You and your church members have had to be online like never before for work, church, and school. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something else could be online—the church library?
I was talking with a friend recently about how I’d been spending a lot of time reading books about the Bible, but less time reading the Bible itself. The spaces between my personal reflections on Scripture were growing wider. I still felt like I was growing and learning, but deep down I knew I was missing something.
Our conversation turned to my parents, who have been incredible, faithful examples of what it means to follow Jesus all my life—but they rarely read the Bible. For my parents, years of task-oriented, check-the-box dedication to Bible study left them with a bitter taste in their mouths. Reading the Bible and memorizing its verses had been impressed upon them so strongly that they could no longer read the Bible without also recalling the negative reinforcement and guilt that often accompanies regimented Bible-reading groups. Both of my parents have preferred to learn and grow by reading someone else’s reflections on Scripture rather than diving into it themselves.
They were spiritually scarred by their perspective of Bible study.
I grew up thinking, “But that’s still no excuse.” Yet, as I found myself encountering similar methodologies for Bible study, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this going to wear me out too?” My parents were once just as enthusiastic about Bible study as I was.
The church has more Bible study plans, methods, groups, and techniques than we know what to do with. But here’s the thing: these methods help you create discipline to do something you should want to do. If you don’t see the purpose behind the methods, you’ll burn out. On their own, Bible reading plans and verse memorization techniques are overwhelming—they take time and effort, and can leave you feeling guilty for missing a day, a week, or a meeting.
Starting a Bible reading plan is like starting a new diet.
Changing your diet takes discipline. Even if it’s something you really want for yourself, it’s easy to slip up and forget about it. If you let bad habits keep footholds in your life, you’ll fail before you start, and you’ll never create the healthy new habits you want.
The Bible is one of our greatest sources of spiritual food. But sometimes we still fill up on junk food. Blogs, social media, news, TV shows, books, and games. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but when they’re the only sources of perspective, information, and insight you consume, something is missing.
When you have a sodium deficiency, your body craves salty foods. You might not even notice that you’re craving salty foods in particular, but your body is reacting to that deficiency by creating a desire for something that restores it.
Many non-Christians have no desire to read the Bible. They want nothing to do with it. But that doesn’t mean that as God’s creation they don’t, on some level, crave his truth, his wisdom, his love, or his perspective. I see non-Christians all the time who have no idea how closely their innermost desires parallel God’s desires for them.
A Christian, though, is much more likely to notice the source of this spiritual deficiency—we’ve already been exposed to the source of God’s wisdom, truth, and perspective. God’s Word is meant to permeate every aspect of our lives. Our knowledge of him is supposed to transform us into “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15), but something smells fishy.
The more the spaces grow between my daily readings, the more I find myself saying things like, “That reminds me of a verse in [book of the Bible],” or, “That sounds kind of like the passage where . . .” Before I know it, I’m not just paraphrasing Scripture anymore—I’m making vague references to it, or letting other sources have a greater impact on my understanding of God’s character.
In those moments, losing sight of the value of daily Bible study is more like cutting caffeine from my diet. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I have energy drinks all the time because they help me stay alert and focused when I need to be. Caffeine is something I’ve made a part of my regular diet for a purpose—and when I stop having it, I feel it. I don’t have the energy I used to throughout the day. I can’t focus as long. Or, worse, I get headaches.
Without your daily dose of Scripture, it’s tough to be at your best all day.
But reading your Bible isn’t just something you need to do to stay spiritually healthy. It’s not a pill you have to swallow or a chalky vitamin you have to chew. Reading the Bible is something you should do because you want to.
Imagine that your parents wrote a book for you—it’s the history of your family, their marriage, your childhood, how you’ve become the person you are today, and their hopes and dreams for your future. Woven throughout the book is a clear, underlying theme: they love you very much. Maybe, just maybe, you pick up on another theme as well: you haven’t always known what was best for you, and they usually know what they’re talking about.
How do you think they would feel if you told them, “Look, at least I read a chapter today”?
How much you read and how frequently you read is not the point.
Part of my job at Faithlife lets me write reflections on Scripture or dig into biblical topics. To do that well, I need to dig into the Bible daily. But whenever I read the Bible for work, I’m reading with an agenda—I’m hunting for a verse or prowling through a passage. For Scripture to penetrate my heart and permeate my life, I have to read it just to read it, too.
