Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tips for studying the Bible

1.    Read it.

This is so obvious that I shouldn’t have to say it, yet I am constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t get much out of the Bible because they jump from one place to another, only reading little snippets here and there.

The first step in understanding the Bible is to read it from cover to cover.  Don’t rush, read a chapter a day, or less if the chapter is long.  It should take four years to get through the whole Bible.  You don’t have to start with Genesis and read straight through to the end of Revelation, though it’s a good idea to do that once or twice in a lifetime.  But wherever you start, read one full book of the Bible before going on to another one.

As you continue reading, you will find that the Bible explains itself.  People come up with some bizarre interpretations of Bible verses when they try to understand them apart from their context.  The fact is that you cannot understand anything in the Bible apart from its context.  And you learn to understand the context by reading it.

2.    Don’t put too much trust in commentaries.

Don’t get me wrong, commentaries can be quite helpful in explaining background, context and symbolism.  Just be aware that each commentator has a somewhat different approach.

Matthew Henry is Calvinist (predestinarian) and amillenial.

Adam Clark is Arminian, postmillenial and believes he could have done a much better job of translating the Bible.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown is Calvinist and premillenial.

Whedon is Arminian, amillenial and believes in a second work of grace.  Don’t take any one of them as the final authority.

3.    Check the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek word

I’m not talking about becoming a linguist and learning the whole language, though I admire anyone who does it.   But there are times when learning the range of meanings of the original word and the various ways that it has been translated in the Bible will  give a deeper understanding of what is being said.

Electronic Bible programs are great for this.  My favourite is the Online Bible.  It is easy to use, fast, offers numerous translations, a Greek and Hebrew concordance and all kinds of other goodies.  Best of all it is free.  You can find it at  onlinebible.net

4.    Avoid study or reference Bibles

They are a substitute for Bible study, not a help.  People who rely heavily on any of the popular study or reference Bibles often reveal a woeful lack of personal Bible knowledge.  They find it so easy to go to Doctor Jones drive through Bible to find all the verses on a topic, but they never check the context of those verses to see if they really are talking about the same thing.

My favourite Bible (in English) is the Authorized (King James) Version from Cambridge University Press, with centre column references.  There you will often find alternate renderings of a word or a phrase, or a literal translation of the original Hebrew of Greek word.

This practice was introduced by the translators, who felt that when a word or a phrase could be translated in more than one way, and there were more or less equal grounds for each, it was not up to them to decide between the two possibilities.  Thus they placed one in the text and the other in the margin.  Subsequent translators have not had the same humility.

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