bible-study-word

Wise King Solomon, also known as the Teacher or Preacher, “taught the people knowledge, and he pondered and made a thorough search in order to arrange many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful words and to record accurate words of truth.” (Eccl. 12:9-10) Luke, the author of our third Gospel, “followed all things accurately from the beginning” (Luke 1:3), as he compiled the life and times of Jesus Christ. Both of these men of God were doing research.

Research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach conclusions. So, Bible research would be the systematic investigation into and Word of God and Bible study materials (word dictionaries, commentaries, historical setting, Bible backgrounds, Bible encyclopedias), in order to establish facts and reach conclusions.

how-to-study-your-bible1Research should be a part of every Christin’s life and personal study. There is a difference between Bible study and Bible research. Bible study is the devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge of God’s Word, especially by means of Bible study tools like a commentary, among others. Bible research is a systematic investigation in order to establish facts, so as to reach a conclusion. What might move a Christian from Bible study into the Bible research mode? During your Bible study, you come across some biblical terms that you do not fully understand. During your personal study, you come across a Christian quality that you need to strengthen, like patience. Someone raises a Bible question to you and you want to discover the answer, so as to make a reply. A Bible critic might have challenged you online, ask a difficult Bible question. While you are not trying to necessarily win over the Bible critics that likely has a closed mind, you are trying to provide a response to those that see the critics question, so that they know there is an answer.

Who our audience is a very important factor in the type of Bible study tools that we might look at. Do they have a basic understanding of God’s Word? What do they need to know? You then need to identify the objective. Are you trying to explain? Are you trying to convince? Are you trying to refute something? Are you trying to reason? Are you trying to overturn false reasoning? Are you trying to motivate? Are you seeking to convert this one to the faith? Are you trying to leave a biblical thought as a planted seed?

Explaining involves giving your listener more information so as to make it clear. It may be that they understand the basic facts, so you may need to expound more on the when or how of what was stated. In order to convince, you must give them reasonable and rational reasons, outlining why something is so and why what you are saying is true. Thus, this is a presentation of evidence. If you are refuting something, this will mean that you must have a thorough knowledge of what you know to be true as well as the other sides opposing arguments, having previously made a careful analysis of the evidence. You are not just looking for strong arguments but how you can present them respectfully, so as to not cause offense, but rather to motivate. It means you are reaching the heart of your listener, reasoning with them, maybe even overturning false beliefs, so as to move them to research the subject objectively (not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts) as opposed to subjectively (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions).

Now that we have who our audience is, what is next? Who we are talking to will determine just how much information will be needed to convince. Then, we have to consider how much time we have in order to research thoroughly. Are you on the internet where you have but minutes as discussions pass quickly? Or is this a person you will see again and you have plenty of time to pull your research together. A word of caution and the right perspective on presenting evidence. You are researching for more than your listener. You are also researching for your benefit, as it strengthens your faith as well, and this information will be needed again and again because some Bible questions are often asked. The word of caution is this, many time you put hours into researching something; then, you present it well, and the listener just blows it off without even really listening or reading what you prepared. This may make you feel like, ‘Why do I even try?’ Nevertheless, remember, the information benefit you too.

What Bible study tools will we need in our lifetime of research? If our budget is low, we can get things as we can. Be very cautious of the outdated tools from the 1800s that are free on the internet. Something like R. A. Torrey’s books on Bible difficulties might be very good but a dictionary or an encyclopedia might have inaccurate information because our understanding of the original language words has advanced over the last 150 years. Software is a way to grow your library without having to have all of those physical books. Basically, you need Bible dictionaries, Bible word study books, Bible encyclopedias, Bible background books, Bible commentaries, Bible atlas, and so on.

However, you need to read and study other kinds of books as well. You will need to read books on Christian apologetics, which help you to understand how to reason from the Scriptures. You need to read an apologetic book on things like inerrancy of Scripture, Bible difficulties, reasoning from the Scriptures and so on. You will need to read books on how to interpret the Bible. A word of caution here too. Not all Christian authors are equal. The vast majority of Bible scholars today are liberal to moderate, meaning they doubt parts of the Bible, they have liberal social positions, and they are using higher criticism in their interpretive process, which tears the Bible apart, giving you the author’s views, not what the original authors, inerrant, authoritative Bible author said or meant.

