Biblical Study Techniques

Shelterglen University
School of Theology

Our Privilege


          The Holy Bible is God’s written word to all of humanity. As Christians, we believe that it is complete in the sense that it has everything we need. We also believe that it is without error in its opriginal language text. We believe that it is inspired by God in its original text and is useful in every aspect of our life. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.(NIV). To be able to have and to study God’s written word to us is a tremendous and valuable privilege. Many other faiths and religions in the world do not pernit the general populous of their organizations to read or study their sacred writings. This is so that the leaders of those religions can control and manipulate their followers according to their own interpretations of their sacred writings. We are not only privileged to be able to study the Bible,  but we also must realize that we are commanded to study God’s word. Because of this command, we are also encouraged to listen for His knowledge, truth and instruction for the purpose of living this mortal life in accordance to God’s will for our lives individually. 


Two Approaches in Study


             There are two primary approaches to Bible study. The first one is what we call deductive study procedures. The other approach is called inductive. Deductive Bible study begins by observing the general topics and themes of the Bible as they blatantly appear. It is always followed by a search for support to these themes and topics. Deductive Bible study basically allows the student to express a position or doctrine derived from such general themes or topics, and then go to the scriptures to find support or defense for the particular doctrine or position. 

                Inductive Bible study is used by the objective or impartial student. It is an approach to the Bible without any predisposition. It is a “listening” style of bible study that doesn’t “second guess” the emphasis or doctrine of scriptures based on previous knowledge or instruction. The Bible student that uses an inductive approach to the scriptures makes conclusions based on what the scripture is actually saying, because they are not searching or studying scripture with a position to defend.      

              There are four basic stages in the process of studying the Bible. The first is observation. This may be blatantly obvious to the serious Bible student. You must spend time reading the Bible. It is often helpful to read the same passage more than once.

              Be careful to note the portion of scripture you are reading. The Bible was not original inspired by God in chapter and verse. Man has divided the scriptures up that way for the sake of easier reading and organization. Example; If you have been reading a couple of chapters and one particular verse jumps off the page at you. Go back and read the entire chapter it is contained in. If it is at the end of that particular chapter, read the next chapter after it. You may find that indeed the subject matter has changed in the new chapter. But you also might discover that the following chapter ads more definition or explanation to it.         

               Be sure not to skip around in a book or section of the scripture you are reading. Read continuous sequential passages. Example; Don’t read the just the third and sixth chapter of the book of Daniel, read the third, fourth, fifth and sixth chapters in sequence. 

              The second stage is called interpretation. To many, interpretation is the scariest part of Bible study. This is because we feel we will err in the development of the interpretation. When we interpret scriptures we simply attempt to give them more definition or explanation. It is obvious that certain scriptures are housed in Godly mystery and can never be fully interpreted. We must recognize this and be content to occasionally respond to ourselves and others with the very acceptable “I don’t know”.

              There are three filters we can use in the interpretative process with scriptures. The first filter is called the cultural filter. If it is at all possible to learn about or discern the cultural setting of the time and location that the selected passage of scripture is discussing, it will be an obvious help in understanding the passage a little easier. The culture is very simply defined as the conditions and development of the environment. Example: If you are reading a passage of scripture from the book of Daniel, it would be helpful to know that Daniel was writing during a period of time when the nation of Israel had been exiled into Babylonian captivity. It would probably shed some light on the message in scripture if you knew the conditions the people of Israel lived under in Babylon. Sometimes even the geographical setting and conditions will help you better know the environment and its influences.

              The second filter we can use is called the society or sociological filter. The society filter deals with the people that live within the cultural setting of the selected passage of scripture and their customs, attitudes, interaction and language. Once we see what the normal inclination of the society is in various circumstances, we will better be able to paint a bigger picture of the explanation or interpretation. Knowing the person(s) likes and dislikes, preferences and ideals that is speaking or being spoken to or about will also bring into the picture a more definable viewpoint.

              It is vitally important that you have access to or be able to at least occasionally research the original language of the text of scripture you are reading.  Remember, the language is part of the sociological picture. People in any society communicate verbally to each other. Since we are reading an English translation of the Bible, we must be keenly aware that not every word can be translated precisely word for word. The English language does not parallel the Greek and Hebrew 100% word for word. Some words in the English Bible were added for clarification of the text. Some words were used more often in the English language at certain time periods around the time of the particular translation you are reading. Example: A King James Bible will use “thou”, “thee” and “thine”, whereas a New International Version might use words like “you” or “yours” in the same text. The simple use of a Strong’s Concordance will shed much light on the original Greek and Hebrew texts. (see SBS1016 Bible Study Tools).

            The third filter is the most important part of the interpretation process. It is called the self-illumination filter of scriptures. This is where we must search the scriptures to see what other scriptures say about the specific passage we are reading. With this filter, we literally let the scriptures interpret themselves. In much of scripture this can be done as we begin to correlate and organize passages of scripture together. Be careful not to just take a phrase or a verse out of its text for comparison because it uses the same word as the passage you are looking at intently. There must be a mutual or reciprocal relationship between the two passages of scripture. Again, also be sure to examine the original text language to be sure these passage are discussing and related to the same thing.

           Many times we ignore this last filter of self-illumination of scriptures for the sake of knowledge and intellect. Much of the time scripture will interpret itself very accurately. We simply have to search the scriptures like the Bereans of Acts 16 to see the corresponding and related passages. Here is a cute definition that might help explain this process in the “big” picture sense of the word. The New Testament is contained in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is explained in the New Testament.         

                One of the most shining examples of this would be the Tabernacle Moses built in the wilderness as the children of Israel journeyed to the promised land. This construction and priestly ministerial organization of this tabernacle is recorded in Exodus chapters 19-32. This religious process of Judaism remains rather dry and statuesque until you read through the New Testament passage of scripture in Hebrews chapters 4-9. Then you see that whole ritualistic practice in the Jewish religious community in an entirely different light. The very best way to interpret scriptures is to let scriptures interpret themselves.    

            The third stage in the Bible study process is called evaluation. In this stage we simply place a relative value on the passage of scripture we are studying as to the content and meaning. Does the passage have a nominal or exceptional value to the reader or hearer. Evaluation can only be done correctly between the stages of interpretation and application.

            In the evaluation process, the Bible student must determine how valid and what potential impact the selected passage of scripture can have on its reader. Sometimes that is all a matter of who the hearer or reader is or will be. All of this must be brought into consideration when assigning a relative worth or value to the selected passage of scripture. 

           The last stage in the effective Bible study process is application. What effect or potential change will the scripture make on its readers or hearers? Is it something they can use to bring about a closer relationship with God?

           This process takes the truth in fact or principal that the scripture contains and applies it to the reader’s spirit, mind and actions to effect a positive change of some degree. The application of the scripture to the lifestyle and  processes of the hearer  or reader should empower them in some new and special way to enhance their relationship with or understanding of God.

            Sometimes the gleaning of truth will impact the hearer or reader in an unexpected way. Even though the initial contact with the truth gleaned from a passage of scripture may seem painful or negative, we must see the long and/or full term process of the application of the truth in the Word of God will make. Many times the surgeon’s knife may be painful upon initial contact, but when the repair is completed and recovery is fulfilled, the patient will be better off than prior to the surgical experience. Hebrerws 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (NIV)



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Dayton, Ohio    45475