Tips for Successful Bible Study

Bible study is fascinating. You may doubt that if your past approach has been to start with Genesis and read straight through. Chances are you made it to Leviticus and gave up. Let’s face it. The Bible is not always easy reading. It requires attention and effort, and it may even require a little help. When Philip encountered an Ethiopian who was reading the scriptures, he asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian looked up from the book of Isaiah and answered," How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:31).
The Bible is not one book, but many. And they are ancient books, written in strange tongues with the truth expressed in many complex ways. The Bible has a surface simplicity that reaches out to the mind of a child with remarkable clarity and purity. Yet it also has a depth and subtlety that have baffled philosophers down through the ages.
The books of the Bible seem unrelated in many ways, and yet a pattern is deliberately interwoven, sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious. Solomon wrote: "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings to search out a matter" (Proverbs 25:2). God has not laid out the truth in stark clarity for all men to see. The truth will come, but it may come slowly. It may come with considerable effort. Sometimes we need a guide, yet the individual must search out the answers for himself.


Obviously, your most important acquisition for Bible study is the Bible itself. If you already own a Bible, your initial decision is made for you. Chances are that your Bible is a King James Version, but many people find that hard reading. They want to know which translation is best, easiest to read, most accurate, or most literal. Unfortunately, no one translation fits all these descriptions.


If you do not own one at all, and you are only going to buy one Bible, your choice should probably be between the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, or the New King James Version. After that it depends upon what you are looking for. If you want easy readability, the Living Bible is hard to beat. If you want a more literal translation, perhaps the New American Standard Bible is for you.

Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the truth of God can even survive bad translation. But you still should not carelessly accept one version of a controversial scripture.

One other point if you are buying a new Bible. The version you will use the most, carry to church, read in bed, make notes in, etc., should be of good enough quality to last a lifetime. Look for one with wide margins so you can make notes in it. After a few years, a personally marked and annotated Bible will be one of your most cherished possessions. Your other translations can be more economically bound.


Frequently, you will want to know where a given scripture, sentence, or phrase is to be found in the Bible. You could find it if you had a concordance.
A complete or exhaustive concordance simply takes every place in the Bible a given word is mentioned and lists it in the phrase in which it is found. If you have heard, for example, that the phrase "Every tub will sit on its own bottom" is in the Bible, all you have to do is look in your concordance under "tub" and learn that it is not there after all.

When you go to buy a concordance, you will find quickly why so many continue to use the King James Version. Most concordances are compiled from the King James Version of the Bible.
The two most popular concordances are Cruden’s Complete Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Cruden’s Concordance is smaller, cheaper, and handier to use. Strong’s Concordance is a huge volume, but it also includes a cross-reference to the Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible.
If you would rather have a subject index instead of the key word index of the concordance, Nave’s Topical Bible should fill the bill nicely.

At least as important as a concordance is a Bible handbook. The beginning student can easily get lost. A Bible handbook gives you valuable background information plus the story flow of each book of the Bible. One of the most economical and easy to use is Halley’s Bible Handbook, although others may serve just as well.

People also ask about commentaries, but beware that they are expensive. To name a few:

The Critical & Experimental Commentary.

Clarke’s Commentary of the Bible.

Expositor’s Bible Commentary published by Zondervan Press.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

After the fundamentals of two or three versions of the Bible, a concordance and a Bible handbook, no Bible study aid more helpful than a Bible encyclopedia. Shop carefully. You might find an old set at a bargain.

Far down the list of useful books would be an atlas of the Bible and a dictionary of the Bible.
If you do not have a Bible book store nearby, write to Christian Book Distributors, Box 3687, Peabody, MA 01960 and request their current catalog. Even if you do have a book store nearby, you can probably beat the price through a mail order book store.


Systematic marking of the Bible can be effective in three major ways:
1. It focuses attention on the scriptures at the time of marking.
2. It brings your eye back to the scripture easily and quickly in future study.
3. It makes key scriptures easier to find later.

Before you begin, take a few minutes before and after your study to pray about the things you are learning, you will make a start in building a deeper relationship with your God and Savior.

A final word: We hope you will continue to study the Bible and that you will come to love the Holy Scriptures. May God bless you in your meditation, your study and your prayers.


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