Principles + Methods of Bible Study

Principles and Methods of Bible study (Part one)

Observation: Simply looking at the text and seeing what is taking place.

It asks the question “what do I see?” (Psalm 119:18)

Lets start with Acts 1:8.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you

And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria

And to the end of the earth.

*Learn to read again! Read different versions, unfamiliar ones. Learn to read faster and with better comprehension. Read the Bible as a love letter.

Ten strategies for first-time reading

  1. Read Thoughtfully

-Proverbs 2:4 likens biblical wisdom to precious ore, found not lying around on the surface but at a deeper level.

-You try it! Philemon is a short book only 25 verses long that you can read in one sitting. Use the principles of thoughtful reading and barrage the text with questions. What is the relationship between Paul, Philemon and Onesimus? Reconstruct the situation. What feelings might be involved? Why do think it is significant that it is included in the Bible? What issues do you face today that this book might address? How would you communicate this book and the insights you gain from it to someone else?

2. Read Repeatedly

-Start at the beginning of the book

-Read the Bible in different translations

-Listen to the Bible on audio

-Read the Bible out loud

-Set up a Bible reading schedule

3. Read Patiently (very hard to do in our “fast paced” culture)

-Work with one book for a month

-This allows you to take ownership of a book and get to know themes, people and concepts very well.

-Zoom in and zoom out

-Get the big picture and then zero in on stories or chapters

*Be patient with yourself, you aren’t going to be a biblical scholar in a day.

4. Read Selectively

-Six questions to ask the text

– Who? Who are the people in the text?

-What? What is going on?

-Where? Where is the event(s) taking place?

-When? When is all this happening in relation to other things in scripture?

-Why? An infinity of these can be asked, and like a two-year-old, ask a lot.

-So what?

-You try it! Read Luke 24:13-35 three or four times and then probe it with the six questions and write down your observations.

5. Read Prayerfully

-Pray through a passage of scripture and make it personal to your own life. Some good ones to start with: Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:28-31; Philippians 4:8-9

6. Read Imaginitively

-Use different translations and paraphrases

-Rewrite the text in your own words

-Have someone read the text aloud

-Change your setting

-this may help your imagination while reading through the scriptures.

-You try it!

-Act out the account recorded in Acts 16:16-40 (Paul and Silas)

-Rewrite Psalm 19 in your own words

-Rewrite 1 Samuel 17 as to relate it to a gang of inner city youth

7. Read Thoughtfully

-Take time to pray and work through the context while asking probing questions and examining your own life in relation to the passage.

8. Read Purposefully

-Look at grammatical structure


-subject and object


-prepositional phrases


Look at literary structure





-Ideological (ideas and themes)

9. Read Acquisitively

-read not only to receive it, but to retain it; not merely to perceive it, but to possess it. Stake a claim on the text. Make it your own property. Personal, active involvement in the text allows this to happen.

10. Read Telescopically

-Pay attention to context

-Evaluate the passage in light of the book as a whole

-Look at the historical context of the book

Six things to look for:

  1. Things that are emphasized
  2. Things that are repeated
  3. Things that are related
  4. Things that are alike
  5. Things that are unlike
  6. Things that are true to life

Summarize your observations!

            -This will make it much easier on you when you refer back to it.

-Don’t underestimate the value of a chart when dealing with your summarizing.

Principles and methods of Bible study (Part Two: Interpretation)

Why Interpretation?

Language barriers

-The Bible was written in three different languages; Hebrew-OT, Aramaic-portions of the OT, and Greek- NT

-Learning a different language is some much more than learning words. You must learn the mind set, the culture and the worldview of those who speak it, if you really want to understand what they are saying.

Tools to use: Bible dictionary

Cultural barriers

-These are closely related to language barriers because language is always culture-bound. We must seek to reconstruct the cultural context in areas of communication, trade, transportation, agriculture, occupations, religions, and perception of time.

Tools to use: Bible Handbooks, Maps, Bible Atlas.

Literary barriers

-There are many diverse genres in the Bible, and we must learn how to interpret these genres in their own light. For instance, you cannot read Song of Solomon using the same cold logic that we read Romans. Also, you cannot interpret the parables of Jesus simply by doing the exhaustive word studies you would use while reading Galatians. Different genres require different ways of looking at them. You cannot expect to read a letter from me, the same way you would read a letter from your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s written differently, and therefore must be interpreted differently.

