Monday, July 28, 2008

Five Tools for Studying the Bible


The spread of the Gospel by the preaching of the Word of God is the main way by which God has chosen for men, women, and children to come to know Christ (I Corinthians 1:21). However, there is a command given to Christian parents in both Deuteronomy 6 and 11 for them to teach the word of God to their children. Yet, even women who are unmarried may be given opportunities to pass on biblical knowledge to children and/or younger women in their lives. The best way to do this is to know the Bible for oneself first of all, and thereby be better equipped to pass it on to others.

Before you begin, however, it is important to keep in mind the place Bible study has in the life of a believing woman. All believers, regardless of gender, are accountable to know what he or she believes and why he or she believes it according to the revealed Word of God. However, in the context of the home, the Scriptures plainly teach that believing husbands/fathers are accountable for what their children are taught. Also, the male leadership in the church are to expound the Scriptures to the congregation and to be a guide to widows and fatherless children in the absence of the husband/father. (I believe divorced women and their children may fall under this category, also, if there are no grandfather or brothers available to fill this role.) Though we women are accountable to teach our own children and the younger women in our sphere of influence, we are never permitted to teach men the Word of God under any circumstances.[1]

Considering, then, what I have just said, if you are studying the Word and run across something you just can't understand, your first source of inspiration would be your husband, if you are married, or your father, if you are not. Even if your husband or father is lost, try asking him what he thinks a puzzling passage of Scripture means. The worst he can do is refuse to participate, but I've yet to meet a man, or woman either for that matter, who isn't willing to at least give an opinion. :) Yet, a trusted pastor, your parents, older children, or godly, older women at your church or online may all be other sources the Lord may use for answering a Bible question when you just can't get it yourself.

The most important thing to do, however, before studying the Word is to pray over the passages you are looking over. Then, use all the Bible study tools you can get your hands on to dig a little deeper. If you have the internet, you may be able to save a lot of money on resources which used to only be available in book form.

Let me introduce you to a couple of my favorite online Bible study sites:
BibleGateway.com and Crosswalk.com. These two sites, combined, include all you will ever need for thoroughly studying God's Word. They include complete texts of different Bible versions (even in 11 other languages besides English!), commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other helpful resources such as a schedule for reading through the Bible in a year and a dictionary just for the King James Version of the Bible. There is also a new Beta version of Crosswalk's study helps if you are more interactively inclined.


When you are ready to begin studying the Word, be sure you have at least five tools handy for getting the most out of your time and effort:

I. An Accurate Bible Version:

There is some debate over what accurate Bible version is these days. My personal favorite is the King James Version for many reasons, the main one being that it was what the Lord has preserved and used for nearly 400 years to convert those who believe. If it was good enough for them, it is good enough for me. However, I have the distinct privilege of being reared on this version of the Bible. I exclusively heard it from the pulpit, in Sunday school, in the home, and, for the most part, in the community. While I was growing up, the KJV was still pretty much the only version used by the main media. That isn't the case today. To those who have not grown up in a church which uses the KJV, it may all sound like Greek to you. In that case, you may decide to use other versions.

If you are going to use other versions than the KJV, I must warn you they are not all alike. Some of them are not true to the texts which were handed down from the apostles, better known as the Textus Receptus or the "received text." Some versions which I have heard are truer to this received text are the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version.

If you do not own any of the four versions I have mentioned above, they are all available for free on BibleGateway.com.

II. A Bible Dictionary:

Don't try to study the KJV with a modern dictionary. Won't work. Too many words have changed meaning or are no longer in use. You may try the Webster's 1828 Dictionary. We have used this excellent resource for most of our married life in our personal, family, and outreach devotions. Mr. Webster often includes verses from the KJV which use the word he is defining. Very good. Also, there is a KJV dictionary available online on the Crosswalk site mentioned above.

III. A Bible Concordance:

The purpose of a concordance is to find that verse you can only remember a few words or phrases of, but can't remember the text for. All the words of the Bible are listed in alphabetic order along with that portion of the verse where they are used. Some even include Greek and Hebrew word derivatives.

My two favorites for studying the KJV are Young's and Strong's. My husband always teases me that "the Young's is for young believers and the Strong's is for strong believers" since I prefer the Young's. Strong's is available free online on Crosswalk. However, most versions are now searchable on both the Crosswalk and Bible Gateway sites.

IV. A Reliable Commentary of the Bible:

We have two main sets of commentaries in our household, both given to us by pastors: Matthew Henry's Commentary and Dr. (John) Gill's Commentary. However, again, there are numerous online commentaries at the two sites mentioned above.

I would strongly urge you not to search for comments or Bible studies willy-nilly online. There are just too many wolves out there, and you will end up being more confused than ever. I believe the Lord will bless your study efforts much more if you stick close to home with people you are familiar with, whether it be your husband/parents, trusted pastor/mentor, or someone you have researched online who believes what your family/church believes.

V. A Bible Encyclopedia:

This is valuable for seeking out the cultural settings of different Scripture passages. You can also learn about foods, articles of clothing, animals, plants, cities, nations, and all sorts of interesting things which will help clarify what you are reading about. I sometimes get lost reading different entries around what I am originally looking up. :)

************************************************

There are many other resources for studying the Bible, but these five tools will get you well on your way to opening up that Greatest of Books. May the Lord richly bless you as you seek Him first of all.

[1] Revelation 20:12; Ephesians 6:4; I Corinthians 14:34, 35; Deuteronomy 11:18-20; Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 3:4, 5; I Timothy 2:12-15