How To Use a Study Bible – Dr Daniel Crabtree, Online Contributor
If you don’t have ready access to multiple Bible study tools, a study Bible can help you engage in effective Bible study. You can look at several different study Bibles at your local Christian bookstore or online. Ask you pastor about his or her favorite study Bible.
Here are some suggestions for using a study Bible to interpret a passage of scripture:
Step One: Read the passage
When studying a biblical passage (a series of verses separated by a subtitle) the best place to start is by reading the passage repeatedly. Read the passage both quickly and slowly. During the slower reading try to pay attention to the details in the text by noting names, key words or phrases that repeat themselves. For further clarification you can consult the notes conveniently located at the bottom of the page. Quite often you will find them to be very helpful. Refer to a commentary if you desire further explanation.
Step Two: Discover the ‘why’ of the passage
Some might be tempted to stop their study of the biblical passage at this point. After all, they have uncovered some biblical names and terms and read some interesting commentary. But this would be a big mistake because the ‘why’ question has not yet been answered. Why was the passage written in the first place? This requires asking: who was writing and to whom were they writing? This will help us to uncover what the original message was. Although this is not always easy, it is necessary, if we want to know what that same message means for us today.
Step Three: Explore the ‘why’ of the passage
At this point you will want to consult the introduction in your study Bible for the book in which your passage is found. Although the introductions will vary from study Bible to study Bible, they will give you clear and concisely worded descriptions of background information, purpose for writing and survey/themes. These introductions are usually a treasure trove of information that takes only minutes to read. They are well worth your time and will greatly aid you in answering the ‘why’ question.
Step Four: Determine the meaning of the passage
Reading the introduction has helped us with the historical context of our passage. Now we need to make some literary comparisons to determine more precisely the original meaning of our passage. Read the passages that come immediately before and after your passage. Are they dealing with similar ideas, events or themes as your passage? If so, adjust the interpretation of your passage to harmonize with the ‘flow of thought’ of the literary context. Not doing this can be fatal to accurate biblical interpretation.
To further broaden your understanding of the literary context, look at the passage in your study Bible once again. In the middle column of the page look for any scripture references that correspond to verses in your passage. Read these scripture references. They will give you valuable insight into other biblical verses that refer to similar events, themes or people. Once again, adjust the interpretation of your passage to correlate with biblical truth.
By implementing these simple steps, with the help of your study Bible, you can lay the foundation for practicing sound biblical interpretation. Using your study Bible to discover the historical and literary context will illuminate the original meaning of the passage you are studying. Then you can with greater confidence know and apply the truth of God’s Word to your life.