” as an example. You can search the entire NICOT/NICNT series for where “love” is mentioned in the commentary series. You can also limit your search to the Old Testament, New Testament, biblical genre, or a specific book.
When your search hits are displayed, you can tap on the result to go directly to that passage. You can also copy the text to add to an existing note or add a note right from the search results.
3. Linked Reference Pop ups
One of my greatest frustrations in the hard copy world of biblical commentaries are the other biblical references within the commentary. For example, when I’m reading in Matthew about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry there are multiple references to The Lord’s Chosen servant in Isaiah that are pertinent to my study. With a hard copy, I have to open a different Bible and find each and every reference to read how the verse relates to what I am currently studying. This is time consuming, slows down my study momentum, and requires me to keep all of my study materials out and open, spread out over a large desk space. With The Bible Study App, the scripture references are hyperlinked within the commentary text. All I have to do is tap the scripture reference to read it instantly.
Related to this is footnotes/endnotes. Since the NICOT/NICNT is a highly scholarly work, there are a lot of references to other materials. In the past I would have to stop where I was in the reading, look at the footnote, then go back to where I was in the writing. This also was a huge time waster, and I would often lose my train of thought. With The Bible Study App, all of the footnotes are linked. Just tap on the footnote, read it, and go back to where you were without losing your place.
4. Integrated Dictionary (iOS Extra)
In iPhone/iPad app, you also have an additional option. Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up. From here you get the options to Copy, Highlight, Note, Bookmark, Share, Define, Lookup and More.
If you tap “Define” you will get the integrated iOS dictionary pop-up. This is extremely helpful when you run across a word in the NICOT/NICNT or even the Bible text that you do not readily know.
5. Look at One Verse (iOS Extra)
An additional iOS option is looking up additional information on just one verse. Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up. From here you get the options to Tap and hold on a verse number and an option menu bar will pop up. From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, add a Note, Bookmark, Share, Guide, and More..
If you tap the “Guide” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific verse. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above. You can even choose to open the NICOT/NICNT in the main or split window.
This is helpful if you want to read through your Bible “full screen” and refer to the NICOT/NICNT when you want to see what it says about a particular verse.
Guest Blogger: Tom Possin
As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question. Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second. Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.
The Two Travelers and the Farmer
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”
“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”
“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tale (Source uncertain)
This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak. We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood. To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.
After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.
The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:
- Observation – What the text actually says.
- Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.
- Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?
Text first, original audience second, our perspective last. The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.
Tom Possin is the Director of the School of Biblical Studies at Youth with a Mission of Montana – Lakeside. He has been a missionary with Youth with a Mission since 1991 and taught the inductive bible study with the School of Biblical Studies since 2002.
From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible
Studying the Scriptures is supposed to be exciting! That’s why King David tells us in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Like me, I hope that you have found this verse to be true. Maybe, like me, you have also discovered that having plain honey multiple times a day can get repetitive. I’m not saying that God’s word becomes boring over time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I love that God’s word is so diverse and continues to excite and bless the reader taste after taste. The Scriptures are not to blame if we lose our taste for them. The Bible is designed to be a continual blessing to the believer. But believers may sometimes need to mix up how they study the Scriptures to make sure to avoid the ruts that their method of extracting the honey can bring about. Sometimes when we use the same approach to studying each and every day, the approach can become repetitive. It’s not God’s word that needs new spice, it’s the method of study that needs variety. That is why I wrote Learn to Study the Bible. With forty different ways to study the Scriptures, you always have a fresh way to prepare and digest your daily manna from heaven.
I’d like to share briefly the three ways that I personally enjoy studying the Bible.
FAVORITE VERSE BIBLE STUDY METHOD:
To start, please consider buying a new Bible to use with this method, or at least a new color highlighter. Begin by reading one to four chapters of the Bible a day. Remember that reading one chapter a day will get you through the entire New Testament in a year with one hundred make up days for when you miss a day of reading. Four chapters a day will get you through the entire Bible in a year in less than 25 minutes of reading time. The key is that each day you underline only one favorite verse from each chapter you read. That’s easy when you are in Leviticus but extremely difficult when you are in Matthew! After you are finished reading the entire book, go back and circle one favorite verse from the verses you underlined in the whole book. Write a few sentences in your Bible about why that is your favorite verse for that book. After you’ve read the whole Bible, you’ll have 1,189 favorite verses underlined (one from each chapter) and 66 all-time favorite verses (one from each book). Think about how valuable that Bible will be to you because of this investment. As you turn to any page in Scripture you will remember which verse spoke to your heart the most. You might even consider putting the date next to the verses you choose to connect them to your daily journal to enhance the experience even more. These will become the verses you choose to memorize since they have meaning to you. It’s a simple but fruitful and personal way to study the Bible.
