Reading and studying the bible

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Four Methods:General ApproachStudying TechniquesStudying with OthersSample Study PlanCommunity Q&A

It is important to thoroughly read the Bible, but simply reading the Bible is not the same as studying. The Divine Word of God deserves respect and ought to be understood and practiced. The Bible is one of the most misinterpreted books ever written, and most people can find it very hard to understand. The Bible records a long time of history including many cultures and ages, as well as relating and correlating to any modern era; it is translated from the original manuscripts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic by reputable scholars. The goal in studying the Bible is to understand the message in the correct context. If you struggle with where to start with your Bible reading, how often to read your Bible, how much to read in one sitting, or how to get things out of it (apply it to your life/practice it), this article can help.

Method 1 General Approach

  1. reading and studying the bible

    Plan your study. Set aside a time and place to study. Develop a plan of what you want to read each day in a calendar. Having a plan excites you to discover what you learn from God’s Word for that day; it will also keep you organized, keeping track of what passages you have covered and what lessons you have learnt from each.

  2. reading and studying the bible Get a good study Bible. Choose a translation

    to use during your study. You should select from translations as opposed to simple paraphrases, as this makes sure you are reading the originally translated text not a commentator’s interpretation.

    • Avoid bibles that have been translated from Latin, rather than the original Greek and Hebrew. These, like a game of telephone, can get incorrectly translated.
    • Always ensure your understanding of a passage you have read fits with the entire doctrine of the Bible (which is God’s Redemption Plan of Salvation, 2 John 1:7-10); any revelation you get that does not fit the doctrine of Jesus alone must be cast away. Also you must look at years of Church history to compare your findings with history. If you discover something that everyone in Church history disagrees with, you are most certainly wrong (heretics don’t proceed with caution- they go ahead thinking they are the new prophet in town!) To be thus a good student of the Word, you should research: the Puritan Hard drive is a good place to start as well as Ligonier Ministries and Wretched radio (it has links to great Biblical Christian sites and Church History). Be careful not to be arrogant in the course of studying. Its so easy to boast of your findings rather than prayerfully meditate on them. Studying extensively is good, you should know what the foundations of the faith are but make sure your ability to recall names of people throughout Church history does not exceed your ability to remember the Scriptures Word for Word! (Food for thought, Joshua 1:7-9) Remember even those who are illiterates can have a deeper understanding of the Word and deeper relationship with God than you do because they meditate on it. Simply knowing names and things is not good enough. You must practice and preach what you practice.
    • Good formal equivalence translations include the New Revised Standard Version or the English Standard Version. Good combination translations include Today’s New International Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. A good dynamic equivalence translation is the Contemporary English Version, although strictly dynamic equivalence translations are usually frowned on by serious scholars.
  3. reading and studying the bible

    Study the Bible with an attitude of prayer. This should be the first step in understanding the Bible. Bible study should be approached with a prayerful desire to learn. Discipline yourself to be with the Word. The Bible will come alive for you. It is spiritual food.

  4. reading and studying the bible Pray.

    Ask God to help you understand his word before you even begin (In Ephesians 1:16-23 there is a prayer for Wisdom and Revelation that Paul prayed for the Church that you can also pray for yourself. In Ephesians 3:14-21 there is a prayer for Spiritual Maturity that Paul prayed for the Church, and that you can pray for yourself). God will reveal His Word to you. Don’t assume a parable or story just because it seems vague. Don’t try to interpret the Bible. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”

    (2 Peter 1:20,21) That’s where misunderstandings come from.

  5. reading and studying the bible

    Focus on the New Testament first. Though the New Testament compliments the Old, and the Old compliments the New, it is better to read the New Testament first if you are a novice. The Old Testament will make better sense if you read the New Testament first.

  6. reading and studying the bible Consider reading John first.

    It’s best to start with John, as it’s the easiest Gospel to read, identifies who Jesus really is, and prepares you for the other 3. It would help to read it 2 or 3 times to get a good understanding of the author, topic, context, and characters. Read 3 chapters per day. Concentrate on your reading. and be patient.

