Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thoughts for a Beginner on How to Study the Bible



A few Sundays ago, a young lady from our church approached me and told me about a young man she knew who truly had a desire to study the Bible, but had a hard time staying focused long enough to do so. She went on to ask me, "Do you have any suggestions that I could pass on to him to help him out?"

After giving the question a moments thought, I suggested the following:

1. Make sure that he is reading a smooth, comfortable text. I suggested the Holman Christian Standard, the New International Version, or the English Standard Version to start. I recall once when I was talking to a gentlemen at church and he was expressing his frustrations to me about how hard it was to read his Bible. I asked him, "What version are you reading?" He replied, "The King James Version!" I encouraged him to at least try the New King James Version. The KJV is second to none for it's poetic verse; however, it can be challenging to read, especially when one is reading the Bible for the first time!

For those who may shout, "Hey, King James Only," please see here.

2. Purchase an Audio Bible and follow along with the recording. Many times, this can make the reading seem much less laborious, especially to a new reader. Moreover, there are Audio Bibles currently available that have dramatic actors reading the parts of various biblical figures. For a sample, see here. In our entertainment rich culture, this could be a great way to get the slow starter interested in the scriptures, which is ultimately the goal.

3. I also suggested that she tell her friend to gradually increase the amount of time he reads the Bible every week. For example, during the first week he could read for 10 minutes per day. The following week, up it to 15 minutes per day. Of course, this type of method could vary from person to person but this at least gives someone a starting place. Ultimately, the goal is that the person loses track of time when they are reading the Bible because they are enjoying it so much!

Now that some time has passed and I've thought about the question longer, I also would add:

1. Pray before you begin reading! I gave myself a big "duh" on that one! I was blessed to find out later that this young gentlemen does indeed pray before reading...no thanks to me! I made a note to myself never to assume that again.

2. Purchase a good Study Bible. When you are able to understand the backdrop and/or culture that the book was written in, it many times will allow the pages to come to life.

3. Study with a friend, family member, or small group.

4. Listen to expository sermons from pastors such as John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, or James MacDonald.

If anyone thinks of some other ways that may aid someone in studying the Bible, please feel free to share!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Book Recommendations:

1. How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart

2. How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur

2 comments:

Lavinia4truth said...

My husband is new to studying the Bible. I spoke to him regarding how he studies the Bible. Here are some ideas that he has found useful in his study of the Bible. First of all, the way in which one studies the Bible is based on what their goals are. There are plans readily available to read the Bible in 90 days or 1 year. Although in-depth study with reading the Bible in a short period of time is more difficult, it very well could spark an interest in further study of certain passages after completion of reading the entire Bible.

He also mentioned that he tends at times to study the Bible via subject or topic ( i.e. Sabbath, tithing, repentance, Deity of Christ, etc). He finds it useful to use more than one translation of the Bible and even use more than one version of a study Bible ( e.g. Apologetics Study Bible Vs MacArthur Study Bible vs Schofield Study Bible vs Life Application Study Bible). He tends to follow cross references and/or commentary for each book of the Bible. As a new Christian, he recommends studying the New Testament first since he feels that it give the most pertinent information in his new walk with Christ and living as a Christian. Also, in the New Testament, you get a taste of the Old Testament as the New Testament references the Old Testament.

Also, journaling that includes key verses studied and your thoughts on passages studied may also be beneficial. Reviewing your journal, and prayer in particular, as you mentioned Chad, is essential before starting a new passage. A study guide may also benefit your study time when studying one of the books of the Bible.

In order to not feel overwhelmed, it may be useful to set small goals like reading one chapter at a time with subsequent commentary and cross references. My husband has found it useful when studying the Bible to keep one Bible open to the verses that are being studied while using a second Bible to check out all of the cross- references.

I believe that it is also useful to have a good concordance on hand. A Bible dictionary would most likely be very helpful to look up definitions of words with which we are unfamiliar. We don't yet have a very good dictionary for that purpose, but Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary sometimes proves to be a good source as it has many references to Bible verses included in his definitions of words.

If someone enjoys electronic devices, they can download study Bibles and multiple translations of their Bible on hand held devices like Palm pilots. Some of these programs that can be downloaded include a built in "search/find" that can act as an electronic concordance.

I hope that some of these ideas may be helpful to those who wish to dig deeper into God's Word.

Chad said...

L4Truth,

Wow; you and your husband should have written this post! Excellent ideas!

I'm actually getting ready to work on a post that has numerous online Bible study materials so you have given me some ideas!

Your input is always appreciated and helpful.

Godspeed