HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE
INTRODUCTION: The waters at a beach can either
be inviting, or terrifying, depending on the person. To the person who
has never learned to swim they terrify because they are not prepared to
swim. There is death out in the deep. But to the trained swimmer, it invites
them to venture forth to the cool, clear water. It all depends on the preparation.
This is much like Bible study. Those who have
never studied from God's word often feel inadequate to the task, not know
where to start. But those who spend some time in preparation feel much
more confident in their study.
I. WE NEED TO HAVE SOME UNDERSTANDING OF THE
VARIOUS FIGURES OF SPEECH.
A. A working knowledge of metaphors
and similes helps.
III. A PROPER USE OF DIFFERENT STUDY AIDS IS
1. A simile is a word or phrase by which
anything is likened in one of it's aspects to another. A simile uses the
words like, as, or so.
B. A need to understand Parables.
a. Psalms 52:8 - "But I am like a
green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for
ever and ever."
2. A metaphor is an implied comparison. It does
not used like or as. The metaphor is usually more pointed than the simile.
b. Matthew 23:27 - "Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which
indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones,
and of all uncleanness."
a. Matthew 26:26-28 "And as they were
eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to
the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took
the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of
it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed
for many for the remission of sins."
b. Luke 13:31-32 "The same day there came certain
of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for
Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that
fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow,
and the third day I shall be perfected."
1. Parable - "to throw; hence a placing
beside or together, a comparing, a comparison."
D. An understanding of the difference between Figurative
and Literal language is valuable.
2. Some parables.
a. The Parable of the Sower - Matthew
3. The purpose of speaking parables.
b. The Parable of the Ewe Lamb - 2 Samuel 12:1-6.
c. The Parable of the Vineyard - Luke 20:9-19
a. To reveal truth, making the people
to understand the unknown by comparing to something that they know.
b. To conceal truth, from the minds of those
who had no right to it.
1. Matthew 13:10-13 "And the disciples
came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He
answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries
of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever
hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever
hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore
speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they
hear not, neither do they understand."
c. To preserve the truth for future
4. A couple of things to remember in interpreting
d. To cause men to agree with truth before they
realize it was referring to them.
1. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 "And David's anger
was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD
liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall
restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had
no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man."
a. Seek out the main purpose of the
speaking of the parable. What is the context.
b. While there is always some symbolism in parables,
care should be exercised not to read too much into the parts of the parable.
c. Seek out the main lesson in the parable. Avoid
"flights of fancy" in interpreting them.
1. A look at the context will usually
tells us the difference.
E. Several other important figures of speech.
2. A word of sentence is figurative when the
literal meaning involves an impossibility.
a. Psalms 18:2 - "The LORD is my rock,
and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will
trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Obviously
God is not a literal rock, etc. but is strong to defend like these things.)
3. When the Scriptures are made to demand an action
which is wrong, or forbid good, it must be taken figuratively.
a. Matthew 18:8-9 talks about the mutilation
of the body. Is it literal? No. It is intended to teach the importance
of putting Heaven first.
4. When the Scriptures clearly identify a passage
as figurative we should accept it.
a. John 2:18-22 says that Jesus could
raise up the temple in three days if it was destroyed. John explains that
Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body, not the physical temple.
5. Let the writer explain the figure.
a. In Ezekiel 37 we read of the valley
of dry bones. Many wild theories have been spun concerning this passage.
But Ezekiel explains it as referring to the house of Israel coming back
from Babylonian captivity. (verse 11)
1. Hyperbole - A deliberate exaggeration
of a meaning intended to emphasize a truth.
a. Used a great deal in the Old Testament.
An eastern custom.
2. Proverb - A short pithy (concise) saying which
teaches a valuable lesson. Thought of as a wise saying. These teach general
b. Genesis 13:16 - "And I will make thy seed
as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth,
then shall thy seed also be numbered."
c. Also Judges 7:12; 1 Kings 4:29.
3. Personification - The endowing of inanimate
objects or animals with human characteristics.
a. Isaiah 13:7-8 "Therefore shall all
hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: 8 And they shall be afraid:
pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman
that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall
be as flames." (at the downfall of the king of Babylon)
4. Anthropomorphism - Assigning human characteristics
to describe God and His actions.
a. Such phrases as the eyes of God,
His arms, His ears, etc. are used to help the reader understand the work
of God, not to suggest that He has arms, ears, etc. like men.
A. There are some study aids which are
worth their weight in gold.
IV. A GOOD, CONSERVATIVE TRANSLATION IS ESSENTIAL
TO PROPER STUDY.
