An Internet search of Bible Study Methods will reveal page after page of study methods generally providing the same information. I have visited hundreds of sites looking for a study method not taught by people but by the scriptures. Every single one of these sites fell short.
Incomplete study methods are known by a variety of names. The instructions range from three simple steps to more than a dozen. Following is a list of commonly found steps.
Consider the verse, chapter, book.
Research the author.
Consider the background and history.
Study the sentence structure.
Look up the Hebrew or Greek words.
Compare a number of translations.
Identify the subject and characters.
Each of these steps contributes to a Bible study to a certain degree, depending upon the verse being considered. The instructions seem to vary in the final step. But do they? Following is a list of the final steps copied from popular Bible study sites found on the Internet.
Write the verse in your own words.
What does the verse say to you?
How does this apply to you?
What does this verse speak to you?
What is your interpretation?
Reveal your thoughts.
What does this teach about yourself?
What are the meanings of the words?
What does the immediate context suggest?
What does the broader context suggest?
All of these Bible Studies place the emphasis of interpretation on the reader. One might claim this is how the Holy Spirit works. You read scripture and the Holy Spirit interprets through your thoughts. Is this Biblical teaching? Few studies found on the Internet provide a scriptural basis for their method of teaching.
What is the foundation for this form of Bible study? This is a relatively new form of Bible study originally established by the Church of Scientology, which relies upon concepts found in Eastern religions. One may speculate this is a fulfillment of the acted parable in which king Solomon married many wives in an attempt to maintain peace throughout his kingdom. See 1Kings 11. In an attempt to reach out to other religions, Christian denominations have adopted many ideas and concepts from these targeted groups. Churches have compromised the word of God in an attempt to increase numbers. Nonchristian forms of religion have been blended together in an attempt to make Christianity more appealing to the world. At the same time, lessons taught in the Bible have been watered down to conform to a wider variety of beliefs. Following is a collection of material copied from some of these religious web sites. Links are provided for your convenience.
In Scientology no one is asked to accept anything as belief or on faith. That which is true for you is what you have observed to be true. An individual discovers for himself that Scientology works by personally applying its principles and observing or experiencing results. Http://www.scientology.org/home.html
Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called Brahman and its identity with the individual soul, or atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can be broken only by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained.
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: Hinduism http://www.answers.com/topic/hinduism
Buddhism has been described as a very pragmatic religion. It does not indulge in metaphysical speculation about first causes; there is no theology, no worship of a deity or deification of the Buddha. Buddhism takes a very straightforward look at our human condition; nothing is based on wishful thinking, at all. Everything that the Buddha taught was based on his own observation of the way things are. Everything that he taught can be verified by our own observation of the way things are. Http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/intro_bud.htm
Confucius saw himself as a “transmitter and not a creator.” He believed that he was merely teaching the dao (tao, or Way) of China’s ancient sages. However, he was more original than he realized. The Analects is the earliest Chinese text that stresses the concept of ren (jen). Ren has been translated as “benevolence,” “humaneness,” or simply “goodness.” For Confucius, ren is the summation of human virtues. Ren is a quality that every human should strive to achieve, but it is so exalted that Confucius is wary of attributing ren to anyone. Thus for Confucius, the good life is an endless aspiration for ethical perfection. Http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761553693/confucianism.html
Do you see the relationship between concepts these other religions teach and this relatively new form of Bible study? All of them, including the Christian religion, rely upon the individual to interpret truth. Does modern Christianity differ from these other religions? When Christians teach that the supreme authority of Bible study lies within the mind of the reader, they are teaching the exact same philosophy nonchristian religions are founded upon.
If truth is whatever an individual determines, can truth really exist? Every interpretation cannot be correct. The Bible tells us we should “henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” KJV Ephesians 4:14.
Proper methods of Bible Study are taught within the scriptures as well as improper methods. Following are two examples showing Satan taking scripture out of context to serve his purposes.
KJV Genesis 3:4-5
4. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Some people believe Satan told the first lie in Genesis 3:4. To confirm this we need to locate the text Satan is quoting.