Reading the Bible exposes you to the history of the creator’s relationship to creation—that includes you. If you want to know who God is, he had 40 people write a whole book about him over the course of about 1,500 years. Now all you have to do is pick a Bible up off the shelf, read the Bible online, or download the Bible on your phone.
However you read the Bible, you’re going to get the most out of it if you do it because you want to.
Don’t do it because someone is making you.
Don’t do it to show off how much you read.
Don’t memorize verses to get a cookie, a prize, or acknowledgement.
Those can all be useful motivators to help you get on the right track and create healthy spiritual habits you want to have. But don’t let those be the reasons you read the Bible.
Read the Bible because it excites you.
Read the Bible because you want to know God.
Read the Bible because it’s living and active (Hebrews 4:12).
Read the Bible because it can speak powerful truth into your life right now.
Read the Bible so that your life reveals more of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Those are reasons to open your Bible every day.
I lead a small group of high school freshmen boys. Every two weeks this year we’ve read a chapter of Mark and talked about it together.
Every time we meet, at least half of them say, “I didn’t have time to read it.”
One chapter. Two weeks.
Without discipline, you’ll never read the Bible regularly—no matter how badly you want to.
My wife started a diet because she wanted to. At first, she knew that she wouldn’t always be able to resist the unhealthy foods she used to have whenever she felt like. A group of her coworkers started dieting too, and together, they held each other accountable. Sometimes my wife would decline cookies because she knew she would have to tell her coworkers she’d cheated on the diet. But she didn’t start the diet because of her coworkers. She started because she wanted to eat healthier. After eating healthier for a few months, the reasons why she started were enough to keep her going. She didn’t need reminders or accountability.
In the same way, those external factors that help us read the Bible regularly are not the reason why we read. But they are, hopefully, tools we can use until we’ve created healthier habits and made Bible study part of our daily lives. These tools, coupled with meaningful, personal reasons to read the Bible will help you have a far richer spiritual life.
My church recently went through a series called, “Room for Cream.” The premise was that if we want to have room for God in our lives, we couldn’t “fill our cup” until there’s no room for the good stuff. If you don’t have time to read your Bible, what do you need to remove to make time?
The conclusion was profoundly simple:
If you want room for cream in your life, put the cream in first.
If you’re trying to make Bible study a habit, start your day with it. Don’t wait until you’ve filled your day with everything else. Don’t wait until you’re too tired.
You could even read the Bible right now.
Take your biblical education to the next level with Back to School deals on Bible study tools. Sale ends Friday, September 12.
In the information age, education is always at our finger tips. When we don’t know something, we can find multiple answers in an instant. We live in a constant state of education—we’re always learning something.
The problem is, we have to choose where we get our answers. Anyone can put their thoughts on the internet, and sometimes it’s hard to determine whether or not a source can be trusted.
Not everyone can afford the time and money it takes to get a biblical education at seminary. But you can get the same textbooks Bible colleges use all over the world. Right now, many of these textbooks are on sale for up to 55% off. Whether you’re in school, or you just want to learn, now is the time to grab the world’s best Bible texts.
Maybe you’ve always wished you knew more about the Old Testament. You can get the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms for over 25% off! Or, get the Handbook on the Old Testament Series for 20% off.
Reading your Bible is great, but context is key to understanding what the biblical writers really meant. Few authors have had as much influence on our understanding of the New Testament world as the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. His works offer an unparalleled depiction of the historical context in which Jesus and the Apostles lived and died. During Logos’ Back to School sale, you can save $90 on one of the most referenced historical works in biblical studies. Get it now.
You can save 49% on the commentary set Walter Bureggemann calls “the benchmark and reference point for all future work.”
Or save 25% on the Zondervan Biblical Languages Collection and start studying Scripture in a whole new way.
If you’re a Bible scholar, this is a sale you can’t afford to miss. If you’re not a scholar, this is the perfect time to become a better student of the Word. This sale ends on Friday, September 12. Don’t miss out—get your books now!
Bible study tools come in all different shapes and sizes, but the most common resources usually fit into one of a few basic categories. They each have a specific purpose to aid your studies.
For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of different kinds of Bible study tools and what they can do for you, along with some suggested resources to get you started.
Bible dictionaries are a lot like English dictionaries, but they are focused on biblical words. Rather than providing modern definitions, they describe what a given word means when used in the Bible. They often include details like the meanings of biblical names. Some more technical Bible dictionaries will include references to the Greek and Hebrew, while others stick to the English.