1. A good concordance. This is a book
which show every word that appears in the Bible and where they appear.
The good ones also have useful greek study aids which are geared to the
average study which has no knowledge. The three most common, in order of
their value are: Strongs, Youngs, and Crudens.
B. Some other useful Bible study tools.
2. Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are important.
Most of the ones available are conservative and very useful in learning
about places, people and things found in the Bible. There are several good
ones on the market.
3. Bible Atlases are important when studying
the Bible. Most will show various maps of Israel at different time periods,
Paul's missionary journeys, the Roman Empire, and other useful maps.
Baker Bible Atlas is probably the best.
1. Commentaries - These are writings
which take books of the Bible apart by verse or section and expound on
the meaning. There are multitudes of them available. Some are very conservative.
Some are extremely liberal. They range from under $100.00 for the whole
Bible to nearly a $1,000.00 for a set. These are very helpful if one keeps
in mind that they are the opinions of men and must therefore be understood
in light of clear passages. Some of the better ones: E. M. Zerr, James
Burton Coffman (both Gospel preachers), Albert Barnes and Adam Clarke (both
conservative but not members of the churches of Christ).
2. Lectureship books - These are written by brethren
and have a wealth of valuable information about the Bible. Some are whole
volumes of individual books of the Bible.
A. We should pick a translation that
seeks to be as close to the original language without any particular bias
CONCLUSION: This brief series on How to study the
Bible has not been intended to be exhaustive. It is intended to encourage
further study and a renewed desire to learn what God has given to us in
His word. Let's open up our Bibles more and learn our responsibilities
to our God.
1. We should remember that the Bible
is "God breathed" and thus must be as faithfully translated according to
the original wording as possible.
B. Some guidelines in picking a primary translation
for regular study.
a. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God
may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
2. It is impossible to pick men to translate that
have no preconceived opinions about doctrine. However, it is possible for
scholars to lay them aside and translate simply according to the text.
1. Pick one that is a translation, not
a paraphrase. For example, many got on the Living Bible "bandwagon"
for a while. But it is a paraphrase, not a word for word translation. It
was the product of one man, Kenneth Taylor, who brought in many of his
personal doctrinal biases into the text. It has some good renderings and
may have value as a secondary source, like a commentary, but should never
be used as final authority.
C. Some personal recommendations.
2. Pick one that is a product of a number of
known, scholarly, translators, not a few. The more translators working,
the less the chance of letting personal bias enter.
3. Pick one that has stood the test of time.
One does not have to be centuries old, but it should have been around long
enough to receive a wide review and examination.
4. Pick one that has a reverent tone. Modern
translations are not wrong in themselves, but many are "modern" to the
point of vulgarity and coarseness.
5. Look for one that is not pushing any particular
agenda or doctrine.
a. The New RSV takes out the personal
pronouns when referring to God. This reveals a personal bias toward the
feminist movement and clearly mistranslates the word. The Bible uses male
pronouns when describing God.
1. I stress personal. These are not
meant to be inspired, but based on personal experience. They are not meant
to be binding on anyone but are meant as advice.
2. Concerning personal preferences about versions,
there are several that are good and ones that I could recommend without
any reservations. The King James Version is tried and true, solid,
and has stood the test of time. The American Standard Version of
1901 is probably the most accurate of the various translations, but is
difficult to get and not in wide circulation. The New King JamesVersion
keeps the beauty of language of the Old King James and put much of the
archaic language of it in a more modern form. If starting over I would
probably begin with this one. (After much study and consideration, I have
chose to use the NKJV. )
3. Concerning some of the others. They will vary.
They range from the New American Standard, which is valuable in
the Old Testament, to the Good News for Modern Man, which is chock
full of doctrinal error. The other range in between. The New International
Version could be acceptable if not for the fact that there are several
clear passages, such as Psalm 51:5 which clearly states that David was
born a sinner in the NIV. The Revised Standard Version mistranslates
virgin as "young woman" thus contradicting Matthew 1:23.
4. It is good, however, to have access to a broad
spectrum of versions for comparison purposes in study. An excellent tool
is a book which has several version parallel.
5. One another important suggestion. Many will
buy the best when it comes to cars, homes, appliances, etc., and scrimp
on a Bible. But a good study Bible which has various study notes, concordance,
Bible dictionary, Bible atlas, and marginal notes. These are not inspired,
but a conservative study Bible can help immensely. Two good ones are the
Chain Reference Bible and the Dickson Bible. There are other
good ones. In my opinion, the NKJV Thompson Chain Reference Bible
is the finest Bible of the market. A little extra money spent here will
bring handsome rewards.
Copyright 1999 by Grady
Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.