Before you begin
As a child, I loved to listen to my father telling tales from his childhood. He was a great storyteller, and he often left me yearning to hear more. There were adventures and pranks, hardships and humor — and all were woven beautifully into captivating narratives.
One of the most impressive statements he ever made was uttered nonchalantly, yet it impressed me more than almost any other. Dad simply said that he had read the Bible all the way through three times before he graduated from high school!
That amazed me because I had tried more than once to read the Bible I won in Sunday school by reciting Psalm 117 from memory. Each time I tried, I found some of the words difficult to understand. On top of that, the world revealed in Scripture was completely foreign, especially for a youngster whose family had stopped attending church on any regular basis before he could understand much of what he read.
This unfamiliarity stops many people from studying their Bibles. New Christians, and even those who’ve been around a while, find Scripture a little intimidating.
What helped me, finally, was the decision to dive in, regardless of how much I understood right away. I decided I needed to read the Bible all the way through, so I did. True, there were passages that confused me, and some that seemed to say things that couldn’t be right. There were sections that left me with more questions than answers. Still, I refused to quit, trudging through book after book until I finally finished. What an exciting moment!
I realized an important truth as I finished reading the Bible that first time. Though I still had lots of questions, and though there was much I did not understand, by reading the Bible all the way through, I had laid a foundation for deeper study. I now had a framework on which to hang the truths I would learn from that point forward.
That brings me to my main point for this post. Before you can approach Bible study in any meaningful way, you’ve got to familiarize yourself with God’s Word. And that means reading it all the way through. If you’ve already done that, great! If not, I highly recommend that you set aside some time every day to read the Bible, and push yourself to complete it.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything. That only confirms that you’re normal. If you have big questions, jot them down as you read. You can later use those questions in Bible study.
This brings me to my second point. Reading the Bible and studying it are not the same thing. Both are valuable, and both should be part of your life as a Christian. Reading keeps you familiar with the overall structure of God’s Word, and reading refreshes your memory. Studying allows you to dig deeper, to look for the answers to questions that pop up as you read. Try to make both a part of your Christian walk.
Your Itinerary for the Journey
So what can you expect from this blog?
You’ll receive practical tips and general interpretive principles, as well as resource reviews and exercises to hone your skills. Here are a few of the questions we’ll consider along the way:
- Which Bible translation is the best for me?
- What is the inductive method, and what is so special about it?
- What is proof-texting, and how can it mislead me?
- How can I best understand context?
- When and where should I study?
- How can I get the most out of a Bible atlas?
- What’s the purpose of a concordance, and how will it benefit me?
- Are commentaries useful, or do they simply push personal viewpoints?
- Why should I look at Bible encyclopedias?
- What are some of the most common interpretive mistakes?
- What are exegesis and hermeneutics (and other fancy-schmancy terms)?
- Is there only one right way to study the Bible?
- What is the single most important Bible study tool I can use?