So, as you build your library, you need to be very cautious as you compile it. Always, remember that a literal translation of God’s Word is truth. (John 17:17) Jesus is the central person in the fulfillment of the Father’s will and purposes. Therefore, Colossians 2:3 says of Jesus: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” You need to stay with truly conservative resources and conservative authors. How can you know who is conservative and who is not? One way is to ask your pastor. Another is to become friends on social media with Bible scholars that are conservative. Therein, you can ask, “what book would you recommend for biblical interpretation, textual criticism, the history of the church, and so on. Aside from basic Bible study tools, you need to have a foundational understanding of some important subject areas. Apologetics, biblical archaeology, biblical interpretation, how to study, Christian living, Christian evangelism, textual criticism, translation process, and philosophy, among others.

Proverbs 2:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to discernment;[1]
For if you cry for discernment[2]
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of Jehovah
and find the knowledge of God.
For Jehovah gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Basic Bible Study Tools

We have only mentioned some of the basic tools; now we need to spend a brief moment talking about them. Again, many of the Christian publishing houses today offer books by conservative, moderate and liberal authors. Therefore, as Forest Gump might say, “it is like a box of Chocolate, you never know what you are going to get.”[3]

Study Bible

The most important tool in your study chest is the study Bible. The goal and purpose of the upcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV) are as follows. “Our primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place, Truth Matters! Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator.], Translating Truth! The Updated American Standard Version will be one of the most faithful and accurate translations to date.”[4] There is no other translation to date that stays faithful to these translation principles. Yes, a few have these principles, but they also abandon them quite often during their translation process. Thus, follow the link below to the UASV website. Know when it is coming available. In the meantime, these other translation are still worthy of your attention. It is recommended that you use The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. We also recommend The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.

Cross References: In the translation, you will find a column of cross references. The verses that they take you to might be based on the verse as a whole, a section of the verse, even a particular word within the verse. This gives you other verses in the Bible that use the same term. Keep in mind; the translator may not have chosen the cross reference verse with the same intention of why you are looking at it.

Study Notes: The study note are normally at the bottom of the page. The study notes may be brief, say a sentence or two, as well extensive, a paragraph or two. The study notes will cover such things as the Bible background, historical setting, original language word meaning, textual, as well doctrinal. A word of caution here as well. The translator is offering his doctrinal position when it comes to the doctrinal footnotes. Never assume he is correct.

Subject or Topical Index: Some study Bible have a subject or topical index at the back of the Bible, some in the front of the Bible. This will offer you brief information on persons, places, and things within God’s Word.

Glossary of Bible Terms: Some study Bibles have a glossary of Bible terms that will give you brief definitions of such terms as confession, sin, righteousness, adultery, antichrist, and son. These definitions may be a simple sentence or even two paragraphs or more. The glossary helps the reader understand selected words according to their Bible-specific usage.

Maps and Archaeology: Almost all Bible have maps at the end of the Bible. Some study Bibles have archaeological sections near the maps, which will introduce the readers to significant archaeological finds over the last two-hundred years.

Choosing a Bible: You must have a very good literal translation that is the Word of God in English. The upcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV) will be your best choice in the near future. Until then, the English Standard Version (ESV) of 2001 or the Christian Standard Bible of 2017 is your best choices for a study Bible. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) of 1995 is your best choice for a literal translation for now. If you use an interpretive translation as an aid to your literal translation, such as the (CEB, NIV, CEV, ERV, GNT, NLT), just know that they are mini commentaries, and are not to serve as a translation.

Bible Dictionary

We also need a very good Bible dictionary. A trusted Bible dictionary is found in Chad Brand et al., eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003). Another is by Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001).

Bible Encyclopedia

Christians who want to dig a little deeper, you may want to invest in a Bible encyclopedia. If you are looking for something a little more extensive yet still very easy for the non-academics to understand, it will be by Hobert K. Farrell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 270. Another long trusted source would be by D. H. Engelhard, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988).

