What are some different methods of Bible study?Question: "What are some different methods of Bible study?"
Answer: There are several different Bible study methods we can use to study in an organized or systematic way. For the purpose of this article, we will classify them into two broad categories: Book Studies and Topical Studies. Before discussing the different types of Bible study methods, it is important to recognize that all of them have certain things in common and must follow certain hermeneutic rules or principles in order to avoid misinterpreting what the Bible says. For example, whatever type of Bible study method we use, it is important that the study carefully takes into consideration the context of the subject or verse being studied, both within the immediate context of the chapter or book itself and within the overall context of the Bible. Our first goal must be to understand what the original or intended meaning of the passage is. In other words, what was the human author's intended meaning, and how would his original audience have understood what he wrote? This principle recognizes that the Bible was not written in a vacuum, but is an historical document written at a specific point in history with a specific audience in mind for a specific purpose. Once the true meaning of the passage is understood, then we should seek to understand how it applies to us today.
Book Studies: This Bible study method focuses either on a complete book in the Bible or specific part of a book, such as a specific chapter, a range of verses, or a single verse itself. With chapter and verse-by-verse methods and with the study of an overall book, the principles and goals are the same. For example, in order to do a thorough book study, we must necessarily also study the context of individual chapters and verses. Likewise, in order to correctly study a particular verse, we need to also study the overall message of the chapter and book that verse is found in. Of course, whether it is on the individual verse level, or a complete book study, we must always consider the overall context of the whole Bible as well.
Topical Studies: There are many varieties of topical studies that we can do. Some examples include biographical studies, where we study all the Bible says about particular person; word studies, where we study all the Bible says about a particular word or subject; and geographical studies, where we learn all we can about a particular town, country, or nation mentioned in the Bible. Topical studies are important for understanding all the Bible teaches on a particular subject or topic. We must be careful, though, that the conclusions drawn from a topical study do not come from taking verses out of their original context in order to imply a meaning that could not be supported by doing a verse study or book study. Topical studies are helpful in systematically organizing and understanding what the Bible teaches on specific subjects.
In studying the Bible, it is really quite beneficial to use different Bible study methods at different times. Sometimes, we might want to devote extended time to do a book study while at other times we can benefit greatly from doing some type of topical study. Whichever type of study we are doing, we must follow these basic steps: 1-Observation-what does the Bible say? 2-Interpretation-What does the Bible mean? and 3-Application-How does this biblical truth apply to my life, or how is this passage relevant today? No matter what method of Bible study we do, we must be careful to rightly divide the Word of God so that we are workmen that need not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15).
Recommended Resource: Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible, Revised and Updated by Howard & William Hendricks
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