TOOLS FOR STUDY
The Bible was written to people in verbal / auditory cultures. Few could read. They learned by listening to someone read to them. Manuscripts were rare and almost no one had a private copy. They might have had only one or two chances to be exposed to the material. Therefore, when we read, we will cover at least one chapter and sometimes several in one unit, as if we were being read to. We will not usually halt over individual words, especially in Old Testament studies. However, New Testament Greek will often be referred to so that our English translations are enriched.
We would like to come to the Bible as if for the first time, without preconceived ideas, although that is not always possible. We will not emphasize source criticism and other efforts to get behind the manuscripts that we have. We strive to understand what God said to those for whom it was written, as well as what He would have for our admonition and instruction. The Bible was not written to us, but it was written for us.
You may expect Bible study to upset you. If it does not, you don’t understand it. If it does not shake you, it is not doing its job. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and we will disagree with Him. Sooner or later, however, we must come to terms with His point of view. So expect to be changing your mind, having your mind transformed, in fact.
- Read the text before trying to make use of these notes. Try reading it out loud.
- Read the text daily for several days, then write a paraphrase of the passage. This will usually lead to observations and questions, details that were previously overlooked.
- Questions about Scripture can be answered with the help of three basic reference books.
- A concordance answers the question: Where in the Bible do we find the word “redemption"? for example. The small concordance in the back of the Bible is not adequate because it contains only selected references.
- A Bible dictionary answers the questions: "Who is , what is, when, or, where--where is “Megiddo” for example.
- A basic text of Christian doctrine such as Milne's Know the Truth, (IVP, 1982) will answer questions like "What does the Bible teach about life after death?" or "What can we know about the Trinity?"
- When you have organized your thoughts, find someone to discuss your new knowledge with.
With these basic books and the Bible, the student can go far. A commentary on the book will be rewarding. Commentaries are text-books, written by experts who have put many years into the study and teaching of a particular book. It is a good idea to read a good commentary for each book you study.
The intention of these studies is to open windows into the text and to deal with questions not commonly discussed in commentaries. The lessons are not a substitute for commentaries but a supplement to them.
In general, the notation given in the left margin refers to the passage being studied. Quotations from other sources have the citation at the end of the quote. OT = Old Testament; NT = New Testament and book abbreviations are the first 3-4 letters of the word. We have tried to avoid other abbreviations.
The free website "biblegateway.com" is a convenient way to read Bible references that are indexed here. You may wish to click on this website and read the Bible quotations alongside this study guide to simplify your work.