The Bible --Part 12

The Bible
Part 12

James Gunn

Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16

Methods of Bible Study

Two Irishmen were walking along-side of a bog one day when one of them slipped and fell in. His friend hurried to the nearest farmer and asked that he lend him a shovel with which to help his companion out of the bog.

“How deep is he in the bog?” asked the farmer.

“Down to the ankles,” replied the Irishman.

“You don’t need a shovel,” said the farmer, “tell him to jump out.”

“He can’t,” said the friend of the unfortunate man, “you see, he fell in head first.”

The proper way to study the Bible is to go in head first, to bury yourself in it. What does not reach the head will never reach the heart.

In this lesson we are interested in the reason why, the preparation for, and the methods by which we may study the Holy Scriptures.

The Reason Why

First, we are commanded so to do (2 Timothy 2:15); second, they are inspired of God (2 Peter 1:20-21. 2 Timothy 3:16); third, they witness to Christ (John 5:39); fourth, they equip the believer for his service (2 Timothy 3:16).

In this connection it should be noted that the Bible is the text book of Christianity. It is for doctrine; that is, teaching. It contains the ethics of Christianity for it reproves misbehaviour. It contains the code of Christian morality; it corrects deviations. It contains the syllabus of Christian training for the disciples of Christ; it contains every beneficial discipline and duty.

Preparation for

There is need for preparation in at least three spheres: spiritual, mental, and mechanical.

Spiritual: Any study of the Bible should begin with prayer; a sense of reliance upon the Holy Spirit should be cultivated (1 John 2:27. John 16:13), and a deep reverence for the Holy Book should be maintained in the heart.

Mental: Mental preparation is also necessary. There should be every attempt to expel from the mind all prejudices, all human slants of interpretation, and all preconceived notions. Bible study is research in the Bible, a deep searching for the revealed will of God.

Mechanical: In the mechanics of Bible Study certain tools are advantageous. For our present purpose we shall reduce these to the minimum.

Several different translations are helpful in discovering shades of meaning in the language. The New Testament in four versions set out in parallel columns is now available and is an excellent tool for study work. A good English dictionary is almost essential. A Bible concordance will give much assistance. Cruden’s Concordance is helpful, but either Strong’s or Young’s is very much better. One should obtain a reputed Bible Dictionary as soon as possible. There are a number of these now available: Morrish, Smith, Unger, etc.

The student of the Word of God will find it most helpful to always have near a scribbler pad for hurried notes and jottings, and a good note book into which he may transfer the organized material resulting from his studies.

Study Habits

We should develop proper habits of study; with a little practice these become a routine.

There are several steps that we should do habitually. Let us consider these:

First, the schedule: (a) It is necessary that we determine how much time we can apply daily to this effort. By the way, this should be over and above the reading we do in our usual devotions. We should decide what is the best time of day for studies; some have found it best to arise early before the activities of the day actually begin; others have found it best to sit up and study at night.

(b) A period of fifteen minutes a day results in one hour and a half in a week, seven hours a month, and eighty-four hours a year. This investment of time pays large spiritual dividends.

(c) Our schedule must provide time for several steps in the procedure. Suppose we devote four minutes to reading; four minutes to analysis, three to reference work, two to writing, and two to memory work.

Second, reading: This is very important; we should read carefully only eight or ten verses and make sure that we understand each word. Should we find words that we do not know, we must use our dictionary. (b) We should then read the portion over more intently to grasp the ideas. (c) We should read it over the third time to discover the logic that unites these ideas together in a proper sequence.

Third, analysis: This is a more taxing procedure. After we have carefully and prayerfully read the chosen portion, select the different ideas in the passage and write these on our scribbler pad. Next, try and determine the logic that unites these. When this is done, decide which is the major idea of the entire passage.

As an example let us take the first verse of the Epistle to the Ephesians. In this verse there are two major concepts, the writer and the recipients of the Epistle. Let us raise and answer some questions about them:

    The author:

      Who was he? Paul.

      What do we know about him? He was a persecutor of the Church and became a preacher in the Church.

      What did he become officially? An Apostle of Jesus Christ. How did he become an Apostle? By the will of God.

      What is an apostle? Use dictionaries, both English and Bible.

    The addressees:

      Who were they? Saints at Ephesus.

      What is a saint? Use Bible Dictionary.

      Where is Ephesus? Use Bible Dictionary or Atlas.

      What were these saints? Faithful in Christ Jesus.

This simple analysis, if done diligently, will result in an increase in biblical knowledge. Through it we may learn about conversion, the position and work of an apostle, the sovereignty of God and the sainthood of all believers.

