bible study aids

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Bible Study Tools

There are Bible study books that can really help to study and understand the Bible. With these books and a good grasp of how to study the bible you will be off to a good start. These tools can make it much easier and faster. Some of these tools and practices are explained here.

You can click on Why should I study the Bible to start reading at the beginning of this topic or use the page index to jump to the part that interest you most.

Overview of content in this section is as follows:

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Overview of content in this section is as follows:

Why should I study scripture & how do I go about it?

Study the Bible to learn about Jesus and gain eternal life and other scripture showing use of the Bible

Why are there so many versions of the Bible and which version of the Bible should I read?

Finding the answers to your questions in the Bible & The Holy Spirit teaches you

Study Bibles

Cross references

Concordances

Dictionaries

Topical Bibles

Bible Commentaries

Software

Application

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WHY SHOULD I STUDY THE BIBLE?
AND HOW DO I GO ABOUT IT?

The fact that many people do not study the Bible shows that this is a subject that needs to be addressed.

The Bible itself tells us why we should study its Word: 2 Timothy 2:15 — “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV)The “word of truth” is the Bible, and we are told to study it. Notice that this is not just a suggestion, but rather it is an instruction.

Clearly we are told to study the Scripture, but this does not tell us why we should study the Scripture. The most important reason a person should study the Bible is to learn about Jesus. In Jesus there is eternal life and knowledge of the Father. Carefully consider what Jesus said. Keep in mind that Jesus is the only religious leader in history who was described in detail before He was born. Jesus performed many miracles and offered them as evidence that He was Who He said He was (John 10:38). Jesus also predicted His own death and resurrection. Jesus then arose from the dead and appeared to hundreds of eyewitnesses over a period of forty days. No other religious leader in history has ever had these kinds of credentials! He is worth listening to!

  • John 5:37-40: "And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” (Jesus speaking)
  • John 20:31: .but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  (John speaking)
  • John 14:9-10: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?’"

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Everything that God tells us to do in His written word is for our own benefit. Following are some Scriptures that show how studying the Scripture can be beneficial to us.   

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17:“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
  • Psalm 19:7: “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”

In the two previous verses we can see that the Bible is profitable for mankind. With the Word of God we can be equipped for every good work. Furthermore the Word of God restores the soul and makes wise the simple. In the verse below we find that treasuring God's word in our hearts will help us refrain from sin against God.

  • Psalm 119:9-11:“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.”

Consider carefully what Jesus says in the verse below.

  • Luke 6:46-49: "And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

Jesus tells us that those who do not act upon His words will suffer a great loss. How can you act upon His words without carefully considering what He said? This is another reason why we should study the Bible. In James we find a similar thought.

  • James1:22:“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

 Here we find that those who are not doers of the Word delude themselves. Once again, how can you be a doer of the Word, if you, in fact, do not know what the Word says?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. By studying the Bible one can come to know Jesus and the Father. Through Jesus one can gain eternal life. We also stand to gain wisdom, peace and direction in life. No one in the world loves you more than God. He left you specific instructions of how to know Him and live a fulfilling life. Considering this, do you think the Scriptures are at least worth reading? Are they worth studying?

Do you have questions about life? Well, the Bible has answers! Don't forget to pray! It is not desirable to have only “head” knowledge. Prayer causes us to focus on the One in Whom we need a close relationship. The Bible really does have answers to your questions about life. In order to find these answers you must become a student of Scripture. Many people do not know how to start. People sometimes wonder why there are so many versions of the Bible, and how to select the best version for study. Then, people don’t understand exactly how to search Scripture for the answers to their questions within the Bible. It my hope that this section will help answer these questions.

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Why are there so many versions of the Bible, and which version of the Bible should I read?