17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Satan clearly misquotes God and completely changes the context by adding a single word, “not”. This example is easy to recognize, but this is not Satan’s first deception. A close examination of Genesis 3 will reveal a far more lethal example of Satan’s manipulation of God’s word.
KJV Genesis 3:1
1. Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Notice how subtle Satan can be? He goes as far as stating, “Yea, hath God said”. To check Satan’s use of scripture we need to locate the text accurately quoting God.
KJV Genesis 2:16-17
16. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
You may be asking yourself, “what is the difference?” There is a big difference. When paraphrasing the word of God great care must be taken not to alter the context. How has Satan altered the context? God’s word made it perfectly clear Adam could eat of every tree, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There was only one tree they could not eat from.
When we consider Satan’s words we may get the impression there is more than one tree Eve was not allowed to eat from. This may not seem like much of a difference but consider for one moment, Satan was attempting to enter into a discussion with Eve, who had been warned to stay away from the tree this serpent was sitting in. Would it be stretching the imagination to consider the idea, Satan had planned to alter God’s words just enough to obtain an innocent correction from Eve, which would be honoring God and His word. After all, it was Satan’s plan to discredit God. Didn’t Satan just accuse God of withholding the fruit of more than one tree? How could correcting the misuse of God’s words put one in danger? That is exactly what Eve did, she entered into a dialog with Satan.
Satan must have thought he was quite the deceiver, he was able to trick Eve into eating from the tree God had warned against. Satan didn’t stop there, for thousands of years he has practiced his craft, studying scripture and suggesting a little change here and a little compromise there. Satan must have figured he had honed his manipulation to a form of art. He did not hesitate to work his deceptive power on the Son of God.
KJV Matthew 4:6
6. And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
To find how accurately Satan quoted the Bible in this instance we need to locate the text.
KJV Psalms 91:11-14
11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. 14. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
The Bible clearly shows, Satan neglected to quote a large portion. As we read the actual text we understand why. This example illustrates a valuable lesson. Whenever anyone quotes scripture always check the context. You can never tell what a person will add, omit or alter in an attempt to change the true meaning to support a predetermined concept or creed.
Using scripture, Jesus gave us an example to avoid error. Satan was once a covering angel standing before God’s throne. Jesus knew this. He also knew Satan would use the word of God in an attempt to confuse and deceive Him. Jesus knew His only protection against such a wily foe would be in the complete word of God.
Eve was safe as long as she answered using the word of God. Once the conversation deviated, she was lost. Satan used this same concept on the Son of God. He hoped to draw Jesus into a debate designed to avoid the use of God’s word. Satan changed the conversation from the word of God to worldly gain. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” KJV Matthew 4:8-9. As before, Jesus’ reply began with, “it is written.” And Satan departed. In this lesson Jesus teaches, answer the word of God with the word of God. If the subject changes, do not answer with the thoughts of the world, but with the wisdom of God.
Why would anyone consider using a Bible study method designed to lead away from the word of God? This is the deception Jesus warned about. Once we leave the word of God we are walking in Satan’s territory.
When we consider the final step of the most popular modern Bible studies we are told to write the text in our own words, even though the Bible shows us, this is the method Satan uses to deceive people.
Using the Bible, we have discovered a lesson showing us the danger of deviating from the word of God. Using this knowledge, the logical manner of Bible study would use the Bible to explain the Bible. Does such a method exist? The answer is yes. It is known as the simple word study. This method has been used for hundreds of years. Martin Luther used this method in the late 1400’s and declared, ” the Bible is the only infallible source of religious authority.” Even before Martin Luther, John Wycliffe used this method of study in the 1300’s. Others received the same message from God as Martin Luther and built upon his finding by using the same study methods. Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, Guillaume Farel in France, and Menno Simons in the Netherlands. Each of these early reformers used the simple method of tracing a subject through the Bible by simple word studies, which explained the spiritual meaning of the subject in question.
It is not surprising to find this was the same period of history in which early concordances were developed. Early concordances were alphabetical lists of the principal words found in the Bible. This made studying much easier and opened the door to the discovery of God’s messages hidden within His parables. Since that time, the concordance has been used by every notable Biblical scholar.
The concordance can be used to explain any metaphor used in a parable. These metaphors can be used to explain verses in the Bible that may be difficult to understand. Following is an example of a simple word study.
