Whether you’re new to studying the Bible or a seasoned student of the Holy Writ, this definitive guide will offer fresh perspectives of tools that are hidden in plain sight. Along with explanations of the benefit of cross references, using marginal notes, and considering italicized text; in this part 1 of the guide I offer ‘why it’s crucial to study,’ and what are the best translations to use for study. After going over this information you will be well on your way to becoming one of God’s greatest pupils.
Here are 3 definitive reasons why you should study the Bible:
1. We study the Word of God because “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Therefore the best thing for us to do is to put our head down and study.
In speaking of the prophetic words of God, the Apostle Peter said:
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
2 Peter 1:19
Essentially, Peter is saying we must focus on the Word of God solely for a time until something happens. He then gives the metaphor of the day dawning, and the morning star rising in our hearts. He’s speaking of a personal experience each of us should have, but what is it? The truth is, you won’t know until you receive it, but according to the verse, it takes an eye that’s attentively fixed upon the Word of God for an indefinite period.
When you take these words seriously and judge everything by the Holy Scripture, continuously looking through it’s lens, then and only then will it begin to dawn on you that the Word of God is the one answer to everything, and not just in theory, in reality. It is this paradigm shift you can only receive by rolling up your sleeves and digging in, because the mosaic which is God’s perspective we seek to obtain, comes:
“…precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28: 10
2. In order to live God’s way we must learn how.
This one’s simple and should absolutely compel you to want to study God’s Word. It also dovetails the first one perfectly, because if you don’t understand how to live God’s way, to you, Christianity becomes an impractical belief system. Yet, when you study the Word of God, you realize how amazingly practical it actually is. King David said:
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
Psalms 119:33, 34
This was the cry of one of the most revered men in the Bible. He received that reputation because of his desire to understand the essence of God’s teachings, and the practical applications of them. He knew if he was to be obedient, then God would have to teach him how, through the scriptures.
3. To gain wisdom that’s undeniable.
When you see yourself in ‘the mirror of the Word,’ (James 1:23, 24) and find answers as to how to change personally, not only do you benefit, but if others are willing, you can help them too. The Bible says:
“…the words of scholars are like well driven nails.”
The more you sift through the scriptures, the more you gain refined points of view. When it comes time to express those to another person you won’t come off as confusing. Instead, you will present truth that is so on point, that person will simply have to make a choice. Communicating the Word is a skill that takes time to develop, but the payoff can have eternal ramifications.
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
(Further reading on this subject can be found in Proverbs chapter 2. It’s essentially devoted to the benefits of study, and gives a number of additional reasons as to why it’s so crucial. You should read it and consider it when you have the opportunity.)
What translation should I use when I study?
In order to answer this question we have to take into account the two main methods of translation.
Formal equivalence translates original manuscripts word for word, while dynamic equivalence translates original manuscripts sense to sense. There is a massive amount of beneficial information to be discussed when it comes to the issue of translations, but for this definitive Bible study guide it’s clear which one is the best to choose.
When it comes to authenticity and having the ability to dig deeper into the meaning of the words of scripture, a word for word translation is essential. Dynamic equivalence creates a paraphrase, and the theology, or assumptions of the translator will be ingrained within the text, and therefore when you want to go deeper it’s like searching through fog. With formal equivalence, you’re one layer away from deep study and that’s where you want to be, ready to pull the trigger when God points something out of significance to you.
In the next part of this series I will get deeper into how to do word studies with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which has a detailed Hebrew and Greek dictionary of about every word that’s in the original text of the Bible. This particular concordance uses the King James version because of it’s formal equivalence. I find that using a New King James Version adds ease of reading and because of it’s strong relation to the original King James Version, it’s easy to pair with the Strong’s Concordance.
Bottom line, you should definitely have a study Bible that uses formal equivalence as it’s method of translation. By doing so, you’re setting yourself up to seek understanding “as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.” (Proverbs 2:4)
Utilizing Cross References:
Cross references are the easiest way to engage in a meaningful Bible study session. A cross reference is a scripture related to the text you are reading, by word, topic, or theme, that will further expound, and develop the idea you’re reading.
Considering Italicized Text:
Bible’s will note that “Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Aramaic or Hebrew,” nor the Greek for that matter, throughout the entire Bible. This fact should not unsettle you, because more often then not I find these words are a perfect bridge to help make sense of a phrase difficult to translate into English prose with precision.
Yet, it’s important to take note of as some Bible researchers do; at times they find the words in italicized text will fall short of the deeper meaning of the context in its original language, although rare. Nevertheless, it’s a great fact to take into consideration, because if there are gems of truth to be found, that are not clearly on the surface, then you have the opportunity to find them.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
Marginal notes will be notated by small numbers next to any particular word in a verse and be expanded in the margin. No marginal note is the same. The publishers point out anything from ‘how a particular Bible manuscript may differ in translation of a phrase or verse,’ to an alternate word that can be used in place of what is in the text. Marginal notes can offer more diversity than what I listed, and serve as great clues for further study.
These are just three of many Bible tools that often go unnoticed. They’re their to help you when you read and are a great place to start when you want to go deeper with the text.
The truth is, when it come’s to understanding even the plain meaning of the Bible, you have to take into consideration that we, in our present age, are thousands of years removed from the culture’s of ancient times. The endeavor is not hopeless though, we have the opportunity to draw from an equal amount of years of meticulous study of this book from centuries before the time of Christ until now.
In the next part of this series we will get into understanding the Bible in it’s historical context, I will show you how to do a word study in the original languages, give you additional tools for clarity of definitions, and go over an amazing model developed over thousands of years for interpreting the text.
I hope you’ve learned a lot and are excited to open your Bible and:
“…draw water from the wells of salvation.”
to be continued…