What are the basics of Bible study?

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Answered by: Askari, An Expert in the Studying the Bible Category
The Bible is an expansive corpus, covering over a thousand years of history and over sixty books. For the beginning student of the Bible, the task of understanding the sometimes archaic phrases and distant locales presented in the Bible may be nothing short of daunting. But there are a few simple steps anyone can take to both improve their understanding of the Bible and reduce their anxiety on their ability to study it.

For the purposes of this essay, I will assume you are interested either as a Biblical student or a Christian in studying the Bible. Additionally, I will assume that you are taking the Bible as a historical text, unless otherwise indicated. While there are schools of textual criticism, they are far from the basic levels of Biblical interpretation.

You will need three key things: the first is a Bible (electronic or paperback is fine), a notepad and a pen or pencil. Given the large number of books, keeping track of where you noticed a key point may become difficult; keeping notes of your questions, insights and points of contention will allow you to track your own progress, which will reinforce the fact that you are actually learning. Some individuals may opt to write in the margins and/or use highlights to detail specific passages. While these are valid approaches, following this exercise you can give yourself time to determine how best to tailor your study to your specific learning style.

Now that you have your materials organized, prayer is key. Matthew 7:7 states "Ask and it will be given to you." Prayer is the primary means that we use to communicate with God, and requesting the ability to understand His Word is a prayer that God will answer when we seek Him diligently.

Now that we have prayed, we will begin in the New Testament. There are many cross references of the Old Testament given in the New Testament. The New Testament, which was written around the first century A.D., begins with the book of Matthew, and ends with the book of Revelation. The key points of Christianity: the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are related in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beginning in Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus is recorded, followed by events in His life, including the account of his ministry, the miracles that took place, and the eventual trial, conviction, and execution of Jesus by the Romans.

So given that we have four books summarizing the birth, ministry, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can locate themes that you can use to learn the basics of Bible study. We can take one of the themes common in each of the four Gospels (Gospels is a blanket term for the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), such as miracles, living a moral life, or faith in Jesus Christ, and then select passages that speak to that issue. This type of Bible study is called a thematic Bible study, for obvious reasons. Now as you read through these books, note the verses that include material on your topic, and jot down any cross references that may be in your Bible, or anything that you don't understand. You will find that as time goes on, God will expand your understanding, and not only will you find additional verses that further elucidate the theme of your Bible study, you will also find contextual clues that shed light on how to live out some of the principles you are learning.

This is just one way to begin studying the Bible. Alternatively, you could look up verses for your thematic study, without reading through the entire text, but for someone new to the Bible, reading through books from start to finish is recommended because it gives you the narrative context, as well as additional details that may be missed if you simply search for keywords such as 'miracle' or 'sin'. Although this is a simple primer, it is my hope that it can contribute to your understanding of the basics of Bible study, and lead you to a closer relationship with Christ.

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