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. When translating from these languages to English, scholars found more than one way to say the same thing. Additionally, our English language has evolved since the first English printing of the Bible. Therefore scholars constantly go back to the original language to seek a good translation into the common speech that is in use at the time. Example: the King James version is a good translation of the Bible. However it contains words that we no longer use, and are confusing to some. Consider 1 Kings 2:26 in King James; it contains the word "Barest". This is a correct translation of the Hebrew word  " nasa' “.  "Barest", however, is an English word we no longer use. In the New American Standard version, this Hebrew word is translated "carried" which is also a correct translation, but is currently a more common word in our English language. There are several popular good translations that people use today. Some of these are the “King James” (KJV), the “New King James” (NKJV), the “New American Standard” (NASB), the “Revised Standard” (RSV), the “American Standard” (ASV), and the New International (NIV).

There are also paraphrased Bibles. Unlike the translations listed above, they are not word-for-word translations. Rather, they try to put into an easy, readable form what the translators believe the author in the Bible was trying to say. In other words, many parts of the Bible are interpreted for you. It is because of this that I believe that they do not make good study Bibles — although they do make good commentaries. The most popular of these is the Living Bible (TLB).

There are two versions of the Bible that most Greek and Hebrew scholars would agree are very poor translations. One is the “New World’s Translation”, printed by the Watchtower Society; and the other is the "Inspired Version"  put out by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I do not recommend that anybody uses these for studying the Scriptures.

Many people develop their own preferences as to which versions they like the best. The author (Robert Kiser) prefers the New American Standard — but for an in-depth study of a particular passage, I sometimes find that it is helpful to read more than one version. Sometimes when the same thing is said using slightly different wording it helps in the understanding of what the author is trying to get across.

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The key to finding the answers to your questions is spending time in the Word of God (the Bible), and prayer. Some things in the Bible may seem confusing at first. The more you read and contemplate them while seeking the Lord, the more it will start to sink in and make sense. It is also helpful to know how to study and know where to look.

There are several tools that aid in the studying of the Bible. This does not mean that a person needs these to be able to understand the Bible. People have gotten along without these aids and still gained wisdom from the Bible for centuries. The Bible itself tells us the Holy Spirit is able to teach us.

  • John 14:26: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
  • I John 2:27: “And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

(from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words — Anointing: “chrisma ^5545^, ....It is used only metaphorically in the NT; by metonymy, of the Holy Spirit, <1 John 2:20, 27> .....That believers have ‘an anointing from the Holy One’ indicates that this annointing renders them holy, separating them to God. The passage teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the all efficient means of enabling believers to possess knowledge of the truth.”)

As stated earlier, you can read and learn from the Bible without study aids. However this does not mean that aids are useless. Owning the study aids that will be covered in this chapter will not make you a better Bible student, but they will make studying a little easier and more convenient. I have liked to write for some time now. Eventually I started using a typewriter. Then I got a computer and started using a word processor. Did having these tools make me a better writer? Not at all; but the tools have made things easier and more convenient. In a similar fashion, this is also true of Bible study aids, such as study Bibles, cross-references, concordances, dictionaries, topical Bibles, and commentaries.

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Study Bibles: Study Bibles come in various popular translations — KJV, NIV, NAS, et cetera, as covered previously. The only difference between a study Bible and another Bible of the same version is that the study Bible will include extra information. A good study Bible will have plenty of cross-references, a small concordance, maps, outlines, historical information, and commentary. Popular study Bibles includes the Open Bible, the Life Application Bible, Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, and the Ryrie Study Bible. Keep in mind that the comments made on certain verses are the author’s interpretation of that passage. Authors’ comments may or may not reflect an accurate interpretation of Scripture (see “Commentaries”).

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Cross-references: Cross-references are references that correlate in some way to the passage that you are reading at the time. Often by looking up these cross-references you will find that the Bible interprets itself. One passage that seems confusing to you may be explained by another passage somewhere else. Or the cross-reference supplied may simply give a little added information. As I already mentioned a good study Bible will contain cross-references. There is a very useful book titled The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. This book breaks every verse in the King James Version into different categories. Then it gives cross-references for each category. It contains nearly 1,000,000 cross-references; far more cross-references than you will find in any study Bible.