    • When you’re done with John, move on to Mark, Matthew, and Luke. As those tend to be the next easiest material. Read all the books -one after the other- until you have read all the Gospels.
    • When you’re done with the Gospels, consider reading the letters from Romans to Jude. Because Revelation is pure prophecy not covered in the New Testament, stay out of there for now. When you get a good familiarity with the major prophets, then tackle Revelation.
  7. reading and studying the bible

    Pick out topics to study. A topical study is very different than a book study or a chapter study. The subject index of most Bibles have specific areas of study. Once you have found an interesting topic, you begin by doing a rough read through of the verses. This will give you a general oversight of what the verses have to say. For example: salvation, obedience, sin, etc. Remember: reading a chapter several times will help you find things that you might have missed or skipped over before.

Method 2 Studying Techniques

  1. reading and studying the bible

    Use the dictionary. Make sure that you look up words in the chapter that you are reading from. This will help you understand the Bible better.

  2. reading and studying the bible

    Have a Bible notebook. This will keep you accountable to reading everyday. Also, ask yourself questions and write them down in your Bible notebook. Use the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” formula for your studies. For instance, “Who was there?”, “What was happening?”, “Where is this happening?”, “How did it turn out?”. This simple formula will make the story make sense.

  3. reading and studying the bible

    Highlight important stuff or things you really like in your own bible. But don’t do this if it belongs to someone else.

  4. reading and studying the bible Use cross references and footnotes if you have them in your Bible.

    These are little numbers and symbols which tell you to look somewhere else in the text for more information, or show you when something was previously discussed. Footnotes, usually found at the bottom of a given page, will tell you where information is coming from or explain complex ideas or historical events and concepts.

    • Try picking out a few words that jumped at you and looking them up in a concordance to find other verses talking about the same thing.
  5. reading and studying the bible

    Follow the references in your Study Bible back to the first time it was used. This is where a chain reference Bible is essential.

  6. reading and studying the bible

    Keep a journal. You don’t have to write a lot. Just use a notebook page with the date, book / chapter / verse on the top. Ask yourself some questions and outline what you are reading. This helps to show you what God is revealing to you through His Word. Write out ideas or verses or thoughts that come into mind as you read. Think “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.” Answer every possible question under each category. Compare your findings with what you know the Bible teaches. Then look them over and pray about it.

  7. reading and studying the bible Get rid of all distractions.

    Turn off the television or radio. Unless you’re studying

    with a group

    , try to to find a quiet place where you have a table to read and take notes. This is alone time between you and God.

Method 3 Studying with Others

  1. reading and studying the bible

    Find a Bible study group. Find a group of people that you can study with. The text is very complicated and having some help to get through it will be very important. They will also help keep you motivated and inspired.

  2. reading and studying the bible

    Share what you have found with others within your Bible study group. Discuss what you have read with others who may have more experience reading and studying the Bible than you do.

  3. reading and studying the bible Don’t take what someone else says about the topic, except as a guide.

    Let the Bible inspire you. Increasing your knowledge about Biblical Principles will only come after years of dedication, hard work, and just plain reading.

    • The Bible is not just one book from Genesis to Revelation. There are 66 books, each from different authors at different times. Several authors have written more than one book, but they were written at different times for different reasons. You will find similar subjects and meanings throughout all the books of the Bible.

Method 4 Sample Study Plan

  1. reading and studying the bible

    Decide your order. You can certainly read the New Testament in order if that suits you, but there are some plans that read the books out of order for a purpose. One is described in the following steps.

  2. reading and studying the bible Start with the Gospels.

    Each Gospel paints a different picture of Jesus. Matthew shows Jesus as King; Mark shows Jesus as Rabbi (Many scholars believe that Mark is Peter’s son. (1 Peter 5: 12 & 13) Further study shows that this Mark is actually the missionary that worked with Paul 2 Tim 4:11); Luke shows Jesus as man (Luke was a physician, probably a Greek, from Asia Minor (Col 4:14); and John shows Jesus as God, that is, the Messiah.