Bible encyclopedias are similar to Bible dictionaries in concept, but they are greater in scope. While dictionaries typically have short entries for quick reference, encyclopedias tend to have longer articles covering people, places, events, objects, and more as found in the Bible. Bible encyclopedias often go into much greater historical and cultural detail than dictionaries.
Both Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias are organized alphabetically by topic. When you get one from Logos.com, you’ll see links to it in your study notes whenever the text you’re reading mentions a topic it addresses. In this way, your FSB app gets more detailed and powerful as you add resources from Logos.com.
Commentaries go verse by verse or passage by passage through the Bible, or through a particular section of the Bible. This system of organization is called “versification” because it follows the book, chapter, and verse structure of the biblical text. Commentaries are meant to be used in parallel with the Bible’s text, offering explanations, insights, textual notes, historical background, and more. Most commentaries also include introductions to the books of the Bible, providing details such the book’s author, as well as when, where, and why it was written.
Study Bibles combine multiple study tools (such as a Bible dictionary and commentary) into one relatively compact volume. Like commentaries, study Bibles are versified, but the notes in study Bibles are usually much more concise and to the point than full commentaries. When sold in print, the text of the Bible is placed right alongside or above the notes and articles. The world’s largest, most advanced study Bible is free! If you’re not already using it, get your free Faithlife Study Bible now. You can also add notes from other study Bibles to your FSB.
Versified resources like commentaries and study Bibles offer a great alternative to the study notes included in your FSB app. If you’d like to survey multiple opinions while you study, add a commentary set or another study Bible to your FSB, and you can quickly switch between them.
Concordances are designed to help you find things in the Bible. Basic concordances have fallen out of popularity, due to the ease of searching digital Bibles. However, the more advanced concordances are still useful, due to their ability to search by topics and themes or even people and places, rather than simple word searches.
Harmonies take books of the Bible that overlap one another in content, and they show how the books fit together. They reorganize the biblical content to flow chronologically, so you can find parallel passages more easily. The most common variety are Gospel harmonies, combining the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; however, harmonies also exist for other books, such as Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Many harmonies only include Scripture references, while others place the actual texts in parallel columns. A few harmonies actually combine the four Gospels into a single text that flows chronologically.
Lectionaries are reading plans for the Bible that group texts into weekly readings. They often span three-year cycles, designated year A, year B, and year C. The idea is to provide believers around the world with a shared reading schedule. While some lectionaries include only the readings themselves, others include reflections on the texts.
Devotionals are one of the most common Bible study tools, but they have wide variety among them. Some focus on a book or passage of the Bible, while others focus on a certain topic, while others still cover multiple topics. Some devotionals include a year’s worth of reading, while others only last for a month. Some are meant to be read in the morning, while others are meant to be read at evening, while others still have entries for both morning and evening.
Bible atlases are collections of maps that show the world as it was in Bible times. They are helpful for seeing how different biblical locations fit together. Many Bible atlases show the paths followed by biblical people during their travels.
All the study tools you see here can be enjoyed in your free Faithlife Study Bible app. Buy one from each category, and you’ll have a robust Bible study library that will serve you well for years to come.
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Serious Bible study is easier with serious Bible study software. The Faithlife Study Bible is a great place to start, but if you’d like to study in greater detail, Logos Bible Software is for you. Its powerful, intuitive tools and vast libraries are the perfect way to expand your understanding of the Scriptures.
Biblical writers use several different word pictures to help us understand the power and function of Scripture.
At different times, the Bible is compared to:
It’s those last two that can be a little confusing. In 1 Peter 2:2, the comparison to milk seems to be a favorable one. Peter’s admonition is for the readers (and us) to preserve a singular focus on and childlike enthusiasm for God’s Word.
Then Paul uses a similar word picture in 1 Corinthians 3:2, but seems to indicate that at some point, we ought to graduate away from the “milk” of the Word.
So which is it? Is the Word of God like milk or like food? And is that good or bad?
While it’s almost always a good idea to compare Scripture with Scripture, literary devices like metaphors or similes remain effective only in their original contexts. The same metaphor used in a different way can illustrate a different point, and that’s what’s going on here.
Peter uses the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we ought to consume the Word of God, just like an infant consumes milk.
