Personal Bible study is essential to our lives as believers. Biblical interpretation isn’t just a scholarly pursuit – God expects every believer to progress towards spiritual maturity. We can all go to church and listen to a preacher teach about his knowledge of the Bible. We can read books and devotionals that other people have written based on their interpretation of the Bible until we are blue in the face.
But we should be passionate as believers to know God. We should assume personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth and maturity. We should make every effort to grow our own ability to know God’s word accurately for ourselves.
So what do you need for your personal Bible study?
A Bible YOU Can Understand
First – invest in a bible in a version that is as accurate as possible but also that is easy for you to read and understand. In order to retain what you read, it should be in language you are able to comprehend. I personally use several versions. While I enjoy Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Minds Bible because of how she relates it to renewing our mind… For serious study I use the New Revised Standard Study Bible – The Access Bible. I have a KJV Bible that was given to me by my great-grandmother, and while it is special to me because of where it came from, I don’t use it often.
God’s Word is our greatest weapon against the devil. Whatever Bible you decide to use, make sure you are able to understand the verbiage. That said, the only inaccurate Scripture is the original manuscript. You can also get a Parallel Bible containing multiple versions.
If you are unsure which version you’d prefer, Bible Gateway is a great online Bible resource to review various translations and to use for comparison. Even if you prefer to read electronic books, I highly recommend an actual Bible for the purpose of your study. Get something you can dedicate to interpretation, mark-up, and taking notes. There are cheaper Economy Bibles if you want to get a new Bible just for mark-up. I recommend ordering the large print in these economy Bibles, as the regular print versions are very small print and difficult to see.
Simply put, when studying the Bible you should aim to understand the original author’s intent to the audience they were writing for. We are studying scripts that were not originally written in English, and have been translated numerous times over thousands of years.
For scholarly interpretation purposes there are Hebrew and Greek Grammars, Lexicons, Language-Specific Concordances, Theological/Exegetical Dictionaries, Bible Encyclopedias/Dictionaries, Bible Atlases, Old/New Testament Introductions, Charts, Commentaries, and Systematic and Biblical Theologies.
That’s a lot for a beginner’s Bible study, however something to keep in mind about the complexity of the texts you are about to inspect. Depending how far you want your study to go, these types of resources might interest you, and I have listed some of the best field standards below.
- Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
- Greek Concordance, Moulton and Geden’s 6th Edition
- Concordance to the Hebrew Old Testament
- BDAG Lexicon
- HALOT Lexicon
- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
- Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis
- Anchor Bible Dictionary
- Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible
- Holman Bible Atlas
- NT Introduction: The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown
- Introduction to the Old Testament
- Systematic Theology
- English Dictionary
The value of a commentary are in the eye of the beholder. There are academic commentaries, preaching commentaries, application commentaries, background commentaries, and more. Caution is suggested when buying commentaries for biblical study. It is recommended to avoid devotional commentaries – their place is application not interpretation. Academic commentaries are best for study of the scriptures.
In regards to the language tools listed above, there are electronic resources that utilize a lot of them organized in one place.
There are software packages and smart phone apps as well. Some primary contenders in the software world are E-sword for Windows, Eloquent for Mac users, and the infamous Logos for Windows & Mac.
NOTE: Plural. You will probably need more than one. Spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, leather bound, three-ring binders with lined paper – whichever you prefer. But you will definitely want to take notes.
Pens, Pencils, Highlighters & More
You are about to embark on an incredible journey reading stories inside of one big story. Multiple authors, styles of literature, history, and theology. The inerrant and inspired Word of God. I’ve got two words: color code.
DOWNLOAD MY FREE COLOR CODED MARK UP GUIDE HERE:
Invest in some multi-colored:
Where to Start?
The first thing to understand as you study scripture, is that you will be studying books and passages in light of the canonical whole (the main story that the entire Scripture, when put together, creates.) The first step is preparation – prepare your heart to study the inerrant, inspired Word of God. The Bible is a canon: a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.
So you aren’t going to start with individual words or verses looking for theology and application. The Bible isn’t like any other piece of writing or communication. Instead of studying the words, breaking down the syntax, looking at historical setting and so on… we turn our traditional knowledge around the other way. We start with the big picture, the overall story that leads to the climax – Christ’s death and resurrection, the entire canon. The purpose of Biblical interpretation—hermeneutics—is to discover the author’s intended meaning.
The first element to consider is history. Scripture is rooted in real life. It took place in a real place and in a real time. Studying the historical setting provides proper grounding. The second element is literature – studying the written context is the focus of our Biblical study. The literary text has three major components: Canon. Genre. Language. The third element is theology. Exploring the theological meaning, determining the principle of a given text is the ultimate goal, so that we may then apply it to our lives and today’s culture.
If you would like to learn more about an in-depth study and understand of the Bible, check out our up and coming Bible Study School.