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Concordances: A Bible Concordance is an alphabetical listing of words found in the Bible. The "word" will be in bold or italics within a partial quote as it appears in the Bible. A good study Bible will have a small concordance in the reference section in the back of the book. An exhaustive concordance will contain every word in the Bible in alphabetical order. There are concordances that correlate with various versions of the Bible. An exhaustive concordance has several uses. Imagine you hear a verse quoted by someone. Later you decide that you would like to look up that verse, to read the whole context. Simply pick out a key word in the verse and look that word up in your concordance. You will find a list of every place that word is used in the Bible. You can just go through the list until you recognize the quote that you are looking for. Then turn in your Bible to the reference provided in the concordance, and begin reading. Another way you might use a concordance is to help you answer a question you might have about a certain topic, like salvation, marriage, or sin. Simply think of a word that may be mentioned in a discussion about your topic. Then look that word up in the concordance to find references in the Bible where that word is used. In this respect it is kind of like using the yellow pages in your phone book! Yet another use for the concordance: during your study of the Bible, you encounter a word, and you’re not sure of its meaning. Besides looking the word up in a dictionary, you can also look in the concordance. In this way you can study the various ways that the word in question is used throughout the Bible. Some of the exhaustive concordances will contain the Strong's numbering system. The Strong's numbering system is simply a number which is given to each Greek or Hebrew word in the Old and New Testament. To use this system, look up the word in question in English. Pick out the verse in which the word is used. Next to this is a number. Now, look up that number in the Greek or Hebrew dictionary at the back of the concordance (Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament). There you will find a short definition of the Greek or Hebrew word that was translated into English in the Bible.

There is a concordance that is different than the ones I just described. It is called the Englishman's Concordance. This concordance is based upon the Strong's numbering system and enables you to find every Greek or Hebrew word in the Bible, regardless of how it is translated in English. For example, Psalm.82:6 uses the word "gods", #430 in the Strong's, when speaking of some unjust judges. This same Hebrew word (#430) is also translated as "judges" in Exodus.22:9. Jesus also quoted this passage in the 82nd Psalm in John 10:34. We gain some insight to the context of this passage by realizing that these people are not literally "gods" as compared to the one true God. They are called "gods" in respect to their position as judges. This is found both in the context and the definition and use of the Hebrew word #430. As I already mentioned you can gain insight to the meaning of an English word by studying the various ways that it is used. With the Englishman's Concordance you can gain some insight to the original Greek or Hebrew word. This is done simply by studying the various ways that it is translated into English.

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Dictionaries: A good dictionary, such as Webster's, is extremely helpful. We often read over words such as “holy”, “grace”, “faith”, and “sanctification” without truly understanding what the word means. The passage that you are studying will make more sense when you understand the meaning of the words used in it. Look up some key words in the verse in the dictionary, it may surprise you. There are also Bible dictionaries. There is a difference between a Bible dictionary and a regular dictionary. A Bible dictionary makes use of the Greek and Hebrew that the word in question was originally translated from. The Bible dictionary will often give you other references in Scripture. The Bible dictionary will also sometimes give added information on history, customs, politics, and other useful information to provide clarity. There are many good Bible dictionaries — Nelson's Bible Dictionary is one of them.

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Topical Bibles: A topical Bible is an alphabetical listing of subjects found in the Bible. It has some advantage over an exhaustive concordance. Let’s say, for example, that you want to study what the Bible has to say about marriage. There are places in the Bible where marriage is being discussed, but the words "married or marriage" are not used. The passage may mention the husband or wife. The topical Bible groups these passages together for you giving you references throughout the Bible where your subject is being discussed. Nave's Topical Bible is one that I find very useful.

