Bible Study Tips
As Christians, we are all familiar with the phrase, "The Bible is the Word of God!" But do we ever stop to think about what that expression means? When we read in the Holy Scriptures stories about people who lived long ago and events that have happened down through the ages, do we really understand what God is trying to tell us?
It is an easy thing to do to pick up a Bible, surface read a story, draw the obvious lesson from it, and claim to be a Bible student. But we are told that "the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field..." Matt. 13:44 If a treasure is "hid" in a field, does a person find that treasure by glancing at the field as he goes by? Does he find the treasure by walking through the field and kicking at the surface? No!
The treasure will only be found by the person who takes a shovel and digs for it!
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the honour of kings is to search out a matter." Pro. 25:2
"Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Pro. 2:3-5
The Bible is far more than a nice collection of stories with a moral lesson. It is the Word of God! The more you study and "dig", the more it grows and expands!
Each text is composed of words. Each word has a meaning. Sometimes they have two or more meanings for each word. Each word also has one or more "spiritual" meanings. The words are placed in a certain order in the verse. Sometimes names are left out of certain lists, even though we know the names - Why? The reason is because each of these details are very significant!
The critical theological teaching today, both in seminaries and in churches, makes a very serious blunder. It teaches that any text of the Bible only has a single meaning (whatever the meaning that the scholars attach to it). To the average theologian today, the Bible has become just a storybook, or a collection of historical events. As Wikipedia quotes, the higher critical scholars teach that, "A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture." Wikipedia article on the Historical-Grammatical method of Bible interpretation
However, this teaching is very wrong, because they fail to realize that the Bible is the Word of Almighty God! This God is the same God that "spoke" worlds into existence. Because of that one fact - we must view the Bible as being that "all-encompassing" Word that it is!
Here are a few of my favorite quotes on this subject.
"It is impossible for any human mind to exhaust even one truth or promise of the Bible. One catches the glory from one point of view, another from another point; yet we can discern only gleamings. The full radiance is beyond our vision. As we contemplate the great things of God's word, we look into a fountain that broadens and deepens beneath our gaze. Its breadth and depth pass our knowledge. As we gaze, the vision widens; stretched out before us we behold a boundless, shoreless sea. Such study has vivifying power. The mind and heart acquire new strength, new life. This experience is the highest evidence of the divine authorship of the Bible." Education p.171
(Notice the contrast - this "boundless, shoreless sea" of unlimitable knowledge contained in God's Word, is that same "sea" which the modern "higher critics" claim is a sea of "uncertainty and conjecture.")
"God desires man to exercise his reasoning powers; and the study of the Bible will strengthen and elevate the mind as no other study can. Yet we are to beware of deifying reason, which is subject to the weakness and infirmity of humanity. If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths shall not be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit. A sense of the power and wisdom of God, and of our inability to comprehend His greatness, should inspire us with humility, and we should open His word, as we would enter His presence, with holy awe. When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM." Steps to Christ p.109
"The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God." Education p.126
With those thoughts in mind, lets look at a few methods of Bible Study that help to begin to "unlock" all those "hidden treasures" to be found in the Word of God!
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Bible Study Tips #1
There are many ways to study the Bible. One method is to read a text, then look up each word of that text in "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance." Beside the text listed under the word you are studying, there will be a number that corresponds with a definition in the dictionary in the back. If the verse you are studying is in the Old Testament, then you need to look in the Hebrew dictionary; if it is in the New Testament then you need to use the Greek dictionary. For example, let's say you want to look up the word "Zephaniah". First look up the word, then find the particular text that you are reading.
Now in this example, we will use Zeph. 1:1 as the verse that you are reading. Notice that the number to the right of this verse is 6846 . Since Zephaniah is in the Old Testament, we look up 6846 in the Hebrew dictionary. It gives the word in the Hebrew spelling, then the English pronouciation. Now it gives the definition "from 6845 and 3050; Jah has secreted;..."
So now we know that this word is made from a combination of 2 words. Now if you look up the 6845 you get back to the root word and it gives even more meaning. Sometimes you will end up looking up several words before you get back to the root word. Each one will add more and more meaning to your verse.
I will show you a text which I studied this way, but since it involved several pages of notes I will only show the verse and then the same verse rewritten with the definitions of the words.
