STUDYING YOUR BIBLE
by Michael Dolim
SOURCES:SPEAK, YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING by Joe Magliato
HERMENEUTICS by Bernard Ramm
For centuries, skeptics and atheists have attacked the Bible,
claiming it was nothing more than a collection of man's overactive
imagination. "Where did Cain get his wife?" became the question that
was supposed to discredit the Bible, silence its defenders, and place
it on the shelf with fairy tales and other works of fiction.
In a heated discussion over the reliability of the Bible, one
skeptic asked an evangelist, "Now tell me where did Cain get his
wife?" The evangelist answered with this question, "Are you going to
let another man's wife keep you out of heaven?"
Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages
of Scripture they don't understand, but for me, I have always noticed
that the passages that bother me are the ones I do understand."
People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but
because it contradicts them. What the Bible has to say to us can be
very disturbing. This is why people have, for centuries, tried to
bury the Bible in their funeral services of ridicule. But, the Bible
gets resurrected over and over again, always managing to outlive its
Voltaire, the outspoken skeptic said, "In a hundred years, the
Bible will be a forgotten book, found only in museums." One hundred
years later, the home in which Voltaire made that prediction was
occupied by the Geneva Bible Society.
Why does the Bible have this ability to survive its critics? Why
does it continue to be the number one best seller of all time, and the
most printed book in the world? Why is it the Bible never grows old?
We grow old. Our houses, cars, and cities grow old, but the Bible
never changes. It speaks a clear and vibrant word to every
generation, in every culture.
If the Bible offers us so much, why have Christians neglected to
study this amazing book? Many have attempted to study the Bible, only
to get discouraged and drop out. The scenario goes something like
Mr. Jones hears a rousing sermon about the importance of the
Word of God, and why we are to study to show ourselves approved. He
goes home, determined to read through the bible from cover to cover.
He enthusiastically starts with the book of Genesis, and is delighted
as he reads the colorful stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Exodus comes next, which is full of the dramatic exploits of Moses,
and the escape of the Jews from Egyptian bondage.
Who hasn't seen the Book of
Exodus come alive in living color, as in Cecil B. DeMille's
extravaganza, starring Charlton Heston? Mr. Jones moves on into the
Book of Leviticus, expecting even more historical pageantry, but he is
stunned by the minute detail given to dietary regulations, sacrificial
offerings, and priestly performances. The endless material that seems
so foreign to Mr. Jones is so overwhelming, he closes the book in
discouragement, muttering, "I can't understand this." If only Mr.
Jones had someone to help him understand what he was reading.
The purpose of this study is to introduce some practical ideas to
help you in understanding the most unique book on earth. You will be
introduced to the basic and important rules of interpreting ANY piece
of literature (especially important in the Bible), and you will be
introduced to some of the tools and authors that help in studying the
This study is not 'gospel' in the sense of saying 'thus says
the Lord'. Rather, these are aids and ideas which have helped many
people understand God's Word. Many of the 'rules' are employed by
Bible Scholars and theologians who seek to ACCURATELY determine what
God is saying to man.
Up front, serious study of the Bible will demand two things of
you: time and money.
You must 'make' the time. Perhaps you will have to juggle your
schedule a bit, wake up earlier, go to bed later, take some leisure
time, break away from one of your favorite TV programs, or delegate
work to someone so that you can find the time. There is no short cut.
It will cost you time.
It will also cost you money. Reference books are not
inexpensive. As a mechanic makes a major investment in tools that
last him a lifetime, so will you have to make an investment in the
reference books that will serve you in an eternity of benefits. An
opinion on Bible reference books: I know of no other place where I
think it is justified to throw moderation to the wind. If you find
yourself really enjoying bible study and you really desire to get into
it, I think this is one safe area where you can freely indulge to your
heart's content. On the other hand, for those of us on tighter
budgets, take comfort in the fact that you don't need to run right out
and buy EVERY book referred to. It is highly advisable anyway that
you do this a little slowly.
When the reference books are discussed,
the more basic, or fundamental ones will be noted as the ones to get
first, again one or two at a time. Gradually, you will acquire a
respectable library of good reference books that will serve you and
your family throughout your lives.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The Bible was not addressed to just anyone. Sure, anyone can
read it, but not everyone can understand it - not even with a million
reference books! Not everyone is 'qualified' to understand the Word
"The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God;
for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor. 2:14).
"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are
life" (John 6:63).
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish
foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" (1Cor.
Before even bothering to attempt to understand the Bible, in
order to qualify, you must be born again.
BALANCING THE BOOKS
One of the charges made against being 'dependent' on using
reference books is that someone will say something like 'the Holy
Spirit will reveal the Word to me. What do I need man-made helps
Well, you're right in the sense that the Holy Spirit will
reveal the Word to you. No one else CAN! Concerning man-made helps
though, take a look at your bible. Notice that there are chapters and
These, themselves are man-made helps that ALL of us use.
Some of the reference books do nothing more than provide data and
background. Others aid you in understanding the Word by giving an
explanation of the passage.
Why use these works? Primarily, it saves time. Authors of Bible
Commentaries have spent years (sometimes lifetimes) building their
knowledge on others' study. They've written down the results of their
years of study.
Now you can benefit from what they've already done,
and go on from there. You will have to be cautious of course. There
are many wolves attempting to write 'sheep-books'. Your best defense
in the beginning is to be familiar with the basic doctrines of
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1Thes. 5:21).
