The Definitive Bible Study Guide (Part 1)

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.”

Ecclesiastes 12:11

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.”

James 5:19-20

(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.

Cross References Infographic

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.”

Proverbs 25:2

margin template 2

Marginal Notes:

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.

marginal notes infographic.jpg

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.”

Isaiah 12:3

to be continued…

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Evidence for Enoch: A Hidden Treasure?

I was immediately stunned, after long overdue, I began reading the Book of Enoch. Halfway into the text the exhilaration had yet to subside due to it’s resounding resemblance in phrases unique to the Bible and themes only a seasoned Bible student would recognize like a picture painted in real time. Before undertaking it’s study, I would see echoes of the story of the Fallen Angels in details of scripture and get the feeling the ancient Jewish people knew something we didn’t. It was almost as if the content of Enoch was so well known back then, that it’s knowledge serves as the hidden backdrop to understanding things we still have difficulty coming to grips with today. I’m very well convinced of the legitimacy of this text, but want to provide you with information to make your own decision.

The initial reason why the Book of Enoch is even a topic of discussion amongst the christian church is the fact that it’s quoted in the book of Jude:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Jude 1:14, 15

med enoch book

All references of Enoch and thematic parallels we see in scripture serve as our anchor to taking this subject seriously.The quote from the Bible and the Book of Enoch are by a few words not exact. The differences are easily chalked up to a transliteration issue. This is also seen within scripture, when someone in the New Testament quotes in Greek, a verse from the Old Testament originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew. The essence remains, but it doesn’t differ so much as to negate it’s validity. I bring this up because some people writing on this subject state that the above verse does not validate the idea that it was taken from the Book of Enoch, because “the Bible doesn’t specifically state there is a book called Enoch.” The testimony of the person of Enoch in Genesis, his prophecy in Jude, and all other references we see in scripture weigh the argument out in the opposite direction and serve as our anchor to taking this subject seriously.

A valid question that comes up should be addressed before we continue: “Why is it not in the Bible?” The answer is in what we know of it’s history.

The King James Version of the Bible was produced from 1604 to 1611. When King James commissioned his 40 scholars to translate the manuscripts we now consider to be our Bible, the book of Enoch wasn’t known to be in existence, at least in Europe. It wasn’t until another century had passed, in 1773 the Scottish traveler James Bruce rediscovered the text’s in the official canon of the Ethiopic Christian Church. The list of Church Fathers who reference the Book of Enoch is extensive, Tertullian being just one. They claim their version survived from the 1st century and there are a number of early church father’s referencing the book to back that up. That said, while it’s not in our canon, it is in others, and many of those historical references deem it as inspired.

tertullian copy

In the second century, Tertullian, who some consider the father of western theology, defended the legitimacy of Enoch when he wrote:

“I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason (for rejecting it), let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself; and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s “grace in the sight of God,” and concerning all his preachings; since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of (his) preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition (of things) made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.

If (Noah) had not had this (conservative power) by so short a route, there would (still) be this (consideration) to warrant our assertion of (the genuineness of) this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.”

(On the Apparel of Women, Chapter 3, Lines 23-30)

Found only once in the Old Testament, where does the term “The Son of Man,” obtain it’s depth?Traveling further down the rabbit hole, in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “The Son of Man,” a specific term solely reserved for a description of the Messiah, but where did that term come from? It’s only found once in the Old Testament, in the book of Daniel? In addition, other very specific terms like the tribulation, the elect, and Sheol (unique to the Bible), the Book of Enoch uses the phrase “The Son of Man” extensively in reference to a messianic figure. Furthermore, the context that phrase is used lines up perfectly with the Christ of the New Testament and His physical description described by John in Revelation. Interestingly, the term “The Watchers,” is also only found once in the entire Bible, in the book of Daniel, and also developed rather extensively in Enoch in reference to angels.

The list of striking parallels doesn’t end there, and it’s illustrative power to speak to some of the deepest most misunderstood themes of scripture are setup to view like relics from the halls of a forgotten museum. The great white throne judgement, the millennial reign of Christ, the tree of life the righteous will partake of, bringing the hills low and melting the earth with fervent heat during the recreation of the new heaven and new earth is all there. Not to mention, the garden of Eden, the paradise of God, and the fascination continues. People wonder if the Book of Enoch has stolen these ideas from the New Testament and is simply a forgery, but bearing the fact that fourteen fragments written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic were found in the caves of Qumran in 1947, and the earlier manuscripts date back as early as 300 B.C., it would be impossible for the Book of Enoch to be a fraud in that regard.

Antique Scrolls

It gnawed at me every time I’d read about the angels in scripture or some theme that echoed a worldview foreign to our basic Christian doctrines. I kept thinking, The Book of Enoch had something to do with it. Then one morning I asked God’s guidance as to what I should read and felt the gentle nudging to begin my study. I took the fresh copy off my shelf and the first paragraph summed up my view of eschatology that took years to understand; I couldn’t believe Enoch shared my sentiments!

When you feel it’s the right time, hopefully sooner than later, don’t fall for the fakes produced hundreds of years A.D. having no relation to what’s now considered Enoch 1. Also, use the ultimate measuring stick, the Word of God as we know it, the Bible, to compare when you consider it’s validity. Finally, realize with all it’s dealings of weightier matters of the faith, the end times are upon us and therein rest’s it’s true relevance.