Bible Concordance

Robert L. Thomas, The Lockman Foundation, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

Bible Study Software

This is a lifetime investment. It is a digital library that offers you deeper research, faster, and easier than you have ever imagined.

Logos Bible Software (https://www.logos.com/): is a digital library application designed for electronic Bible study. In addition to basic eBook functionality, it includes extensive resource linking, note-taking functionality, and linguistic analysis for study of the Bible both in translation and in its original languages. It is developed by Faithlife Corporation. As of February 2017, Logos Bible Software is in its seventh version. Logos Bible Software is compatible with more than 43,000 titles related to the Bible from 200 publishers, including Baker, Bantam, Catholic University of America Press, Eerdmans, Harvest House, Merriam Webster, Moody Press, Oxford University Press, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale House, and Zondervan. Logos also recently published its own Lexham Bible Reference series, featuring new scholarship on the original Biblical languages.

Accordance Bible Software (http://www.accordancebible.com/): it is a Bible study program for Apple Macintosh and iPhone, and now Windows developed by OakTree Software, Inc. The program is used for both private and academic study.

BibleWorks (http://bibleworks.com/): Whether you’re preparing a sermon, doing complex morphological analysis, or writing a seminary paper, scholars agree that BibleWorks is indispensable. You’ll find everything you need for close exegesis of the original text in its 200+ Bible translations in 40 languages, 50+ original language texts and morphology databases, dozens of lexical-grammatical references, plus a wealth of practical reference works! Instead of providing a loose collection of books, BibleWorks tightly integrates its databases with the most powerful morphology and analysis tools.

Handle God’s Word Aright

2 Timothy 2:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling[5] the word of truth.

If we are teaching ourselves, regular and diligent personal study of the Bible is vital, no matter how long we have been serving God.

On 2 Timothy 2:15, New Testament Bible scholar Knute Larson writes,

Timothy, by contrast, must do his best to present [himself] to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed. Timothy, and all who follow Christ, are to consecrate themselves to God, working diligently for his approval. The teacher whom God approves has no need of shame in his presence.

God bestows his approval on the one who exhibits truth, love, and godliness in daily living, and who correctly handles the word of truth. The false teachers were mishandling God’s words, using them for their own benefit. Timothy was commissioned to handle the words of God correctly. All preaching should present the truth clearly, cutting through erroneous ideas or inaccurate opinions. (Larson 2000, p. 286)

The English Standard Version renders the participial clause of 2:15 “rightly handling the word of truth,” while the Holman Christian Standard Bible renders it “correctly teaching the word of truth,” and the New American Standard Bible, “accurately handling the word of truth.” The Greek word, orthotomeo, means “to give accurate instruction—‘to teach correctly, to expound rightly.’ … ‘do your best … to teach the word of truth correctly’ 2 Tm 2:15.”[6] This is all that can be asked of any Christian, that ‘we do our best to teach the word of truth correctly.’

What can help us to teach the word of truth correctly? If we are to teach another, we must correctly and clearly understand the Word ourselves. When we clearly understand something, we are able to give reasons as to why it is so. Moreover, we are able to express it in our own words. If we are to understand the Bible correctly, we must read it within the context of the verses that surround it, the chapter it is within, the Bible book it is within, the Testament that it is in, and the Bible as a whole. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, immediate context (i.e., of a word, phrase, clause or sentence) is “the words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning.”[7] The meaning of a text is what the author meant by the words that he used. On this Robert H. Stein writes,

Great confusion can result if we do not pay careful attention to context. For instance, both Paul (Rom. 4:1–25) and James (2:14–26) use the term “faith” (pistis). Yet we will misunderstand both if we assume that by faith they mean “a body of beliefs.” We will misunderstand Paul if we assume that he means “a mere mental assent to a fact,” and we will misunderstand James if we assume that he means “a wholehearted trust.” It is evident from the context that Paul means the latter (cf. Rom. 4:3, 5) and that James means the former (cf. 2:14, 19). (Stein 1994, p. 59)