"The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah." Zephaniah 1:1
Now to a surface reader, this text is just geneology. But to someone who is willing to spend time "digging" and studying the meanings of each of these words - this is what that text is saying, -
"The matter spoken of by Jehovah which came unto those whom Jah has hidden and is protecting during the time of great apostasy and idolatry. When Jah becomes magnified and lifted up as He has promised would happen, you are to take hold of Him and He will strengthen and fortify you and will place you on His foundation; He will build you up and foster as a parent those who are firm and faithful and they will reign with Him and celebrate and worship Him." Zephaniah 1:1
It is even more awesome to realize that every text in the Bible is like this. There is so much hidden meaning in the Bible that surface readers will never see. Using this method you will discover that things like the geneology of Christ in Matt. 1 is actually the story of the Great Controversy from the fall of man to the end of time.
I really like the program called "e-sword". It has the "Strong's Concordance" and KJV for your computer and it makes doing studies like this a lot faster. It is downloadable from the internet for free. I strongly recommend you get this program.
Having said this though, I also recommend that you get a "Strong's Concordance". You know - a good old fashioned book! Even though I use e-sword mostly, I first learned this method from using the book itself. I keep several of them on hand, because computers, (like all technology) can fail - then you won't have e-sword. But, unless your house burns down - books don't crash or get viruses!
Bible Study Tips #2
Another excellent method of Bible study is to let the Bible interpret itself. (The Bible always interprets itself!) First, locate a text, then use your concordance to look up each "real" word and see everywhere that that word is used throughout the Bible. Check out all of these references to discover the "spiritual meaning" of each "real" word. Then read the verse as you insert the spiritual meaning in place of the "real" word. For example: "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." Eccl. 11:1
Real Word Spiritual Meaning Proof-Text
Bread Bible, Word of God Amos 8:11, Matt. 4:4
Waters People, Nations, Inhabited areas Rev. 17:15
Days Years Eze. 4:6, Num. 14:34
Now substitute the spiritual meanings back into the verse:
"Cast (spread) the Word of God to the people and nations: for you shall find (see the results of) it after many years." Eccl. 11:1
This method makes the Bible "come to life"! Once you get the spiritual definition memorized, you will discover that the spiritual definition "holds true" throughout the entire Bible! In this verse, we see that "Bread" represents the "Word of God", the "Scriptures". So now you know, every story in the Bible that talks about bread, is referring to the Word of God. All the stories of the Old and New Testaments, are "Acted Parables" talking about the "Last Days"! You can also see characteristics listed by the condition of the bread. If it is moldy or defiled bread, it is talking about Bibles that have been contaminated by the doctines of man. If it is good and pure bread, it is the pure, unadulterated Bible. Here is another example:
"Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good." Is. 7:15
Now we notice that this is a prophecy about Christ (see verse 14). Question - How much butter and honey does a person have to eat in order to know the difference between good and evil? Obviously, this process will not make you more intelligent, it will only make you fat! So let's look at the spiritual meaning.
It is helpful to always think of the "physical" in order to understand the "spiritual"! Butter comes from churning milk. The components of the butter are always in the milk, but unless you churn it, you will never find butter; and the more you churn, the more butter you find.
Real Word Spiritual Meaning Proof-Text
Milk Basic principles (surface reading) of God's Word Heb. 5:12-14
Churn Milk (go back and forth) Compare Scripture with Scripture Is. 28:10-13; 1 Cor. 2:13
Butter The hidden treasure in God's Word Pro. 30:33; Job 20:17
Honey The Words of God, The 10 Commandments Ps. 119:103; Ps. 19:7-10
Eat To read (to gain knowledge or understanding) Jer. 15:16
Now substitute the spiritual meaning back into the verse:
"The hidden treasure (hidden knowledge of God) and God's Law shall he gain understanding of that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good." Is. 7:15
As you get these spiritual meanings learned and memorized, you will start to see things in the Bible that you did not see before. In other words, whenever you see a text that uses the word "butter", you will automatically realize that it is talking about the "hidden treasure and meaning in the Word of God!"
This is what the Bible is talking about when it says:
"For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little:" Is. 28:10
Check out the Bible Symbols page for more information.
Bible Study Tips #3
Now let's look at parallels. Throughout the Bible are stories. Most people know the majority of these stories by memory because they are taught them in Sabbath School from a very early age. But what most people do not realize is that each story in the Bible is not only a prophetic description of last day events (Acted Parables) but is also a parallel of it!
