Summary: In this second part of Bible study methods, I explain how to do a Bible study, the character study, and the resources I use. I discuss Bible softwares and online resources.
In my last post, I began discussing Bible study methods introductory matters, the Bible book by book, and the passage study. In this post, I will continue discussing Bible study methods in depth.
We covered what to do before you begin a Bible study, the Bible book study, and the passage study. I want to continue to cover the other most common Bible studies and give you their reasons, methods, and resources.
When you need to study the individual words in your passage, word studies are the best way to get a grip on the context and overall meaning of words. These help you keep from taking a word out of context and getting the wrong idea of the passage.
When you see the word that seems important in your passage, a theological word, or words repeated throughout your passage, or a word you don’t know the meaning of or intrigues you it’s time to pull out your resources for word studies.
Start by getting an idea of the overall usage of a word. Look at general meetings of words. Lexicons and workbooks are great for this part of your word study. However, most lexicons are arranged by the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. You will need to find one that is not or has an index for English equivalents.
Concordances are an excellent resource for your word study. You can see everyplace your word is used throughout the Bible. You can trace down the context quickly. If your word seems to be used in the same way as in your passage, you can mark down those references to look up. Many Bible scholars consider Strong’s concordances to be good resources for this part of your study.
Next, zoom in to your text. Get the idea of the contextual meaning of the word. You cannot just choose the meaning you like for the word. It must be determined by the context. Lexicons do a fine job of this, suggesting the proper word in context for most passages the word appears. The quality of these resources varies.
Just because a resource has a long article for each word does not mean it’s the best. I have found the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Kittel), the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, and the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology to be among the best resources for word studies. Most of these are multivolume sets. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has an abridged one volume I have hyperlinked.
I thoroughly enjoy using lexicons like BDAG and HALOT as my standard lexicons for Greek and Hebrew. But some dictionaries are standing favorites, like the Lexham Theological Wordbook (Download the free version of Logos Bible Software to use this resource), Brown-Driver-Briggs for the Old Testament and Liddell’s and Scott’s A Greek-English Lexicon for the New Testament.
The Old Testament commentary that deals extensively with the Hebrew language is Keil and Delitzsch. A couple of New Testament Greek commentaries I go to are the New International Greek Text Commentary series and the Classical Commentaries on the Greek Text. The UBS Handbook commentaries are also great language resources.
Sometimes studying a person of the Bible proves fruitful. You want to do a character study when you are interested in emulating a godly character or seeing what not to do with ungodly characters.
To study the characters of the Bible, you need a good Bible dictionary or even some specialty dictionaries will help. Look up your character in the passages he or she shows up in. Pay special attention to how the narrator characterizes them.
See how God interacts with your character. Bible characters show up in narratives, so you have to watch how your character is described in the actions and results of his or her behaviors. You will find that the Bible holds no character completely faultless except Jesus. The characters in the Bible can be godly, but they all make mistakes. You want to emulate the godly properties and take warning for their sins and bad choices and their results.
Look up your character in a Bible dictionary to get an overview of his or her life. Then go to Bible passages that talk about your Bible character. Good Bible dictionaries include the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, and the Lexham Bible Dictionary with the free version of Logos, to name a few.
Specialty dictionaries include the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters, The Complete Book of Who’s Who in the Bible, and The Ultimate Bible Characters Guide
People do topic/theme studies when they want to get the whole counsel of the Bible on a subject, something they are dealing with in their lives, something they are preparing to teach, or for someone else.
When I was in high school, I was president of our Bible club. I had a peer come up to me and asked me if the Bible talks about drugs. I performed a topic study to try to find what the Bible says about drug usage. And I told him what I found out.
When I went to Bible College and learned Greek and Hebrew, I discovered more information my topic study as a senior in high school did not afford me. But topic/theme studies can be extremely rewarding and provide immediate answers to your questions.
To perform a topic/theme study, you can use a Bible dictionary like the ones I’ve mentioned above. Some books that give you lists of things and where they are found in the Bible can often lead to cross-referencing to get a stronger sense of your topic/theme.
