When I first started reading the Bible my sole focus was to read the entire Bible in a year. That’s not uncommon. In fact, I bet some of you are doing so as a New Year’s resolution. Once you read the Bible and familiarized yourself with the big picture, studying individual books of the Bible can be rewarding.
Why do book studies?
Each book of the Bible was given by God for a unique purpose. Think of the Bible as not just one book but a whole library telling God’s story. Every book gives you insight into core themes and God’s identity. Each author addresses a unique audience and issues. Yet, the problems, themes, and knowledge you gain from each is still relevant today.
Five Steps To Studying A Book Of The Bible
1) Select a book. I know, duh. Obviously, you have to pick a book, but be sure and give some thought to your selection if you haven’t done a book study before. Shy away from lengthy books (books more than a handful of chapters) until you get comfortable with the process. Analyzing a four chapter letter by Paul is obviously easier than fifty chapters of Genesis. So, start small.
For example, pick one of the Epistles from the New Testament, such as, James, Ephesians, Philippians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, Colossians, or Galatians. These are great starter studies because each has a clear author, audience, and obvious issues with applicable lessons for today. Hold off on lengthier and more difficult books like Romans, Hebrews, and the Revelation of John until you have more experience.
2) Read repeatedly. Plan on spending three or four weeks in a short book. I read through a book many times, ten or more easily, when I am studying one. The author, Tim LaHaye, in his book, How to Study the Bible for Yourself, recommends reading a book every day for thirty days. I have never done that, but I could certainly see the value. I like to read through an entire book completely at least four to seven times before digging deeply into individual sections.
3) Observe. Watch for key words, themes, and patterns. Frequently repeated words are often times your best clue for core themes. Jot keywords in a notebook during your initial readings. Mark keywords in subsequent readings. I only mark two or three words at a time. Trying to spot and mark more than that while reading actually becomes more of a distraction than a help. For specific instructions on how and what to mark see my post, “What to write in your Bible.” or check out “The Inductive Study Bible” by Kay Arthur. I use this bible for my personal study.
4) Create your own synopsis. Once you’re familiar with the themes and start grasping a book, it’s time to capture your insights. Go through the book and consider the questions good reporters ask: who, what, when, where, why and how.
For example, you might read through once making notes about the author, the audience, God, or any central characters. The next read through you might pay attention to problems the author is addressing. Here’s a basic list of details you will most likely want to record in your personal synopsis:
–Who is the author?
–Who is the audience?
–When was it written? (You might need to look this up in a good bible dictionary or commentary. Time of authorship is often highly debated. Don’t take the word of just one source. Read several sources and make your most educated estimate)
–Why was it written?
–Where was it written?
–In a single sentence what is this book about?
–What are the major topics/keywords:
–A brief outline of the book: (One of the easiest ways to create a brief outline is to come up with a simple phrase for each chapter.)
5) Apply life lessons. Reading and knowing a lot about the Bible is awesome, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t apply it. The deepest learning often comes in the doing. Whenever possible answer the question, “From what I have learned what do I need to do right now?” Then go do that.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t try to do all of these things at once. I can’t stress enough just how valuable reading a book over and over again is. Select no more than two or three things to watch for in each reading. Some times you may literally want to watch for just one. For example, in each chapter you might explore the author’s main concern.
Don’t use the headings supplied by the publisher to create your outline. These were not part of the original text. Your observations may provide a better or more helpful way to divide the book. You will also remember the book better if you try to capture it’s major divisions in your own words.
Do learn to use additional resources, such as, bible commentaries, bible dictionaries, and organized studies. Click this link to watch a short video on the four Bible study resources I use the most.
For your convenience I put all of the important questions you need into a Book of the Bible Study Checklist. Click the link below to get your copy.
BOOK OF THE BIBLE STUDY CHECKLIST
Blessings to you as you study,
The Practical Disciple