KJV Jeremiah 51:42
42. The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.
Jeremiah tells us a sea will cover Babylon which is approximately 100 feet above sea level making this an unlikely event. Whenever we discover text appearing to stand against the physical laws of nature, we must assume it has a spiritual meaning. How do we find the spiritual meaning? The only safe method is to use the Bible by locating other texts using the word sea.
KJV Isaiah 5:30. And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
KJV Isaiah 17:12. Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
KJV Isaiah 57:20. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
The above texts shows a troubled sea is used to represent people. Once we have identified the spiritual meaning of the word we can substitute it for the physical word.
People came up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.
Is there Biblical proof of this type of study? Is this method explained within the scriptures? To answer these questions we need to search the Bible for information explaining how to understand the word of God.
KJV Luke 8:9-11
9. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10. And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
KJV Mark 4:33-34
33. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
Luke 8, Mark 4 and Matthew 13 contain parables explained by Jesus. How did Jesus know these interpretations? Since it is Jesus’ habit to use and follow God’s word, it would be logical to find out if He received the spiritual meaning for each of the key words from the scriptures. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. KJV John 1:1-2. This type of study method would be consistent with Jesus and His teachings.
Two studies test this theory. The key words Jesus interpreted in the parables of Luke 8 and Mark 4 have been studied using only the Old Testament to find the spiritual meaning. In every case the spiritual meaning found in the Old Testament matched Jesus’ interpretation. These studies can be found on the following sites:
Mark 4 The Man Casting Seed http://adventbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/mark-4-the-man-casting-seed/
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
KJV Isaiah 55:8-11
8. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
This prophesy found in Isaiah leads us directly to the parable of the sower and the casting of seeds. When God tells us, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” we understand His methods of communication are unlike anything man could create. We must admit, we can never hope to understand God’s word with methods established by men. This leaves us with no other option but to turn to God’s word for answers.
“So are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This is such an important point God has emphasized this in two similar statements. It is a common method God uses when He introduces a concept he does not want us to miss. Following this statement, God gives us a text clearly pointing to the parables of the sower and the man casting seed. These are two of the few parables in which Jesus’ interpretations have been recorded.
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” God chose this as a closing statement for this prophecy to lead us to the method of study He has planted within the words of the Bible. God’s word goes forth. It is recorded in the Bible. God’s word will not return unto Him void but will accomplish that which God pleases. God’s word is compared to a growing seed to illustrate the ability for growth. Since we have established the fact, wandering from God’s word is not advisable, it can only grow by comparing God’s word to God’s word.
KJV Matthew 13:34-35
34. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 13 is another chapter relating the parable of the sower. In Matthew we find a direct link given by Jesus which leads us to a prophesy about parables.
KJV Psalms 78:1-6
1. Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: 3. Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. 4. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. 5. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6. That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
Two very important points are explained in Psalms 78. The words, “Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us” and the phrase “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers“, indicate parables originated in the Old Testament. The text goes on to explain, these parables are to be shown, “to the generation to come“, so “That the generation to come might know them.”
The main object of this prophecy is to provide an explanation of a parable. This prophecy can be divided into two main categories. The first deals with the past, things that have already happened. We see this in verse 3. “Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” What have they been told is explained in verse 5. “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers.” The law and the testimony in Jacob represent the Old Testament.
Since the first portion of the prophecy deals with the past, the second must deal with either the present or the future which is explained in verse 4. “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” Children and of course, generations to come represent the future. Additional details are added in verse 6. “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:” What are these wonderful works of God that will be known in the generations to come after David’s time? They are the parables, as described in verse 2.
Psalms 78 is a prophecy showing parables will be made clear or explained by the Old Testament. This prophecy, written thousands of years before Christ spoke His first parable, explained how they were to be interpreted. This parable also explains, parables will be declared to their children. This method used to understand parables will be taught over many generations.
We can compare this method of Bible study taught in scripture to other popular methods used. One popular method teaches the student to compare the same scripture within different translations. Is this a safe method of Bible study? Is it taught within the Bible?
Many modern translations are nothing more than a paraphrase of the Bible in which key words have been omitted or changed. Concordances are not available for Paraphrased Bibles.
