This is part five of a multi-part series for women on how to study the Bible on your own. You don’t need a book, a Bible study, or someone else’s opinion: you need a Bible and the Holy Spirit.
I am not here to make you feel guilty. It is very popular today, especially among women’s ministries, to tell women that they must wake up extra early, spend 30-60 minutes in concentrated study, blah blah blah, and then God will bless them. That is not what this is about. I want you to know God more; the more you read God’s Word, the more you will want to study, because the more you get to know Him, the more time you will want to spend with Him. But if you “only” have five minutes today, start there. But start well, with the right tools, and by studying the actual Word of God, and not what someone else says about it or Him.
Let me start with this… I received a comment from a man on my last post. My husband addressed it, and I am thankful to him for that. But this is a blog for women, first of all. Secondly, the man in question said that I was contradicting myself, because here I am telling y’all that you don’t need anyone’s guidance on studying Scripture, but then I’m teaching you how to study Scripture. Apparently that makes me a hypocritical liar or something…
Ladies…you don’t need anyone else’s guidance on studying the Scripture. However, I have found that time and time again, I do get asked how to study without the aid of a book study. I went to the local Christian bookstore Saturday night to purchase a Bible as a Christmas gift for our son. The books on the shelves are chock full of false doctrine and turned my stomach. The larger churches in our area don’t offer women’s Bible studies; they offer studies by famous authors that are really studies of their lives and opinions. I want you to be able to pick up the Bible and read it. The end. If you don’t like my methods, that is fine, dear sister, but please, just read your Bible!
Last time I left off with the promise that I’d tell you what to do if you wanted to go even further in your study of a passage. Again, I have been using Matthew 6:5-15 as our “practice passage” for this series (also known as “The Lord’s Prayer”).
So you’ve read the passage, you’ve read the surrounding passages for context, you’ve read the chapter, and even a few of the surrounding passages. You have a good grasp of what is happening (Jesus is speaking, this is part of what is know as “The Sermon on the Mount,” He is speaking to a crows as well as His disciples), and now you’d like to learn even more.
In today’s post, I am going to take you through three levels of tools that would help you learn more about a passage of Scripture beyond reading the surrounding context: study Bible tools, online tools, and extra-biblical tools (aka other books).
Study Bibles & Their Helps
This is where a good study Bible or three comes in handy. I personally love and regularly use the Archaeological Study Bible (1984 NIV), The Reformation Study Bible (ESV), and the Life Application Study Bible (1984 NIV). I also have Zondervan NASB Study Bible I utilize quite a bit. (none of these are affiliate links, by the way; I don’t make any money off of the blog. I just linked to Amazon in case you like visuals!). I have been fortunate over the years to be gifted these Bibles (I frequently ask for them for Christmas), although I did buy the Reformation Bible at a recent conference when it was over 50% off 🙂
Each of these Bibles offers different helps: maps, notes, research notes, cross-references, articles, Bible character biographies, timelines, etc. Depending on what you want to study in-depth would direct which help you would use.
Every study Bible offers cross-references, which is a fabulous place to start going more in-depth. Either in the middle column, or as footnotes, you can find cross-references. Look for the verse you want to study and then read the suggested cross-references. Of course, you will want to read those in context, so you’ll be reading verses, paragraphs, chapters, etc., but it is a great starting point.
Perhaps with Matthew 6:5-15, you want to study more about prayer in general. Each of the study Bible will have a concordance in the back. You could flip to the back and look up other passages about prayer. Listed in the back might also be an index of charts, maps, articles, etc., dealing with prayer, and reading those would be a great way to go deeper. There might be a chart directing you to the Old Testament teachings on prayer, and why Jesus would be teaching the people to pray how He was.
If you are short on cash, a solid Study Bible is a great investment. Go to the bookstore, or a conference if you can swing it (maybe just the bookstore portion of the conference!) and look at all the different study Bible options. Also, they make great Christmas and birthday gifts!