Paul is addressing a different group of people all together about an all together different idea. The Corinthians who received Paul’s letter did not lack eagerness—they lacked perseverance. They were rehearsing the same fundamental truths constantly, never moving beyond the basics, and were thus missing the richness of other, heavier, more substantial Scripture passages.
Peter and Paul are not arguing. They are standing back to back, defending the same idea from different directions.
As we read the Word of God, it’s important for us to keep in mind that it was written over a span of more than 1,500 years by more than 40 different individuals from all walks of life. They address different subjects for different audiences, from different perspectives, and yet not a single contradiction or error appears in its 66 books. Remarkable, no?
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The Faithlife Study Bible links Scripture passages that address the same topic, so you can make connections with just a click. Download the Faithlife Study Bible for free from your favorite app store, and take your Bible study to the next level.
Reading the Faithlife Study Bible the other day, I happened across a great article titled “How to Study the Bible.” Once more I was impressed by the depth and helpfulness of this tool. Here’s an excerpt:
While we may wish that the Bible was entirely clear, students of literature would never expect that from other important books. When it comes to the Bible, it should be obvious that we have to study the Bible in order to understand it.
Some writing—a newspaper story, for example—might be understood by almost any mature reader. Other writing—such as a Shakespeare play—might require readers to consult dictionaries, study guides, and other aids because of the nature of the language and the subject matter. Yet other writing—a calculus textbook, for example—might require years of prior study as well as patient, focused effort in order to appreciate even a single page. The Bible contains literature at all these levels: some parts any reader can follow, some parts require some help, and some are difficult enough that even seasoned scholars struggle to comprehend them.
This is to be expected. A book claiming to be authored by the One whose thinking and communication can range from the simplest level to far above human understanding should require serious effort from seekers of its truth. It is naïve to think that the Bible differs from all other literature in being automatically comprehensible, or that our good intentions and love of God will make irrelevant the need to study in order to appreciate the quality of ideas He has put into writing for us.
Get this and even more inspiring Bible study content in the free Faithlife Study Bible. Download it today from your app store of choice.
The NET (or New English Translation) is a relatively new Bible version, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. It is completely unlike any other translation before it. Perhaps the word openness best describes what makes this Bible so special.
When the NET Bible was being translated, the drafts were put on the web for beta testing. Many people, from professors to junior high students, submitted suggestions. The translators (themselves highly qualified scholars) used that feedback to improve their translation. This resulted in a unique Bible version that is highly readable while remaining faithful to the original texts.
Most Bible versions today have heavy copyright restrictions. This often makes it difficult to quote the Bible legally in a new publication. The NET Bible, however, operates on a “ministry first” model. The goal is to make it easy to secure the proper permissions by eliminating as many obstacles as possible. In most cases, authors can use the NET Bible in their books without having to pay any licensing fees.
My favorite aspect of the NET Bible is the wonderful set of notes it comes with. The translators provided detailed explanations for every major decision they made, giving us an inside look at the translation process. The notes cover the text-critical issues surrounding any given text, including alternate readings. They discuss different meanings a word can convey, comparing their translation with other versions. And they explain what the idioms and figures of speech in the Bible would have meant to their original audience.
There are over 60,000 notes in total, and they are truly an invaluable resource. I would not want to be without them. The NET Bible notes are so helpful that they have actually been used by other Bible translators and editors:
The extensive and reliable notes in The NET Bible were a wonderful help to our translation team as we worked to prepare the English Standard Version.
—Wayne Grudem, member of translation oversight committee, ESV
The translators’ notes, study notes, and text-critical notes (over 60,000 notes altogether) alone are worth the price of the NET Bible. In our work on the fully revised NIV Study Bible of 2002, the TNIV, and the TNIV Study Bible, we consulted the NET Bible notes and were often helped by them. Kudos!
—Kenneth L. Barker, general editor, NIV Study Bible and TNIV Study Bible
You can add the NET Bible—along with the incredible translators’ notes—to your Faithlife Study Bible for only $10. I don’t know of a better Bible study resource for that price!
Still not convinced? Here are just a few more endorsements the NET Bible has received:
There are many wonderful things I could say about The NET Bible, but the most important is this: the NET Bible is a Bible you can trust. The translation is clear, accurate, and powerful. And the notes, those wonderful notes! They bring to the layman scholarly insights and discussions that have up till now been accessible only to those trained in the biblical languages. If you are serious about studying Scripture, get a copy of The NET Bible.