For example: In the story of Gideon (Judges 6), Gideon is threshing wheat by the winepress and the Angel of the Lord comes to give him instruction. Now Gideon, in symbolic terms, represents God's people, the righteous. He is threshing wheat. Wheat represents the Word of God. Threshing is the method of separating the wheat from the chaff. God's people are to be studying and "digging" deep (threshing) the Word of God, separating the truth from the error of man's teachings. This was being done by the winepress. Throughout the Bible, the winepress is used in reference to the final judgement of this earth by God. So the winepress places this "in depth" Bible study by God's people in the timeframe of here at the time of the end. Gideon has an experience with the Angel of the Lord. If you do a study of this, you discover that this Angel was none other than Jesus Himself. So - God's people are digging deep into the Word of God here at the end of the world and they have a personal experience with Jesus! Notice that all this has to happen before any of the rest of the story can take place! The story of Gideon and the Midianites is an awesome account of God's people at the end of the world, what they are going to do and what will happen to them.
Every story is like this. Each one adds more detail and description.
Bible Study Tips #4
Still another method of study is to look for what is called "chiasms". Chiasms are literary patterns that address the same thoughts or ideas from different perspectives. They can be arranged in a pyramid form for easy study. If you see a group of seven statements, items, or thoughts, it is probably a chiasm. Chiasms can be in groups of 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. But the easiest ones that I have found are 7's. A good example is the Lord's prayer.
4. Give us this day our daily bread
3. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven 5. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
2. Thy kingdom come 6. and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
1. Our Father, which art in heaven, 7. for thine is the kingdom and the power and the
hallowed be Thy name glory forever. Amen
The peak of the pyramid (in this case #4) is always the "Theme" of the chiasm. Every chiasm that I have studied always has Christ as the theme in one way or another. In this case, Christ is the "bread of Life" - He is our daily Bread!
You will also notice that each level of the pyramid corresponds with each other. On the left side, you have the cause - on the right side, you have the effect.
There are literally 1000's of chiasms in the Bible. Some chiasms overlap chiasms. Some are embedded within larger chiasms. The entire Bible is one vast chiasm, with the book of Daniel as it's theme. Chiasms are just one more "proof" that the Bible was inspired by a divine Author. Even our modern day computers cannot find all the chiasms in the Bible.
Bible Study Tips #5
One thing that is a really big help in studying the Bible is to realize something that is very important. This is an idea that I realized only a few months ago. The whole Bible, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, is written in "Sanctuary Language". If you realize this fact, the whole Bible just comes to life! You will begin to discover all kinds of hidden lessons and difficult scriptures will become simple to understand.
To read more on the "Sanctuary" click Here
See some good quotes about the Bible and Prophecy here
If you really want to have an experience that will leave your mouth hanging open in awe - try using all of these study methods on the same passage in scripture. God is truely Awesome!
"His manner of studying the Bible is thus described by himself:
'I determined to lay aside all my prepossessions, to thoroughly compare Scripture with Scripture, and to pursue its study in a regular, methodical manner. I commenced with Genesis, and read verse by verse, proceeding no faster than the meaning of the several passages should be so unfolded as to leave me free from embarrassment respecting any mysticisms or contradictions. Whenever I found anything obscure, my practice was to compare it will all collateral passages; and, by the help of Cruden, I examined all the texts of Scripture in which were found any of the prominent words contained in any obscure portion. Then, by letting every word have its proper bearing on the subject of the text, if my view of it harmonized with every collateral passage in the Bible, it ceased to be a difficulty. In this way I pursued the study of the Bible, in my first perusal of it, for about two years, and was fully satisfied that it is its own interpreter. I found that by a comparison of Scripture with history, all the prophecies, as far as they have been fulfilled, had been fulfilled literally; that all the various figures, metaphors, parables, similitudes, etc., of the Bible, were either explained in their immediate connection, or the terms in which they were expressed were defined in other portions of the word; and when thus explained, are to be literally understood in accordance with such explanation. I was thus satisfied that the Bible is a system of revealed truths, so clearly and simply given, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.'
In pursuing his study of the Holy Scriptures, Mr. Miller adopted the following rules of interpretation:
"1. Every word must have its proper bearing on the subject presented in the Bible.
Proof, Matt. 5:18.
"2. All Scripture is necessary, and may be understood by a diligent application and study.
Proof, 2 Tim. 3: 15-17.
"3. Nothing revealed in the Scriptures can or will be hid from those who ask in faith, not wavering.