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Bible Commentaries: A commentary is a book or notes of a particular author’s interpretation of the verses within a particular book in the Bible. Many Bible scholars have written commentaries to explain and interpret the Scripture for you. In a similar fashion this is what a pastor does in church. The pastor explains and interprets passages in the Bible for you, and often gives application as well. This monthly website would also fall into this category. A commentary is a useful tool because it can bring things to your attention that you may not have otherwise thought about. The commentator does a lot of research and hopefully spends a lot of time in prayer as well. Because of this they can often provide useful insight to a particular passage or subject. By reading or listening to a commentator you will also be subjected to what the commentator holds to be true. Because the commentator is human, they can and do make mistakes. Therefore it is wise to study the Scriptures for yourself as well. The pastor or commentator can help you in the learning process, but part of the responsibility falls on the student. The people of Berea were commended because they eagerly accepted what the Apostle Paul had to say, but it did not end there. They also searched the Scriptures daily to see if what the Apostle Paul was teaching was true. (Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”)It would be wise to follow the example of these people of Berea. Don't just take some commentator’s word for something. Your salvation and spiritual growth are important. Check out what is taught by your pastor or commentator for yourself. Is what you are being taught in the Bible? Is it being taken out of context? These things you must decide for yourself. This is true of this website as well. Look up the references provided and see if what we say is true. Cults thrive on people who are unwilling to study or think for themselves. Do not be afraid to question a teaching. You learn by asking questions, but make sure what you believe is well-grounded in God's written Word. If it is not in the Bible, on what grounds can one establish it as divine truth? Overall basically good commentaries include Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, and The MacArthur Bible Commentary. I also believe that the “Living Bible” makes a good commentary. Yet, do not misunderstand — I am not saying that everything in these books is true. I am saying that as a whole, on major doctrines such as God, Jesus, and your salvation, these are good commentaries.

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Software: Bible software has some advantages. For one, books are often less expensive in a software format. The price of volumes of books can add up quickly. Books can be produced on a CD for much less than they can be bound into paper books. Therefore if you are buying several books as a package, you may save money by looking for a software version. In addition, the software version usually contains search capabilities. This means that you can find any word or phrase within volumes of books with the click of a button. Software can be a great advantage to a writer. Portions of books can be copied to the word processor simply by highlighting them and clicking a couple of buttons. I have several CDs that I use for research and study. The PC Study Bible, Reference Library Plus by Bible Soft is my favorite and most-used CD. I also find my software by Logos very helpful.

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Application: As I stated earlier, to find the answers to your questions, spend time in the Bible and in prayer. Most questions would be categorized as a topical study. Ask yourself if your question was to be labeled as a topic, what would it be titled? Now look that word up in the topical bible and concordance. Study the passages that are referred to and look up the cross references provided. Many questions can be answered simply by doing this. This can often lead into word studies. If the passage you are referred to uses what seems to be a key word unfamiliar to you, look it up. Find out what the word means. How else is this word used in the Bible? For these types of questions use your dictionaries and concordance.

There is no substitute for studying the Bible in full context. As a general rule if you want to be physically healthy you feed yourself good food and exercise your body. If you want to be spiritually healthy, then feed yourself on the Word of God, pray, and exercise your mind (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4 and 22:37, Luke 11:1-13 and 12:29-31, Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8, James 1:5).When you are studying chapters and books in the Bible ask yourself questions. Who is speaking in this passage and who is being spoken to? What is the main point that is being discussed? When did this take place or when is it going to take place?  Where is this taking place? Look at a map to see. Why did this happen? Most important how does this relate to me? What can I learn from this?

Always start with prayer. Ask the Lord to reveal His truth to you and help you to apply what you learn. Next read the entire passage in context. Perhaps read it more than once, in different versions of the Bible. Even if it is a familiar passage don't assume that you already know everything it says. I have learned from passages by going back to them even after I had already memorized them! Look up the cross-references and let the Bible interpret itself. Look up definitions of key words — how are they used elsewhere?

I recommend that you read the commentaries last. This way you won't be approaching the passage with pre-conceived ideas. When you do read the commentaries, don't forget to look for historical information. Sometimes this will give you a better understanding of why something in the passage was stated.

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