Fourth, memory work: We should now memorize the several points that we have on our scribbler pad. These short notes may be slipped into the pocket and reviewed during spare minutes at a later period of the day.

It is advisable to add here a word in regard to our schedule. Let us adhere to the time table. Let us stop when time is up, even if we are in the middle of one of the stages in the process.

Furthermore, we should always read the introduction to a Concordance or Bible Dictionary; generally the best way to use such helps is explained in or near the introduction. This is also true of a good English Dictionary.

Study Pointers

There are certain rules which we should observe; for example: the laws of grammar, the law of first mention, the law of full mention, and the law of context.

The laws of grammar: It is well to pay attention to the laws of grammar in the reading of the Holy Scriptures. The Spirit of God can build a strong argument when it is necessary on the number of a noun (Galatians 3:16). Much help can be derived from watching the verb tenses, even in English not to mention the original languages in which the Bible was written.

Although our English translations were punctuated by men, the translators, this is helpful. In spite of the fact that the system of punctuating the King James Version is obsolete, it offers assistance.

The law of first mention: The first time a subject, doctrine or topic, is mentioned in the Bible, we have in that first mention the seed that eventually is developed throughout the Holy Scriptures. As the mighty oak grows from the small acorn, so doctrines and topics grow from their first mention.

Take for example the first mention of the conflict against Satan (Genesis 3:15). Notice what is here in embryo. (a) The Victor over Satan would arise from the very woman over whom he had been victorious. (b) This Victor would be the seed of Eve, not of Adam. What a hint at the Virgin birth of our Lord! (c) Satan would cause the Seed of the Woman pain, he would bruise His heel. (d) The Seed of the Woman, our Lord Jesus, would inflict upon Satan a fatal wound; He would bruise his head.

The law of full mention: Generally, a doctrine that first appears in germ form eventually is treated in a full and comprehensive manner. Take for example, the resurrection treated fully in 1 Corinthians 15, the rapture of the Church treated fully in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and the judgment of the wicked treated fully in Revelation 20:11-15.

The law of context: That we observe this law is very important to our understanding of the Word of God. Words, phrases, statements and even concepts should be interpreted according to their immediate context. The same statements in two different contexts might mean two different things. Take the references in the New Testament to the deluge (Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20-21). In the first, the deluge is a means of death and destruction; whereas, in the second, it is a means of salvation. To understand these two passages, we must interpret them in their immediate contexts.

The law of comparison and contrast: We must learn to apply our skill in seeking biblical comparisons and contrasts. A comparison is the association of like things; a contrast, the association of unlike things, opposites.

(a) As an example of comparison, let us examine four different references to the love of God in the New Testament:

· The love of God in declaration (John 3:16).

· The love of God in demonstration (Romans 5:8).

· The love of God in action (Ephesians 2:4).

· The love of God in manifestation (1 John 3:1-3).

By this comparison we learn how God in love sent His Unique Son down from glory that men might become His sons raised to glory.

(b) As an example of contrast, let us place the children of disobedience in Ephesians 2:2 over against the children of obedience in 1 Peter 1:14. Much spiritual truth may be learned from this simple contrast.

Systems of Bible Study

God is the God of variety; creation proves this. How numerous the colours in nature! How many the different species in the vegetable kingdom! How many in the animal kingdom! What great variety there is in the mineral kingdom! Yet these are all blended together in nature to form one divine whole.

In order to study nature so as to bring its wonders within our reach, we departmentalize our studies. The artist studies colours and their harmony. The botanist and the horticulturist study developments in the vegetable world. The biologist and zoologist study the different species of animals, and the geologist and the mineralogist study the formation and the mineral content of the earth.

The Word of God is one; it is a divine unity; this should not be forgotten. Nevertheless, in order to reduce its content to our capacity, for our own benefit we departmentalize it, and engage in different types of study. We shall attempt to mention some of these in an order that may indicate their importance.

Expository studies: Such studies are to discover the basic meaning of a particular passage of Scripture. To do this we employ all the rules that we have learned. We read and reread; we analyse; we determine the meaning of each term. Furthermore, we examine the context, and compare or contrast the ideas in the passage with the same ideas in other passages of the Word of God. These mental efforts we continue until we are convinced that, as far as our knowledge is concerned, we have ascertained the meaning of the passage.

Doctrinal studies: In doctrinal studies it is necessary that the student decide which doctrine he is going to examine. Probably this type of study could be pursued in three stages:

First: The preparation of a list of selected doctrines. Here we might prepare such a list, not, of course, an exhaustive one.

The doctrine of God:

· The Holy Trinity.

· The Father.

· The Son.

· The Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of creation:

· The Universe.

· Angels.

· Man.