—Chuck Swindoll, chancellor, Dallas Theological Seminary
The complaint I hear from many Christians is that some of the translations of the Bible are too wooden. They are grammatically correct, but don’t seem to convey the passion of the writer. On the flip side, some paraphrases and translations convey the passion of the writer at the cost of an accurate translation. The NET Bible is the best of both worlds. The notes are helpful to the scholar and the lay person alike. This is the Bible for the next millennium.
—Tony Evans, senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
This Bible is a triumph: a straightforward and accurate translation that is also elegant. The annotations are much fuller and more helpful than in other popular translations, and the production of a constantly-improving electronic text brings Bible reading and Bible study into the new millennium.
—Philip R. Davies, professor at the department of biblical studies of The University of Sheffield
Few Bible study tools so effectively prick the conscience, focus the attention, and calm the spirit as a well-crafted daily devotional.
A devotional is not designed to change your mind; it’s meant to change your heart.
There are thousands of devotional tools to choose from. How do you know which one’s right for you?
Here’s our guide to help you choose one that best meets your needs.
Topic—Many devotionals are framed up around a particular subject. One of my favorites, Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, is structured this way. If you’re hoping to learn more about a particular element of theology or scriptural theme—like the Hebrew names of God, for example—look for a devotional on that subject for a more casual exploration.
Author—Almost all of the modern church’s most influential thinkers wrote at least some devotional material. Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, William Wilberforce, and Oswald Chambers come to mind right away. But don’t avoid a devotional just because you don’t recognize the author. Some of the best ever written, like Streams in the Desert, were penned by women or men who ministered faithfully without much notoriety. If you’re new to the world of devotionals, start with something by A. W. Tozer. He wrote broadly as the editor of The Alliance Life magazine. Much of his writing has been repackaged as daily devotionals.
Ratings & reviews—When choosing a devotional, nothing beats a good referral. As you browse Logos.com, check the ratings and reviews on each resource to see how much it has been enjoyed by others. Once you’ve completed a devotional, return to leave your own thoughts as a guide for others who come behind you.
Length—Look for cues about the passage length in the product overview, or by using the “See inside” tool on Logos.com. Also make note of how many passages are included. When read daily, some devotions are intended to stretch across and entire year, others for a month or even less.
Journal space—Many printed devotionals include space to write your own thoughts. This is helpful, but when you buy a daily devotional on Logos.com to be read with your Faithlife Study Bible, you can use the notes tool to capture your own insights on any passage without running out of space.
If you’d rather not shop around, pick up the recently updated Devotionals Bundle, which includes all of the best devotionals available on Logos.com.
What else do you look for when you’re choosing a daily devotional? Tell us in the comments.
Each Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth and retell his origin story. But it’s hard to celebrate Christmas without also thinking about the reasons for Jesus’ birth and the world-changing events of his lifetime.
As Bob Coy explains in his devotional on Jesus’ humanity:
“The humanity of Jesus made Him completely relatable. None of us can accuse the Lord of not understanding what it is like to be human. From conception to resurrection, there is no phase of our existence that Jesus has not already walked through. He understood firsthand what it was like to get hungry, get sick, get betrayed, get tired, and get stung. He experienced the blistering heat of the day and the persistent chill of the night. Jesus knew what it felt like to experience all that is part of the human experience on earth.
Christ’s ability to completely relate to us was key in enabling Him to serve as our heavenly high priest, which is the role He now occupies. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus stands before God the Father, interceding on our behalf. And because Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be human, He understands our weaknesses and needs. Our plights truly touch His heart, and He perfectly intercedes for us according to our requirements because He has been where we find ourselves (Heb. 4:15).”
You can read the rest of this article in the study notes for Luke 2 in your Faithlife Study Bible, or at Bible.Faithlife.com.
When he arrived, as one of us, we didn’t recognize him. He came to relate to us—to build a bridge between us and God—but we didn’t recognize him. In fact, the only space available for his birth was among the livestock. This image from the FSB study notes on Luke 2 helps us understand what his accommodations were like his first night on earth.Click to enlarge)
From that first night, his life on earth never became comfortable. He lived among us, as one of us, for more than 33 years. He spent all that time caring for the poor and helping us better understand God’s heart. This infographic, found in the FSB study notes for Matthew 1, help us to visualize Jesus’ life.Click to enlarge)
Then, when the time was right, Jesus surrendered himself to the Jewish leadership, who had become jealous of his growing influence. They staged a mock trial and bribed witnesses to level false accusations, stirring a crowd into a riot. Though Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, could not find any fault with him, he sentenced Jesus to death in order to appease the crowd. The sentence was carried out immediately at a place called Golgotha, which means “place of the skull.” This picture of Golgotha appears in the FSB study notes for Matthew 27:33, alongside an explanation of why this location is most likely the site of Jesus’ death.Click to enlarge)
Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha. He did it willingly. He did it for us. As Isaiah puts it, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Because he chose to come to earth and die in place of you and I, we can experience spiritual peace and freedom that we could never have achieved on our own.