    • Read John again for continuity. This will give you a more complete picture of the Gospels. John was the last Gospel written. Matthew through Luke are known as the “Synoptic Gospels” because they tell the same basic story, bringing in their own points as directed. John fills in the gaps of what the others leave out. It’s a book that completes the story of the Gospels.
  3. reading and studying the bible

    Read Acts next. Acts, also known as “The Acts of the Apostles” was written by Luke, and is a picture of the revelation and development of the early church.

  4. reading and studying the bible Read Galatians through Philemon.

    These 6 shorter letters are personal letters from Paul to 3 of the churches he had visited, and to 3 of his friends, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

    • Read The Epistle to the Romans. This shows the means, and the path to Salvation, then the Epistles to the Corinthians. This is the introduction to the Holy Spirit, and develops His doctrine and Gifts, followed by Hebrews through Jude. The teachings of the early church elders.
    • Unless you have been a Christian for some time, and you have a good grounding in prophecy, leave Revelation for the more serious students in their study times.
  5. reading and studying the bible Move on to the Old Testament.

    The Old Testament is compiled in the order for convenience, not chronology. You can read it by groups to make things easier. There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament. If you read 3 per day, you will have read it in 10 months.

    • Read Genesis. This is the creation and the early relationship with God.
    • Move on to Exodus through Deuteronomy. This is the Law.
    • Read the history books. Joshua through Esther.
    • Following the history section, read the books of wisdom and poetry.
      • Job, often said to be the oldest book, shows how one man’s relationship with God and man went, and is full of lessons on how it could have gone better. It’s a great lesson on what God expects of man.
      • The Psalms is the writings of a king of Israel who was a man after God’s own heart despite the fact that he was not only a sinner, but a convicted killer.
      • The Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs, was written by King Solomon in his youth. It was a work of poetry by a young man in love. King Solomon was the wisest and wealthiest man in the world.
      • Proverbs was King Solomon’s writings as an adult when he was King of Israel, and was learning his hard lessons.
      • Ecclesiastes was King Solomon’s lamentations of a man who had spent his life on riotous living, many wives, concubines, wine, women and song. Ecclesiastes is the book of lessons of what not to do.
    • Following the books of wisdom and poetry, get started in the 5 major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, & Daniel.
    • Move on to the 12 minor prophets to finish the Old Testament.

Community Q&A

Add New Question

  • How do I know God has answered my prayers?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Sometimes God gives you what you’ve asked for immediately. Sometimes, he says to wait and be patient, and that what you’ve asked for will come later when it is the right time. Sometimes, what you’ve asked for isn’t in God’s perfect plan for you. He always answers, but not always in the way you expect.

  • If I’ve heard all the Gospels before, is it okay if I start in my favorite book, Philippians?

    wikiHow Contributor

    You can start wherever you like, but just keep in mind that every time you read a passage, God will increase your understanding and reveal new truths. You may have heard the Gospels before, but you don’t know all the truth they contain.

  • I am a very busy person, but I really want to study God’s word. I schedule my study time late at night, but I always fall asleep. What can I do?

    Katie Arledge Rutan

    If you are always falling asleep because you are too tired, maybe try studying first thing in the morning. Try going to sleep earlier and then waking up earlier and doing your study during or before breakfast. It can be hard at the end of the day to squeeze God in, but it’s easy and you’ll never forget if you make it a habit in the morning.

  • What are Bible search engines?

    They are apps or websites where you can search for a specific verse in the Bible. These can be a quite helpful tool!

  • Right before I broke up with my boyfriend, I became abstinent because I knew fornication is a sin. Soon after I broke up with my boyfriend because he seemed distant once I made that decision. What happened?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Your boyfriend was in lust with you. Many people mistake lust (desire for premarital/extramarital sex) for love. You did what is right in God’s sight. Pray for a man who is a believer and will follow God and think with the head on his shoulders. Looks fade; people’s flaws show when you get to know them; but a heart for Jesus will keep a spouse attractive and cover those flaws with love.

  • How do I feed the Word of God in the spirit?

    wikiHow Contributor

    By praying the living Word of God and praying in the power of the Holy Spirit. We walk by Faith so build yourself up in your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit.