You can also use a systematic theology or biblical theology book. But these tend to not address specific topical questions you may have. Biblical theology books help you see themes in the Bible. There are so many of these books that I can’t provide a resource that works for most topical studies.
There’s nothing better than reading God’s Word every day all the time. I attempt to devotionally read the whole Bible every year so I can see the larger picture. The more you have an overall picture of the Bible, the more godly wisdom you can apply to specific situations.
When to Use These Bible Study Methods
You will not need to do a Bible study every day, unless you enjoy Bible studies on Bible books. Bible studies are not like prayer and Bible reading. I enjoy Bible studies perhaps once or twice a week. Depending on the study, you may be more or less frequent doing Bible studies than that.
For new believers, I recommend Bible book studies. They give you a lay of the land and help you understand what you are reading. If you want to study these books in a survey fashion, check out my informative life group, “The Big Picture of Scripture.”
In this modern day and age, electronic and online resources have made Bible study available to the masses. I cannot leave posts on Bible study without talking about some of these resources. This will not be exhaustive.
When you look at any resource, whether a commentary, Bible dictionary, Bible encyclopedia, lexicon, please pay close attention to the resource’s date and make sure you’re getting the most recent scholarship available. However, sometimes I settle for an oldie but goodie.
Let’s talk Bible software, one of my favorite subjects. I have long since settled on Logos Bible Software because of its seemingly endless resources from commentaries to everyday books at your fingertips.
It has anything you could want in your Bible study, and much, much more. I admit I am biased, but I have been working with their software since 2003. The software makes it easy to move from English to Greek and Hebrew.
It also has many guides and workflows to help you get into your study with ease. Like any electronic software, Logos cuts down on the time of finding your books on your bookshelf and turning to the right pages and passages. They offer many base packages and denominational base packages. There is a free version and a Starter version.
Accordance is perhaps Logos’s equivalent or competition for any Mac user. I have seen it in action and it is impressive. But it has no equivalent in the PC world. Because I have not used it and tested its abilities, I leave you with a way to look into it for yourself. There’s a Basic Starter free trial version for 90 days to see what you think of it.
Logos has an online version that has many of the features of the desktop version, yet not as powerful. I didn’t see an online option for Accordance. Accordance is available in the Apple store, as well as Logos. Logos also has an Android app in the store.
If you’re looking for a more economical solution for your Bible study needs, eSword has a PC version of Bible study for free. It has an Android version available, as well as a Mac version, iPad and iPhone versions.
It has a parallel Bible, integrated editor, Strong’s Tooltips, Scripture Tooltips, printing options, Bible comparison, surgeon options, a reference library, graphics from Bible times, audio sermons, and a user guide for you to get started.
Olive Tree is another possibility, but like Logos and Accordion, it has free download and resources followed by paid resources. It’s very popular on phones and tablets, but there are Mike and Windows versions.
There are also online Bible resources galore for free. These range from seeing different Bible versions on Bible Gateway which has Bible studies along with more Bible versions than you can count, Blue Letter Bible with its many study tools, the CCEL with classic commentaries by household names, Free audio directories of sermons, lectures, and courses you can look for, Biblestudytools.com, BibleHub, and Biblia from Faithlife, the parent company of Logos.
As you can see, there are plenty of places to find the resources that suit your Bible study needs online. The only drawback is that most of these free options may have older scholarship and be less accurate according to the scholars of our day. But you can’t beat free! You can also see that you have no excuse to get started studying your Bible today.
Rick Warren has a helpful book on Bible study methods, detailing 12 where I have only covered a few. You can get his book and check out the ones he lists.
Try a Bible study method. Whatever works for your situation will do just fine. If you have done some of these Bible studies before, choose a Bible study method you have not used before to get yourself used to them when the need arises to use one. Try some of the digital resources and see if anything suits you.
Now that I have outlined Bible study methods and how to use them, we will talk about how important Bible memorization is in your walk with God.