Six pitfalls to avoid when interpreting scripture

-Misreading the text

-Distorting the text

-Contradicting the text


-Relativism – the text meant one thing when it was written and means a different thing today.

-Overconfidence- thinking you have mastered a portion of scripture

Determine the type of literature

Different Biblical genres:

  1. Exposition- Paul’s letters, Hebrews through Jude
  2. Narrative or biography- Genesis through Ezra, The gospels, and Acts
  3. Parable- 2 Samuel 12:1-6, Ecc. 9:14-16, Matthew 13:1-53, Matthew 14:1-34, Luke 15:1-16:31(?)
  4. Poetry-Job through Song of Solomon
  5. Proverbs and wisdom literature- Proverbs
  6. Prophecy and apocalyptic – Revelation and Portions of Daniel and Matthew

Five basic principles of Interpretation

  1. Content- this you already possess in doing your observation of the text.

You try it! Begin by observing Daniel 1-2, one of the most instructive passages for the believer today, especially if you work in the marketplace. Remember to ask the six questions of the text: who, what, when, where, why, so what.

2. Context- context is what goes before a portion of scripture and what follows.

Some types of context:

Literary context- Paragraph, book, Bible as a whole.

Historical context- What else is taking place in history at this time? What is going on in the world while this is taking place? What are some social, political influences that are affecting the writer at this time?

Cultural context- the more you know about ancient cultures the more you’ll know about the text

Geographic context- this is incredibly relevant to the interpretation of scripture. This answers questions about the terrain, weather, relation of a town to another town, and what a particular location was known for.

Tools to use: Bible Atlases

Theological context- what did the author know about God? What other worldviews and religions were competing for influence? What was the relationship of his readers to God?

It is important to locate your passage in the flow of scripture.

Tool to use: Commentary

*You try it!

Daniel 1-2 have been observed, now it’s time to move on to context. Go back to 2 Kings 24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36 to get the preceding context. Then look at the following chapters in Daniel.

3. Comparison- in this step we compare scripture with scripture. Comparison points out the great need we have for a concordance. A concordance is a tool that helps you chase down the terms and concepts from one book of the Bible to the next.

You try it! Daniel 1-2 terms to look at:





4. Culture- this will help you understand why the author wrote what he did and why he wrote it in the way he did.

You try it!

Using a Bible Dictionary and/or a Bible handbook, look up the four items you just searched for in your concordance. See what additional light you can shed on Daniel 1-2.

5. Consultation- involves the use of secondary resources

-online or on your mobile device


-Strong’s Bible Concordance

-Vines Word studies

-Bible dictionaries

-Bible handbooks

-Macarthur Bible handbook

-Halley’s Bible handbook



-some trustworthy commentaries/authors

-John Macarthur

-NICNT (new international commentary on the NT)

-Bible Knowledge Commentary

-Warren Wiersbe

-Old Testament books by Leon Wood

You try it! Consult an Old Testament commentary and perhaps a single volume commentary on the book of Daniel. What questions do these resources answer for you? What additional information do they supply?

Additional things to check out in the bible dictionary and handbook would be: government in Babylon, the Chaldeans, ziggurats, Cyrus, and foods in the ancient world.

Coming to terms: Using a concordance and Bible dictionary

Principles and methods of Bible study (Part Three: Application)
Studying the Bible without applying it is like eating without digesting. In other words, when you take the time to observe the Word of God, figure out what it means, and fail to put it into practice, you do not profit from the purpose of the Bible. You see, the Bible wasn’t meant to satisfy our curiosity, it was meant to change our lives.

Four steps in application
1. Know
-Know the text
-a key thought: “Interpretation is one, application is many”. There is ultimately only one correct interpretation, but there can be many applications to life.

2. Relate
*Application helps you relate the Word and come up with some new insights on life:
-a new relationship to God
-a new relationship to yourself
-a new relationship to other people
-a new relationship to the enemy
-the Word exposes your sin
-the Word gives you God’s promises
-the Word gives you God’s commands
-the Word gives you examples to follow

3. Meditate
-We must weave scripture into the fabric of everyday living according to Joshua 1:8. So therefore meditation is so key here in the third step of studying the Bible.

4. Practice
-Ask yourself some questions to help you put the text into practice.
1. Is there an example for me to follow?
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
3. Is there a promise to claim?
4. Is there a prayer to repeat?
5. Is there a command to obey?
6. Is there a condition to meet?
-John 15:7 “If you abide in me…”
7. Is there a verse to memorize?
8. Is there an error to correct?
9. Is there a challenge to face?