  • How do I ask God for healing of my wife, who is in critical condition?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Pray to him and tell him whatever is on your heart. Just make yourself open to him.

  • Where should I start reading the Bible, being a new Christian?

    wikiHow Contributor

    You should start reading the Gospel as it tells the story of Jesus. Alternatively, you could just start at the beginning and read the Bible from cover to cover. Not many people do this.

  • How do I read 150 verses in two days?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Pace yourself. Split the passages up, or read 75 the first day and the remaining 75 the next day.

  • How old was Mary when she gave birth?

    wikiHow Contributor

    According to life expectancy and marital age at that time, Mary is said to have been about 12-15 years old when she gave birth to Jesus.

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Tips

  • At first it can seem daunting to read everyday. But when you are in the Word, it clears your mind and prepares you for the day. Reading the Bible is a necessary part of this. Don’t give up. If you feel discouraged, ask the Lord for help.
  • Pray before you start any Bible study or reading. Ask God to clear your mind and to show you things in His word before you begin reading. There is a prayer for wisdom and revelation in Ephesians 1:16-23 and you can say this prayer for yourself.
  • Make a promise to yourself. Get up a little earlier in the morning for your reading. The deal is: “No Bible, No Breakfast, No Exceptions.” King David studied the word in the morning and at night (Psalms 1:2).
  • When you begin your study of your Bible ask the Holy Spirit for help. John 14:26 says that He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance the sayings of Jesus. I John 2:27 is similar.
  • There are 261 chapters in the New Testament. If you read 3 chapters per day, you will be completed with your New Testament reading in about 90 days. If all you wanted to do is read the whole Bible through, you could read 3 chapters from the New Testament in the morning and 4 chapters from the Old Testament in the evening, you would be through with the New Testament in 87 days. You would have 668 Old Testament chapters left. If you read 3 in the morning and 4 in the evening until completion you would have read the whole Bible through in about 6 months. However, it is much more beneficial to read 3 chapters per day. Don’t worry about how long it takes to read it through.
  • There are enough reference books and study guides to fill a library. Don’t feel you need to get them all. It would run into the thousands of dollars. Get what works for your needs. There is a long list below. Don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Research the version or translation you are going to study with. Is it accurate? Is it just a modern readable version, or is it intended for study?
  • The reason for reading the Gospels out of order is that each identifies Jesus in a different way. John = God; Mark = Servant; Matthew =King; Luke = Man. Also, you don’t want to get bogged down in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke right off the bat. Each has a different purpose, and familiarity is helpful
  • As a means of keeping up with daily reading, you can use a One Year Bible. It’s not for study, but you will go through the Bible in a year which will give you more familiarity with each book as you study it.
  • After you get through the Bible at least once, with the help of a good teacher, read a good layman’s guide of hermeneutics and apologetics. They will help you know what questions to ask as you read and study.

Warnings

  • Don’t read what every Bible expert says about a topic. You will get conflicting opinions and this will cause you to become confused and give up. Be like the Bereans, and judge everything you hear in the scripture by asking pointed questions and trying the proofs (Acts 17:11). Let the Bible speak for itself. The author (God) will both reveal and inspire you.
  • The Bible was not written in English but in Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek. This means that some words and concepts are not direct one-to-one translations but are the translators attempt to express the feeling & meaning of the passage. Some were translated literally, and some functionally. Read with a broad mind, pray, speak with others, and take the time to try to understand what the original writers’ views were.
  • Sometimes a fact of science or your common sense will seem to rebuke the Bible. If this occurs, be careful not to jump to conclusions; remember that your interpretation of the Bible will never be perfect. That’s why you should never interpret the Bible (2 Pet 1:20,21). Find the passage that bothers you and study its context and tone. Usually, it will be your own understanding of the words that is at fault, so try to find an alternate meaning that both satisfies your doubts and agrees with the rest of your studies. If you are still unsure, go ask a friend who knows the Bible very well to explain it to you. If you never are satisfied, just know that whatever conclusion you come to must agree with the rest of the Bible. The part that is unclear will prove itself elsewhere in the Bible.