TRANSLATION COMPARISON BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Not every student of God’s word is going to have the blessing of learning the original biblical languages. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand on the shoulders of scholars who spend their lives steeped in these languages, and this is the beauty of the Translation Comparison Bible Study Method. Every translation of the Bible represents the understanding and choice of dozens of skilled language scholars. When you see a unique word in a verse, you can be sure an important decision was made to choose that word over another word. This method helps you notice the different word selections that scholars made when creating English translations of the Bible. You’ll also learn how to prayerfully meditate on why these words were chosen over other words and how that can impact your understanding of the text. Learn how to compare Bible translations for spiritual growth and profit by reading a chapter from the book for free by visiting this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167983176/Translation-Comparison-Method.
DAILY BREAD BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Sometimes our biggest problem is rushing our reading of a passage of Scripture. If we simply slow down and chew on God’s word then we would be blessed by it. Slowing down is exactly what the Daily Bread Bible Study Method will force you to do. With this method, you’ll learn techniques that invite you to take the time to make sure you’re squeezing all the meaning you can out of the Scriptures. If you’ve struggled with understanding what your pastor means when he tells you to “meditate on God’s word,” then this method is for you. Read another free chapter from the book by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/16565590/The-Daily-Bread-Bible-Study-Method.
I hope these three Bible study methods that I use personally will bless you as you experiment with them. Remember that however you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your Bible study time become dull or a duty. I hope you’ll enjoy and use one of these methods, but don’t forget that you should never become devoted to the method—only to the Savior to whom the methods lead!
I first began teaching and preaching in my local church at age 14. Before my first sermon, my Dad handed me my first Strong’s Concordance and a brand new Bible. Following his lead, I would read through a passage of Scripture and look up every word in the Strong’s Concordance that I didn’t understand or that caught my attention.
I soon learned that I needed a more formalized approach to my Bible study. Here are some basic steps and tools that help me focus on Bible Study and get me back on track to studying God’s Word.
Prepare yourself through Prayer
“All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hardheartedness.” – John Piper, Martin Luther Lessons from His Life and Labor
There is no substitute for prayer when reading and studying the Bible. Prayer takes the attention off of what we can do and puts the attention instead on what God can do in and through us. Bible study is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1) in which we present our best to God. We have to remember that this is not just a book we’re reading. We need prepare our hearts and minds for Bible study.
Read the Scripture for yourself
Read and re-read the passage you’re studying. Get familiar with the flow of the passage. If there are terms that you don’t know, look them up in a simple dictionary.
Ask yourself these Questions
- Observe – What does the text say?
- Interpret – What does the text mean?
- Apply – How does it apply to me today?
Asking these questions will keep you focused on the study at hand. These questions are also helpful when preparing, guiding, and leading discussions for small group and Sunday school Bible studies.
Read and Research
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Bible Dictionaries
Dictionaries give you more explanation and meaning for specific words. They also help us to keep our Bible Study on track.
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Free Olive Tree Resource)
- Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary (Free Olive Tree Resource)
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
4.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.)
5. 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.
- Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (Free Olive Tree Resource)
- Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (Free Olive Tree Resource)
- The Bible Knowledge Commentary
- Word Biblical Commentary (WBC)
6. A Basic and Solid Library
To help you get started, 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.
- Read & Study Collection
- Bible Study Toolkit
- Bible Study Essentials (Bible Translation of your choice, Dictionary, Cross-Reference and Maps)
- Bible Study Standard (Essentials bundle, plus Strong’s Tagged Bible, Essential Bible Companion, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery and Expanded Maps)
- Bible Study Expanded (Standard bundle, plus Key Word Commentary, Expository Dictionary, Concordance, and even more Maps)
- Bible Study Premier (Expanded bundle, plus more Commentaries, Bible Encyclopedia, more Cross-references and a Bible Atlas)
Bible Study Bundles are available in the following Bible translations: NIV, HCSB, NKJV, and NRSV
7. How to Study Resources
Lastly, here are some useful resources to further your Bible Study methods:
- Learn to Study the Bible by Andy Deane
- The New How to Study Your Bible by David Arthur, Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy
- How to Study the Bible by Rose Publishing
- Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods by Rick Warren
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
Using these simple methods and tools will deepen your Bible Study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
What are your favorite Bible Study resources?
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. Olive Tree’s Bible Study App has integrated Strong’s numbers to work with the ESV, KJV, HCSB, NKJV, NASB, and the Almeida Revista e Atualizada (RA) translations of the Bible.
I recently found the integrated Strong’s function particularly helpful when reading John 21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Since I normally read the NIV in my devotional time, I was puzzled by the use of the word “children” in this passage as the NIV Translation uses the word “Friends”. So, I wanted to do a quick study to find out more.
Here’s three quick tips that helped me discover more about the translation behind this word. (Screenshots are taken with the ESV with Strong’s on an iPad, but will work with any of the Translations mentioned above and all supported devices.)
Open the your 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 (iOS = Settings – Advanced Settings – Text Layout / Display; for Android = Settings – Other 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.
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.
I also love using the Strong’s Bibles on my iPhone. It’s a fantastic resource when I’m at church, small group, or on the go.
Bibles tagged with Strong’s Numbers are excellent resources 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. Be sure to check out these great resources on sale this week.