Other modern translations have been created by individual denominations, omitting or changing portions of the original texts in an attempt to give more weight to the particular creed the translator follows. These Bibles may be based on a biased opinion.
Some modern versions have been translated by committee; a large group of theologians from many denominations. For the most part these versions have been very careful to hold true to the word of God and have used great care, using the original language of the scriptures to maintain accuracy.
The advice of using a number of translations to understand a verse presents a number of drawbacks. Unless you are familiar with the versions you are using, you run the risk of using a number of poor translations. If half the versions are poor translations you have a 50/50 chance of receiving an interpretation based on a predetermined view, which may not be accurate. As the number of versions increases the probability of receiving biased information also increases.
A more reliable source is to use a single version. Using a version of the Bible supported by a concordance is a wise decision. Key words may have been altered, but a concordance will give you the ability to study the original meaning of any word in question. The word garment is a good example. The King James Version links the word garment to robe, which will provide the complete spiritual definition. If you are using a version that does not provide this link given in Isaiah 61:10, a concordance will supply the same link, by defining a garment as, “apparel (especially the outer robe):” Now you can see how God’s ways are higher than your ways. Providing a method of translation embedded within the books of the Bible ensure His word will accomplish its purpose.
Some studies suggest the use of a modern dictionary. This also may present flaws. There are a number of words which have drastically changed meaning over the years. Many modern dictionaries concentrate on adopting slang, which leads to additional confusion. In today’s use of the English language the word cool can mean many different things including temperature, disdain or excellent. This is an illustration of how the use of modern dictionaries can interfere with proper interpretations.
The most common forms of modern Bible study teach the translation is fully dependent upon the student’s personal feelings. They may refer to this as a leading of the Holy Spirit. Can this be Biblically proven? A look at the most common texts on the subject of study will answer this question.
KJV John 16:13-14
13. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Most modern forms of Bible study are based upon a loose interpretation of this text. They claim the Spirit will guide you into all truth by supplying your mind with thoughts and ideas. They define the word guide as, “to give,” claiming the Spirit will give you all the information required. The original meaning of the word guide is, “to show the way,” which implies work on the part of the student. If a teacher gives answers to a student, there is very little effort on the part of the student. If a teacher shows a student how to obtain an answer, the student must provide an effort to achieve the desired result. A physical guide will show you the way but will not make the journey for you. It requires effort to arrive at your destination.
KJV 1 Corinthians 2:5-16
5. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 6. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8. Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This well known text provides a great amount of detailed information. Once again we are shown, the Spirit will reveal information to us and goes on to explain, “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. ” The key word is search. There is a connection between guide and search. Our, “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” This is an important detail to keep in mind when we consider how deep our search should progress. The deeper we search the more likely we are to uncover the hidden wisdom of God which is given to us to understand because, “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.”
This text also provides an identifying feature of the type of study the spirit teaches. “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The Lord of glory who was crucified is Jesus. What was it, the people, who crucified Jesus, did not understand?
KJV Mark 4:11-13
11. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12. That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The people responsible for the execution Christ could not understand the parables. This illustrates the importance of properly understanding the parables.
Finally, we are shown how the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. How are spiritual things compared with spiritual things? By comparing scripture with scripture.
KJV Isaiah 28:9-13
9. Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11. For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Who does the Holy Spirit teach? Those that are weaned from milk, which means, those that are familiar with the basic concepts of the Bible. This prophecy shows basic understanding is the beginning of knowledge. What does the Spirit teach? The Spirit teaches us to compare spiritual things with spiritual, precept upon precept, line upon line. This point is so important, it is has been repeated.
Modern concepts of Bible study rely upon the student for the final interpretation.
Jesus used scripture to answer all the attacks of Satan.
Eve fell into temptation when she allowed herself to wander from the word of God.
Use a reliable version of the Bible with a Concordance available for detailed study.
A Concordance can be used to explain any text by conducting a simple word study.
Parables teach the wisdom of God and are designed to teach the Bible study method of using scripture to explain scripture.
The Holy Spirit will guide you to all truth, which is accomplished by comparing precept with precept, line upon line.
When interpreting scripture rely on nothing but the Bible.