Things You’ll Need

  • A good study guide

  • King James or other accurate Bible. Three other great translations that stick closely to the original text are the New International Version (used by academics, considered the most accurate translation), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the New King James Version (NKJV).

  • A journal or notebook

  • A Concordance – a book that lists the words in the Bible and will give you their basic meanings and root meanings as well as other places the words are used. Either Strong’s Exhaustive or Young’s Analytical Concordance would be a good choice. Strong’s Lexicon to help you look up Hebrew or Greek word definitions in their original languages. This is available online at the

    Blue Letter Bible

    website. This website also has numerous commentaries, lessons, audio and visual lectures and overviews.

  • Highlighter (optional)

  • A Topical Bible.(Nave’s)

  • A Bible Handbook.(Unger’s, or Halley’s)

  • A Bible Dictionary.(Nave’s)

  • A Bible Commentary.(Matthew Henry’s)

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Have you ever wondered if there’s truly a difference between reading and studying your Bible? You will definitely benefit from reading through a chapter in Proverbs or Romans, but is there more that you could be missing?

The answer is: Absolutely. Reading the Bible is so important, though it is packed with meaning that could be easily overlooked if you’re simply zooming through verses and chapters. So, how do you really study your Bible?

David Mathis shared the basics of Bible study in a short video on Desiring God, and if you’re looking to go deeper into the Word of God, this is a perfect place to begin.

Pause and look for God’s meaning. While you can read your Bible at a normal pace, studying requires you to slow down and ask, “What is God saying in this chapter?” Often times, God’s meaning in a particular passage might be very different than our own meaning.

Expect Bible study to be hard work. Mathis compares Bible reading to raking leaves, while Bible study is more like digging. It will definitely require more time and effort, but when you dig into the ground versus raking, you will find more treasure.

Ask questions and look for connections. Certain words that may seem simple at first can actually carry more meaning than we realize. Asking questions about the use of even the simplest words like “so” and “therefore” can reveal a lot about what God wants for us. Also, if you see a repeated phrase, look up the other verses where the phrase is used and look for connections.

Ask for God’s help. The most important part of studying God’s Word is asking for His help. Through prayer, He may send a friend, a pastor, or even a book your way that would help you understand His meaning in scripture. Mathis also says that often, through the work of the Holy Spirit, God will open your mind to help you see His way of thinking, which will ultimately stengthen you in your walk of faith.

See the full video below:

(H/T: Desiring God)

Caitlin Jordan is the assistant editor for TheCourage. While she loves small towns and the great outdoors, she lives with her husband, Ryan, in the big city of Dallas, Texas. She is passionate about the importance of transparency and loving those that disagree with Christian beliefs. You can follow her on Facebook and  Twitter.

www.thecourage.com

Inside: One common mistake when it comes to studying the Bible is not knowing what to focus on. Here’s how to overcome that.

There’s a difference between reading your Bible and studying your Bible. They are both equally as important. But they are not the same.

I hear from ladies that are having a hard time with their Bible study or reading their Bible, usually, it’s because they’re trying to do both at the same time. If you’re just reading your Bible, then it’s probably not the time to study your Bible. And if you’re studying your Bible, you don’t want to just read it.

So what do you do when you’re studying your Bible? How do you know if you’re reading the right thing? How do you know what’s important and what needs to be written down?

reading and studying the bible

The Key to Studying Well

When I was in high school, I was in a very strong, stringent academic program where I was basically doing college-level work from freshman year all the way through.

During our freshman year we took a class, and while I can’t remember the name of it, the whole point of the class was to teach us how to study.

We learned note-taking skills. We learned how to read a textbook and take notes. We learned how to listen to a lecture and take notes. We learned how to organize our notes and how to put together notebooks for our different classes.

The big thing that they really focused on, because most of the learning in high school was through textbooks, was how to read your textbook to be able to pull out the important information so that you could study it.

Step #1: Open up the section you’re supposed to be reading and skim it

Read all the bold headlines, look at all the bold words, look for definitions of the bold words, read any captions. Flip to the back where the questions are and look through them.