He died for us, but of course, he didn’t stay dead. Three days after that terrible day on Golgotha, Jesus emerged from a sealed tomb, and over the course of 40 days, he appeared to hundreds of his followers—assuring each of them that death had not been able to contain him.Click to enlarge)
You can examine this table, outlining the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, in the FSB notes for Matthew 28:9.
In many ways, Christmas is an ironic holiday. We make special plans to be with our families to celebrate the incarnation—Jesus’ choice to leave his home (heaven) and his Father (God) to come to earth and save us from ourselves. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, which shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us that not everyone would mark the same holy days (Romans 14:5–6). But in my book, Christmas is the holiest of days because it foreshadows the easily forgotten gospel. Jesus did the work that we couldn’t possibly have done on our own. He was separated from God to make a way for us to be reconciled with God through him.
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To explore the story of the first Christmas and the life of Christ in a new way, download the free Faithlife Study Bible on your smartphone or tablet today.
May your Christmas be full of peace and joy.
Last week we examined five of the most common mistakes made when studying the Bible. Today, we’re going to cover five more.
5. Missing the historical setting
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible was not written to twenty-first century Americans. Each book of the Bible was written by a specific person, to a specific group of people, in a specific culture, at a specific time, and for a specific purpose. If we miss these details, we are likely to misunderstand much of what we are reading. The Faithlife Study Bible includes much of this information in the introductions to books of the Bible. For even greater detail, I would recommend adding the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (and Old Testament) to your FSB.
4. Assuming modern definitions of biblical words
Very few Greek or Hebrew words have an exact English equivalent. So we have to remember that the English words in a translation may not mean exactly the same thing as the original Greek or Hebrew. One way to get around this obstacle is to do a word study, examining every occurrence of a particular word in the Bible to see how it is used therein. However, this method is time consuming. A quicker way is to use a tool such as Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. This dictionary is a collection of such studies on almost every major word in the Bible. It makes it easy to understand what a given word actually means when used in the Bible. Add it to your FSB for easy referencing.
3. Failing to understand the genre
The Bible is made up of 66 different books, and they include many different genres of literature. There are epistles and narratives, poems and parables, instances of wisdom literature and apocalyptic literature, and a host of other specific styles. Keeping them all straight can be confusing, but it’s a vital part of understanding what we read. Thankfully, there are tools to help us here as well. One great resource to add to your FSB is How to Read the Bible Book by Book. It provides an overview for each book of the Bible—including the genre—along with a number of other important details.
2. Ignoring biblical context
All too often, we read the Bible as if it were a collection of unconnected verses. A single verse taken by itself can appear to mean something totally contrary to the author’s intent. We wouldn’t skip to a sentence in the middle of Moby Dick and expect it to make sense, so why do we do this with the Bible? One good example is Jeremiah 29:11. This verse is frequently claimed as a promise for God’s specific blessing on an individual. But when we look at the context, we see that God was talking to the Israelites, whom he had sent into exile for their sins. Only after being in exile for 70 years would God bring them back to prosperity. Those are “the plans I have for you” according to Jeremiah’s full context.
1. Studying for the wrong reasons
It is easy to view Bible study as an intellectual exercise. But acquiring information about the Bible is not a proper end in itself. Paul described the purpose of Scripture: “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). If our studies do not equip us for good works, then they are unprofitable studies. As we read the Bible, our goal must be to ultimately apply it to our lives.
These mistakes are easy to make, but they can be avoided. Let’s all continue studying Scripture together, and continue living it out every day.
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Serious Bible study is easier with serious Bible study software. The Faithlife Study Bible is a great place to start, but if you’d like to study in greater detail, Logos 5 is for you. Its powerful, intuitive tools and vast libraries are the perfect way to expand your understanding of the Scriptures. Visit Logos.com/Logos5 to learn more.