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they
received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE
SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS WERE SO" (Acts 17:11).
So we see that man-made aids and reference books can be valuable,
but understand that they can never replace The Word of God. They aid
you in understanding the Word, but they cannot substitute for your
reading of the Word.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BIBLE
We also must understand the purpose of the Bible. God gave us
His Word. He could have given us a million more books. He could have
given us less. What He did do is give us 66 books, written by over 40
people. Everything He had to say to man is in the Bible. Nothing in
the Bible is unnecessary, or not applicable to you and I today, in the
twentieth century. Everything from the Levitical laws to the extensive
genealogies have a purpose and a meaning to us. The purpose of the
Bible is to reveal Jesus Christ.
"the volume of the book is written of Me" (Psalm 40:7).
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal
life; and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).
"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he
wrote of Me" (John 5:46).
It has been said that the Torah (the first five books, written by
Moses) lays the FOUNDATION for Christ. The Historical Books are the
PREPARATION of Christ. The Poetic Books are the ASPIRATION for Christ.
The Prophetic Books are the ANTICIPATION of Christ. The Gospels are
the MANIFESTATION of Christ. Acts is the PROPAGATION of Christ.
The Epistles are the INTERPRETATION of Christ. And Revelation is the
CONSUMMATION of everything into Christ. The Bible shows us God's plan
for man. It is quite condensed in the sense that EVERYTHING God wants
us to know is contained in it concerning our relationship with Him.
"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His
disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written,
that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and
that believing ye might have life through His Name" (John 20:30-31).
"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if
they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself
could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John
DON'T! Don't open your bible in front of a blaring television or
radio, and expect to put some quality time into your studying. You
need a quiet place and some quiet time alone. Make sure it's away
from ringing door bells, telephones, distractions, and interruptions.
Set aside a time and place. It may be morning or night that is more
convenient for you. Whatever that time is, guard it jealously. You
will be presented with many 'reasons' to set your study time aside.
Don't do it! Don't study in an inconsistent fashion. Letting five
days go by, and then, 'doubling up' to make up for lost time is an
enemy to good study habits. It would be far better to set aside less
time, and study consistently, than to lump a lot of hours together,
and study haphazardly.
Don't trust your memory. Even after you have
finished studying, your mind will continue to turn over the truths you
have gone over. Inspiration does not keep office hours. You will
discover it comes when you least expect it. So, keep a pad and pen
handy, and be prepared for a sudden burst of insight, or you will lose
It would be a good idea to keep a pad and pen handy near your bed
at night. There will be times when you will wake up in the middle of
the night with an insight, an idea, or an illustration. Do not remove
yourself from the passage you are examining. You must consciously
remove your twentieth century point of view, but do not remove
yourself. While you are reading, ask yourself, "What does this mean to
How would I have reacted, given the same situation? How would I
fit into this account?" Put yourself into the story. Figuratively,
slip out of your culture and surroundings, and get into the sandals of
the Bible characters. Feel the excitement in the air as you walk with
little David toward Goliath. Find yourself being forcibly taken to the
lions' den with Daniel. Walk with Ezekiel into the vision of the
valley of dry bones.
How would you have felt being asked to preach to
a pile of sun-bleached bones? Put yourself into the story. How would
you have handled it? What would you have done? You will discover a
very interesting phenomenon taking place on occasion. Sometimes, when
you hold a magnifying glass over the truth, you are made strangely
aware that the truth is holding a magnifying glass over you ...
scrutinizing and examining you. During moments like this, you will
discover how very personal your study can become.
DO! Have your reference books in a handy place, so you can
quickly get the information you may need. Play 'detective' with the
text. Go to the Bible as a private investigator who is on a case.
Use questions to uncover the mystery.
Kipling once wrote: "I keep six honest serving men. They taught
me all I know. The names are what, and where and when, And how and
why and who." Be alert when you read the Bible. Investigate the
Ask questions. Don't be afraid to probe. Some have found it
beneficial to keep a 'Bible Diary'. This can be structured in any way
that is comfortable to you. Some people keep binders, others use a
plain old diary or notebook, some people use loose-leaf paper and file
folders, they even have used 'Day Runners', or personal organizers.
Use anything you like. Arrange it any way you find comfortable. Some
people go through extensive planning in how they keep organized so
that they can always find something they wrote down. Always write down
your study. It has been my experience that when you write something
down, you will have learned it FAR better than if you didn't write it
Just the act of writing is a MAIN benefit. When you come to a
passage that you can't make any sense out of, it has been suggested
that you put Jesus Christ in the middle of the passage, and many times
the passage makes sense.
When you come to a passage that you don't understand, you have a
precious chance to do a lab experiment with The Holy Spirit. We have
a promise given to us by Jesus. John 14:26 says, "But the Comforter,
who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall
teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatever I have said unto you."
With this promise in mind, write down
your frustration in attempting to understand the text. The purpose
being to document the problem. Then pray about it and ask for
understanding. Leave the passage, go on to something else for awhile.
Come back to it in a couple of days and you will find that you
understand the passage completely, and can't understand why you never
understood it before. You will have experienced a miracle and will
have proven to yourself once again, the power of the Holy Spirit, and
the supernaturalness of the Word.
Contributed by The Manna System
HELP FOR NEW CHRISTIANS
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