How to Study Bible — Two

Now that you’ve read How to Study the Bible — Part One, do you want to use some cool tools and learn how to study the Bible even more? Super! In this post, we’ll discuss how to study the Bible using a wide assortment of resources available for students of the Bible.

The following lists contain tools that many students of the Word use to dive in on their own.

Let’s commit ourselves to learn from this text, with the Holy Spirit as our teacher. Let’s be diligent for the duration of our entire lives, using the time we’ve been given on the planet well.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

Read on for some resources as you undertake the best journey there is. The following “tools” for your toolbelt are one that I’ve come to rely on. You might start with a basic handbook, some maps, and several translations. Then, take a look at some commentaries.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s slow down and look at each well-placed tool!

How Do I Study the Bible?

Handbooks

Basic primers on every book of the Bible are easily found, both online and in book form. They are called “Bible Handbooks”. They present a page or two of background into each of the 66 books. They cover things like the author, the time and place of writing, what the main themes are, etc. Haley’s Bible Handbook is an old classic, but there are many more.

Some Bibles, especially Study Bibles, contain these kinds of helpful notes, the kind found in a Bible Handbook. They introduce every book of the bible with history, a brief overview, and the main themes of the book. These are very helpful. But handbooks contain many more details.

Maps

Maps are a fascinating and super helpful study aid, especially when reading the OT histories, the gospels, and the Acts. They are essential for understanding where an event occurred. Often this is vital to understanding the context of a section of scripture. I find it especially useful when reading the four Gospels and the book of Acts, and following the historical events in the Old Testament. It’s great fun to follow the Lord around the region, track the growth of the early church, etc. Here’s one that looks thorough, at a decent price point.

Bible Dictionaries

These are just what they sound like; a book which defines terms found in the Bible. Often profoundly helpful in understanding difficult topics, Bible dictionaries pull from lots of sources to offer us a boatload of insight we could never know on our own. I own an older copy of this one.

Study Bibles

Study Bibles offer many of the tools mentioned on this page! Concordances, key concepts explained, maps, outlines, great introductions to every book, (a handbook) and commentaries throughout.

However, where a Study Bible has these amazing strengths, there are weaknesses. One is that most Study Bibles have their own particular “slant” – in which they highlight their (sometimes divisive) viewpoints upon which not all Christians agree.

Another is that they have to keep their comments short due to space-restraints. Also, they tend to keep their commentaries to those most-asked questions, the easier stuff. If you are looking to find an answer to a more difficult problem, you’ll need to dig deeper than most Study Bibles will give you. Here’s one I own.

Commentaries

Commentaries are just that—comments made by biblical scholars. These can be amazing resources! I have several, and they usually are pretty insightful.

But please use them only after you’ve dug around, reading the text in several translations, and asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten you. Sometimes staying with a difficult text, just munching on it, meditating on it, and exploring it every day, will provide illumination. A new light may shine upon the conundrum, one that you’d have missed if you went straight to the professor (commentary writer). Wrestle with it a bit on your own! Be like the Psalmist:

I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.

Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

Perhaps we will chew on it as we lay on our beds, going over it when we are finally still:

My eyes anticipate the night watches, So that I may meditate on Your word.

Psalm 119:49 (NASB)

If you are going to use commentaries, keep in mind that they are written by humans, who sometimes disagree with one another on various points. So keeping several commentaries on hand is a wise practice.

However, the a big benefit of reading commentaries is the rich background that so many of these scholars offer. These folks have dedicated their lives to study of the Word, and so they know a whole lot more than most of us!

I find commentaries particularly useful in terms of helping me understand the nuances of the original languages, thus shedding light onto the meanings of verses which can be difficult to understand in the English.

I like the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, because these volumes are very balanced, not holding to any one denominational slant. They are also readable, accessible for the average reader. They also include commentaries written by many diverse Bible scholars.

Lastly, gotta give a shout-out to my good old standby: Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary, I turn to it again and again. It is written in an old flourishing style of writing, but with a heart and passion missing from more modern scholars, like Jameson, Faucett, and Brown (whom I admire as well). Matthew Henry also tends to offer what today is called the “take-aways”—why it matters, to us, today.

BibleHub

If you haven’t discovered Biblehub.com, check it out! It’s a fantastic resource, complete with many translations, commentaries, and dictionaries. And, it is free. It is a resource I use frequently. Previously, when I’d be studying a portion of Scripture, I would grab all of my translations and reference materials and fill up my table with them. I still do, when I’m deep in study of a particular book. But for a quick reference, the ease of using Biblehub can’t be beat.

You might use BibleHub to choose which reference materials you like the best, and guide your search for purchases in this way.

Concordance

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is just that: it lists (with a numbering system referencing the original language) every single word in the Bible. Every single time a word is used, it lists it, telling you all the verses where you can find that word. This very thick reference book is found online at BibleHub. You no longer have to lug it around!

Cultural Handbooks

The last on our list today is certainly not least! A cultural handbook is a treasure to own. In fact, find a few for your collection if you can! These resources explain the ancient culture in which the Bible folks lived.

I enjoy “Manners and Customs of the Bible”, as well as my new favorite, “The Bible Through Middle Eastern Eyes”. We westerners often just can’t glean the deeper meanings in the verse(s) without a greater understanding of how the readers of the day would have understood the text. With a cultural handbook, suddenly, the words of scripture become even more meaningful that we had previously understood.

Study the Bible for Life

I hope this resource list is of value to you as you dig ever deeper and deeper into the best Book ever written. May you go ever deeper in your study of our great God of gods, and Lord of lords.

For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe.

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NASB)

No disciple of Jesus is ever done learning! We continue on in this our life-long quest to increase in our intimate knowledge of our God and Savior and dearest Friend. In this pursuit, we put feet to our sincere desire to love and obey Him more completely, whole-heartedly, and unreservedly. How He deserves it!

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 136:1-3 (NASB)