Proof, Deut. 29: 29; Matt. 10:26,27; 1 Cor. 2:10; Phil. 3:15; Isa. 45:11; Matt. 21:22;
John 14:13,14; 15:7; James 1:5,6; 1 John 5:13 - 15.
"4. To understand doctrine, bring all the scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word have its proper influence; and if you can form your theory without a contradiction, you cannot be in error.
Proof, Isa. 28:7 - 29; 35:8; Prov. 29:27; Luke 24:27,44,45; Rom. 16:26; James 5:19; 2 Pet. 1:19,20.
"5. Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed, or wisdom, is my rule, and not the Bible.
Proof, Ps. 19:7 - 11; 119:97 - 105; Matt. 23:8 - 10; 1 Cor. 2:12 - 16; Eze.34:18,19; Luke 11:52; Matt. 2:7,8.
"6. God has revealed things to come, by visions, in figures and parables; and in this way the same things are oftentime revealed again and again, by different visions, or in different figures and parables. If you wish to understand them, you must combine them all in one.
Proof, Ps. 89:19; Hos.12:10; Hab. 2:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 9:9,24; Ps. 78:2; Matt. 13:13,34; Gen. 41:1 - 32; Dan. 2,7 and 8; Acts 10:9 - 16.
"7. Visions are always mentioned as such.
2 Cor. 12:1.
"8. Figures always have a figurative meaning, and are used much in prophecy to represent future things, times and events - such as mountains, meaning governments, Dan. 2:35,44; beasts, meaning kingdoms, Dan. 7:8,17; waters, meaning people, Rev. 17:1,15; day meaning year, etc. Eze. 4:6.
"9. Parables are used as comparisons, to illustrate subjects, and must be explained in the same way as figures, by the subject and Bible. Mark 4:13.
"10. Figures sometimes have two or more different significations, as day is used in a figurative sense to represent three different periods of time, namely: first, indefinite, Eccl. 7:14; and second, definite, a day for a year, Eze.4:6; and third, a day for a thousand years, 2Pet. 3:8. "The right construction will harmonize with the Bible, and make good sense; other constructions will not.
"11. If a word makes good sense as it stands, and does no violence to the simple laws of nature, it is to be understood literally; if not, figuratively. Rev. 12:1,2; 17:3-7.
"12. To learn the meaning of a figure, trace the word through your Bible, and when you find it explained, substitute the explanation for the word used; and if it make good sense, you need not look further; if not, look again.
"13. To know whether we have the true historical event for the fulfillment of prophecy: If you find every word of the prophecy (after the figures are understood) is literally fulfilled, then you may know that your history is the true event; but if one word lacks a fulfillment, then you must look for another event, or wait its future development; for God takes care that history and prophecy shall agree, so that the true believing children of God may never be ashamed.
Ps. 22:5; Isa. 45:17-19; 1 Pet. 2:6; Rev. 17:17; Acts 3:18.
"14. The most important rule of all is, that you must have faith. It must be a faith that requires a sacrifice, and, if tried, would give up the dearest object on earth, the world and all its desires - character, living, occupation, friends, home, comforts, and worldly honors. If any of these should hinder our believing any part of God's word, it would show our faith to be vain. Nor can we ever believe so long as one of these motives lies lurking in our hearts. We must believe that God will never forfeit his word; and we can have confidence that He who takes notice of the sparrow's fall, and numbers the hairs of our head, will guard the translation of his own word, and throw a barrier around it, and prevent those who sincerely trust in God, and put implicit confidence in his word, from erring far from the truth.”
1868 James White, Life Incidents p. 37
"Endeavoring to lay aside all preconceived opinions, and dispensing with commentaries, he compared scripture with scripture by the aid of the marginal references and the concordance. He pursued his study in a regular and methodical manner; beginning with Genesis, and reading verse by verse, he proceeded no faster than the meaning of the several passages so unfolded as to leave him free from all embarrassment. When he found anything obscure, it was his custom to compare it with every other text which seemed to have any reference to the matter under consideration. Every word was permitted to have its proper bearing upon the subject of the text, and if his view of it harmonized with every collateral passage, it ceased to be a difficulty. Thus whenever he met with a passage hard to be understood he found an explanation in some other portion of the Scriptures. As he studied with earnest prayer for divine enlightenment, that which had before appeared dark to his understanding was made clear. He experienced the truth of the psalmist's words: "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." Psalm 119:130."
Great Controversy p.320