The reason for doing that was to have an idea of what that particular section was about. Reading all the headings and bold words, along with any captions and definitions gave us a broad understanding of what that chapter was about.

Step #2: Go back to the beginning and actually read through one time

Once you have a basic idea of what the section is about, it’s time to read it through carefully. You know what to look for after skimming it.

The key here is to just focus on reading the material. You are not taking any notes or highlighting things you want to remember.  Just read, no studying!

Step #3: Take Notes

Go back through the same section this time and highlight the important parts. Take notes in the margin or on a piece of paper. And see if you can answer the questions you skimmed in the first step. 

reading and studying the bible

Applying the Method to Studying your Bible

Those same principles apply to your Bible study and your Bible reading. 

Skimming helps introduce you to what you are about to read. The first full read through gives you a basic understanding so that by the third read those important parts jump out at you.

You can read the entire Bible from cover to cover and you’re not going to go deep because you’re not taking the time to study and go into all the meanings and all the words and all the events. But you will have a wide and basic understanding of what the Bible is about.

That’s like skimming the chapter before you read it.

When you get ready to study, you’re not going to study from Genesis to Revelation in one sitting. That’s too much. You’re going to take smaller sections, like maybe one book of the Bible or maybe just one chapter, and you’re going to really go deep when you’re studying.

The inductive Bible study method does a great job of breaking the Bible down like this.

What to Focus on When Studying your Bible?

How do you know what’s important, what to highlight, what to write down, and what to focus on?

That depends on what the Holy Spirit prompts for you. You’ve got to have a purpose.

  • Why are you reading?
  • Why are you studying?
  • Do you want to learn more about something you’re going through?
  • Do you just want to have more knowledge about something like what it means to have more peace?
  • Are you trying to understand more about an event like the Passover or something like that?

That’s going to help frame what jumps out and is important for you to mark down as you study.

What Jumps Out at You?

When you’re taking the time to read through a passage of Scripture, certain things will jump out at you, depending on what you need.

If you’re going through a financially hard time and you’re reading the Scriptures, then the stories of God providing for His people are what’s going to jump out at you. If you are struggling with fear, then those kinds of things are going to jump out at you.

There’s really no way to determine that ahead of time. You just have to read and see where God leads you. A great way to be able to focus and know what’s going to be important is just to pray and ask God before you even start studying.

Letting God Lead

“Lord, I am reading through the Psalms because it’s what I feel like You are calling me to do.” Or, “I’m not familiar with this book of the Bible, so I’m going to spend my time digging deep into the book of Psalms. What is it that You have for me, that You want me to learn, that you want to reveal to me, while I’m reading or studying this book?”

Just ask Him!

You might not get an answer immediately, but as you continue to read and you notice certain things that are like, “Oh, that fits. Oh, that’s interesting.” Maybe there are points of conviction, where you read something like, “A soft answer turns away wrath”.

And you know you really need to work on that, so you keep reading and even more things about anger or words begin to jump out at you. You know what to focus on then.

Reading for Overall Understanding

When I decided to read through the Bible in 6 months last year, I had to force myself not to highlight and mark and dig deep and ask questions. My purpose was not to dig deep and understand the deep level things about the Bible.

My purpose was to read the whole book, from Genesis to Revelation. I wanted to see the big picture. I wanted to understand how it all connected because I had never done that before. So when you’re reading, even if you’re just reading a small passage as you begin your quiet time, try to focus yourself so that you’re not getting distracted by all the things you want to go really deep on.

Just be there. Just read it. Just read it.

Just read it like you’re reading your newspaper or your favorite book. Just read to have an understanding of what that passage or word of Scripture is about.

Studying your Bible doesn’t have to be difficult!

Bible study and prayer are not meant to be difficult. It’s actually very simple. It’s easy. But we have built it up in our minds into this big mountain that we can’t climb.

That’s a trick from the enemy. He doesn’t want us reading the Bible because that’s how we learn how to find victory in every area of life. He doesn’t want that.

Don’t be intimidated. It’s God’s Word. It’s there for you!

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