Tag Archives: bible study

Getting the most out of your daily Bible study.

As promised earlier, here two methods of how to get the most out of your daily Bible study.

Method 1:

This method is easy and can be applied equally by children, youth, adults, students, professors and pastors. I learned it recently from a mentor and friend.

The method can be summarised in 4 simple steps:

1. Read the scripture. Re-read it. Then either write it out or paraphrase it in writing.

2. What does the scripture say? (i.e. write down, what the scripture says to you about God, about yourself, about humanity, … .)

3. What will you obey? (i.e. write down very specifically “I will …….. by ……”.)

4. Whom will you share this with? (i.e. write down very specifically “I will share …………… with…………….. by ……………” .)

Do not underestimate the impact this method will have on your reading of scripture! Specifically the 3rd and 4th point, make it a method of high impact, provided you have someone keeping you accountable to it!

Method 2:

This method takes time. It is good for intensive Bible study. (I have learned about this method in an STI seminar in Stellenbosch, South Africa and have since profited from this method a lot in my private Bible studies).

These are the basic steps that are followed:

1. prioritising the text: read the text, rather than comments of others first.

2. getting the big picture: understand the big picture, before zooming in on the details.

3. respecting the original context: the significance of the text in the ‘here & now’ is dependent on the meaning of the text in the ‘there & then’.

4. using progressing repetition: read the text repeatedly and progressively add more contextual information.

5. Interpretation: progress of elimination.

To clarify these five steps, allow me to do so on a very easy example:

1. Read the whole book of Jude (preferably without verse numbers, sub titles/headings, and as one solid text). Read it again. DO NOT READ footnotes etc.

2. Read it again and then try and categorize the text portions yourself, giving it your own outline.

3. Now read the outline on Jude in a study Bible. Then read the text again. Do you see how it changes?

4. Read the comments of a study Bible on Jude, then re-read the book of Jude again.

With all this reading you will have gained a fully new understanding of the book. You will have experienced the joy of discovering meaning behind a text and will have memorized some content of it even.

When I say this method takes time, you now probably see why. Doing this with a short book like the book of Jude is fairly easy. Doing it with the book of Acts can be somewhat time consuming. Still it is definitely worthwhile doing so!

Let me know how you are finding these methods. Feel free to post comments of your experiences on FB or here in the comment section.

May God bless you abundantly!


How to interpret the Bible

(the content consists partially of notes I have taken at an STI seminar in Stellenbosch, South Africa)

I have often been asked why it is that we seem to take some portions of scripture literally and others we seem to interpret. It seems random to the onlooker. However there is system and science behind it. This is a blog post that tries to describe the basics in simple words, easy to apply yourself.

There are three types of Bible translations:

1. word for word i.e. literal translations (‘formal equivalents’) [e.g. NASB, KJV, Amplified, ESV, NRSV]

2. interpretative thought for thought translations (‘dynamic equivalents’) [e.g. NIV, HCS, TEV, (NLT)]

3. paraphrased translations (a very loose translation) [e.g. LB, Message Bible]

They are not all used for the same purposes. Bible translations that fall under 1 are best used for Bible study. Bible translations that fall under 2 are used mostly for reading. Those categorized under 3 are sometimes interesting to get a new angle on matters previously read or studied in another translation but are unsuitable for Bible studies or daily Bible reading.

When studying the Bible, all text needs to undergo the same process of interpretation. (At the end of it, some will turn out to be literal, other parts may turn out to need interpretation.)

How to interpret the Bible:

A. The meaning is determined by the context.

1. list all possible meanings

2. historic + literary context eliminates impossible + improbable meanings.

Here an example of how to do that with the word “trunk”.

1. all possible meanings: car boot, suitcase, phone call, tree, elephant nose

Let’s assume it is part of a Jane Austin novel (which play in the 1800’s in England).

2. process of eliminating the impossible:

– trunk call (the phone was not invented then)

– car boot ( they still had carriages)

3. Process of eliminating the improbable:

– elephant trunk (it might be possible as India was English colony, but it is highly unlikely)

The use of the work within the sentence helps us eliminate even more options: “and she folded her clothes carefully and placed them in a trunk.”

  • eliminates the tree trunk and the elephant trunk completely.

This leaves us with only ONE meaning of trunk in this context: “suitcase”.

B. Word study

1. meanings of words change over time (they undergo a historical development)

2. meanings in the here and now might differ from their original meaning greatly

3. etymology of words can help or mislead us.

We need to look at three aspects:

1. history of the word.

2. historical context (author and audience in the original).

3. literary context.

one example: the word ‘nice’ used to mean ‘ignorant’, now it means ‘pleasant’.

If you are required to do in depth word study on a regular basis, getting a good Bible Study Software like ‘Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary of OT + NT’; e-sword software; or Olive Tree, will be a helpful starting point.

When you look at any Biblical text, it has 2 audiences:

the original audience that the author wrote to (there & then),

and the contemporary/modern audience (here & now).

We must always look at the original audience first, before we ponder over the meaning for the contemporary audience.

Any interpretation of the Bible intends to be a bridge between the “there & then” and the “here & now”.

Any good interpretation discovers the meaning and intention of the author in the text. A good interpretation tries to get information OUT OF the text. We call this ‘exegesis’.

Any bad interpretation does the opposite. It imposes the readers invention/or wanted meaning, on the text, i.e. tries to read stuff INTO the text. We call this ‘eisegesis’.

Sources of authority for interpretation are:

1. scripture itself (this is the highest authority and is the only infallible authority)

2. tradition, reason, experience (all these are important for interpretation but are fallible.

The only things that help protect you (besides the Holy Spirit guiding you) from misinterpretation are to remember that you have to

– be conscious of your traditions

– remember that reasoning has limitations

– remember that experience is always subject to interpretation and thus is prone to mistakes.

The blog posts that follow will allow you to try out two different methods of getting the most out of your daily Bible study.

May God bless you abundantly and enrich your study of His word, whilst making you vigilant not to be deceived by wrong teachers of our times.