Online tools are another great option. My current favorite, which is FREE is blueletterbible.org. This is a website and an app available for mobile devices that offers all sorts of goodies for theology nerds like us! There are multiple versions of Scripture, Greek and Hebrew word tools (including pronouncing words out loud!) so you can study the original words in context (oh so very important!!!!), commentaries, online lectures, sermons, and other features I haven’t even delved into yet myself. This is my go-to website for all of my Bible study, and I even downloaded the app so I can use it during church!
Essentially you plug your verse into the top of the screen, choose your translation, and go. Once your Scripture pops up, you can click on all sorts of things to explore. And really, your best bet is to go explore! It can take some getting used to, and the app is a lot different than the web-based browser platform. But both are super beneficial to study time, again, depending on what kind of study you want to do.
Another useful website is ccel.org. This is the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and it has thousands of books, hymns, and study resources that are in the public domain. This is a great source for church history, early church fathers, old commentaries, etc.
A new app I recently discovered, thanks to a friend, is Scripture Typer. It is free up to a point, but it is a Scripture memory aid. I realize this isn’t a series on memorizing Scripture, but I’m going to suggest this app here anyway. Memorizing Scripture is one of the best things you can do, and I love the method of writing down the first letter of every word of the verse. This app helps you do just that. It also allows you to add multiple people (kids, anyone?) and groups (Bible study, home study, church, etc.). It’s just fantastic.
The last two systems I am going to suggest aren’t really “online” tools, but are both computer-based systems, and both are aimed at academic types. The first is called Logos. I can’t afford it, I’ll be honest, but it’s my dream to own it. It’s an entire system of books, libraries, searchable databases, Bibles, etc., designed to help pastors and academics study the Bible. It’s also like a bazillion dollars.
The second is called WordSearch, and when I was on the faculty of a local Bible college, I was blessed to receive it as a benefit. It is similar to Logos, but it is complicated. I use it when I am preparing to speak somewhere or teach a lesson, but I can see how some very logical-thinking people could benefit greatly from it during personal study time.
The Old Fashioned Study Method
Finally, the old-fashioned method of going deeper in your Bible study would be via books. There are a number of ways you could do this, too.
Commentaries are books written about the Bible. They generally come in sets and cover each book of the Bible. A famous example would be Matthew Henry’s commentaries, which are old enough to be on blueletterbible.org and other free websites like ccel. Be aware that commentaries follow the leanings of their authors, so there are liberal and conservative commentaries, Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Calvinistic, and Arminian commentaries. If you want suggestions, ask your pastor what he uses.
Dictionaries, Lexicons, and Concordances
There are hundreds of Bible dictionaries, lexicons (dictionaries for the Greek and Hebrew words), and concordances (lists of how many times each word is used in the Bible, and where it is used). Vine’s Topical is a good dictionary, Thayer’s is a good lexicon (both available online), and Strong’s is the usual go-to concordance numbering system. But, again, browse any Christian or conference bookstore and you’ll see a number of these types of books. Your pastor probably owns a few, and would either recommend them to you, or let you borrow them for a short while (as long as your studies don’t coincide with his sermon prep!).
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you also know that people like to write books about the Bible. I’m going to stop you right here and say, “No. Stay away.” Unless you are really ready to dig deeper into a topic, and you are confident of your biblical footing, I wouldn’t pick up a topical book on anything. Harsh? Probably. But I am concerned that you are studying the Bible, not someone’s opinion on it. If you’ve exhausted every other resource that is biblical, hit me up on Twitter and we’ll chat book suggestions 😉
So there you have it, sisters! How to study your Bible, and dig deeper! I *THINK* I might actually be finished! Is there something I didn’t cover that you’d like me to cover? Leave a comment and let me know 🙂 Pass this along, study your Scripture, and let me know what you learn. I’d love to hear how studying God’s Word has impacted your life!