Stein also wrote, “A context is valuable because it assists the reader in understanding the meaning the author has given the text.” Another example would be Paul’s statement at Galatians 5:13 (ESV), “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” If we were looking at this verse alone, not considering what is before and after, we would be asking, what does Paul mean by “freedom”? Was he speaking of freedom from sin and death, freedom from being enslaved to false beliefs, freedom from corruption, or was it something entirely different? If we consider the context, we get our answer. The context tells us the “freedom” that Paul spoke of was our being freed from “the curse of the law,” as Christ became the curse for us. (Gal. 3:13, 19-24; 4:1-5) If we look at Galatians 3:10, “Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 to prove that, contrary to what the Judaizers claimed, the law cannot justify and save. It can only condemn. The breaking of any aspect of the law brought a curse on the person who broke the law. Since no one can keep the law perfectly, we are all cursed. Paul, with this argument, destroys the Judaizers’ belief that a person is saved through the law.”[8] Thus, Paul was referring to the freedom that Christians possess. Just because we are not under the Mosaic Law, a law that imperfect man cannot keep perfectly, this is no excuse to use our “freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Rather, if we truly understand and value our freedom, we will slave for one another because of our love for one another. However, those in the Galatian congregation who lacked that love were engaged in vicious infighting and quarreling.–Galatians 5:15.

There is another meaning of the word “context,” i.e., background, conditions, historical setting, and situation. Some call the surrounding text context and the historical setting context. Either way, the second meaning here is just as important. The background information that must be considered is, who penned the book, when and where was it written and under what historical setting. Why was the author moved to pen the book, or more realistically, why did God move him to write the book? Within any book on Bible backgrounds, the author will discuss the social, moral, and religious practices of the time Bible book was written.

Correctly handling the word of truth goes deeper than simply explaining a biblical truth accurately. We do not want to use our knowledge of God’s Word in an intimidating way. Of course, we want to defend the truth offensively and defensively, following the example of Jesus, who used Scripture to defeat Satan the Devil when under temptation. Nevertheless, figuratively speaking, we do not use the Bible to club others over the head. (Deut. 6:16; 8:3; 10:20; Matt. 4:4, 7, 10) Rather, we want to follow counsel that Peter gave, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”–1 Peter 3:15.

New Testament Bible scholar Richard L. Pratt Jr. offered the following on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,

Paul responded by reminding the Corinthians that his ministry was successful warfare. He had previously described his gospel ministry as a parade of victory in war, and he used similar military analogies elsewhere as well. His apostolic effort was a war he was sure to win.

Paul admitted that he and his company live[d] in the world, but insisted that they did not wage war as the world does. They did not employ the intimidation, coercion, and violence normally associated with worldly authorities. Instead of employing the weapons of the world, Paul relied on divine power. These weapons appeared weak by worldly standards, but they were actually very powerful. The preaching of the cross brought great displays of God’s power in the lives of believers everywhere, including Corinth.

Consequently, Paul was certain that he was on a course to demolish the strongholds or fortifications of arguments and every pretension that anyone set up against the knowledge of God. As Paul traveled the world proclaiming the gospel of Christ, he encountered pretentious disbelief supported by clever arguments and powerful personalities. But through the “weakness” of preaching Christ, Paul went about taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Pratt Jr 2000, p. 417)

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh[9] but powerful to God for destroying strongholds.[10] We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

[1] The Hebrew word rendered here as “discernment” (tevunah) is related to the word binah, translated “understanding.” Both appear at Proverbs 2:3.

[2] See 2.2 ftn.

[3] life is like a box of chocolates – Wiktionary (Saturday, September 02, 2017) https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/life_is_like_a_box_of_chocolates

[4] http://www.uasvbible.org/

[5] Or accurately handling the word of truth; correctly teaching the word of truth

[6] Louw, Johannes P.; Nida, Eugene A. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains)

[7] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/context (Sunday, September 03, 2017)

[8] (Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary: vol. 8, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians 1999, p. 37)

[9] That is merely human

[10] That is tearing down false arguments