From the Babylon Bee: “Revolutionary Women’s Bible Study to Actually Study the Bible”
Check it out!
We just announced our 2018 Bible reading challenge, which lasts but a wimpy 90 days. How tough would you be if you kept going and read nothing but the Bible for an entire year?
You might be something like this guy. Jacob Via felt convicted because he spent loads more time in books about the Bible than in the Bible itself. So he declared a 12-month fast from all the other books to make time to feast on living bread.
Via’s blog post describes what exactly he did and how he did it. But my favorite part is his list of takeaways. Everything on that list is something you could find in a journal article or book on hermeneutics. But how many of those things drive your daily decisions? How many of them have so mastered your thought-life and your faith that they are your first reaction to suffering or unexpected circumstances? How many of us could say that “godliness is of value in every way” (1 Tim 4:8), such that we rest secure and confident in the truth of what was once spoken by the Majesty on high for the ages?
In other words, while these takeaways might be things you know, have they ever been things you’ve experienced?
Let me encourage you to spend a year in the Word. Read it a lot. Read large sections at a time. Don’t worry about the parts you don’t understand. Just keep reading, and it will become clearer and clearer. Allow Scripture to interpret scripture. It’s more than a good book. It’s more than a roadmap to life. It’s life-giving. It’s living and active. As you read it, it begins to read you. Rediscover the Father’s heart. Rediscover the movement Jesus started. Allow it to transform who you are. And allow it to direct what you do tomorrow.
Via’s blog post might not be the most polished or deeply-researched thing you’ve ever read. But don’t let that prevent you from seeing how spectacular it is.
HT: Andy Cimbala
Some older editions of the Bible used to put every verse on a new line, communicating that each verse was an independent unit of thought. Thankfully, the practice is rare in modern Bibles, and Mark Ward demonstrates why it matters.
Often editors need to guess where the best paragraph divisions should go. And different translation committees will disagree. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.
In his article “How Paragraph Breaks Can Help You Understand the Bible,” Ward gives two examples of how paragraph breaks in Matthew led him to ask interpretive questions he might not otherwise have thought of. In particular, the paragraphs caused him to ask, “Why does this sentence follow what came before? How does it fit with the flow of thought in this section?”
When we move away from reading Bible verses as isolated aphorisms, and we read them as building blocks in a larger argument, we are well on our way toward proper understanding.
Perhaps you can relate to Ward’s experience. Check it out!
Logos has a short article from Michael Heiser in which Heiser wonders, “Did the Write of Chronicles Try to Scrub Away David’s Dirty Past?” In his brief article, Heiser does a great job showing how to compare parallel stories (such as Chronicles and Samuel) to understand the author’s agenda. Heiser also explains the historical circumstances for the audience of 1-2 Chronicles, which circumstances warranted a high, though not deceptive, view of King David.
I’m not going to answer the question from my title. As you compare the passages and consider the background Heiser explains, see if you can figure it out for yourself.
Matthew Harmon has a helpful article with help for Bible interpretation and application. Beginning with Jesus’ explanation of the two greatest commandments to love God and love neighbor (Matt 22:37-39), Harmon then uses these two commands to shape his advice for both interpretation and application.
Harmon gives four interpretation questions to ask of any Bible passage:
Then he gives four application questions:
Unfortunately, in the realm of interpretation, I find Harmon’s list a bit reductionist. Though they are great questions that certainly come from the two great commandments, they may in fact lead you to read such questions back into the text and thus miss the author’s main point. You might end up with a list of glorious theological truths that are sub-points alongside the main thing the author intends to communicate. So as you interpret, don’t neglect the structure and train of thought so you can arrive at the author’s true main point (which may or may not be easily categorized into one of the two great commandments).
But in the realm of application, this categorization works marvelously. Since the two great commandments summarize all the obedience God wants from his people, these categories fit more naturally here. And Harmon does a great job showing that “application” has to do with much more than simply “doing” (though, of course, it includes “doing” as the fourth question).
Harmon’s four questions put in different words the model we propose here of head, heart, and hands. Those questions could gain a dimension by considering the two great commands (which we call the two “directions” for application). Thus, we can ask not only “What does God want me to understand/think?” but also “How can I help others to understand/think this truth as well?” And so on, into the application matrix.
So if you’d like a more visual approach, check out our application matrix. If you’d benefit more from a list of questions, Harmon’s article does a nice job explaining them.
David Mathis continues his excellent series of short videos on Bible study with this entry on the English Bible. He encourages us to read our English Bibles with confidence; we are not missing out on God’s word if we don’t know Greek or Hebrew.
If you’re in the market for gifts to encourage Bible study, here are my top recommendations. I’ve reviewed most of these products on this site at many times and in many ways, but here they are in one place for you.
For something you can write in with greater ease, see our recommendations.
For a snapshot of the OIA process, see this blog post.
For a little more explanation of the principles, see our free booklet.
If you’re familiar with the OIA model, and you’d like to hone your skills to perfection, consider getting Methodical Bible Study by Robert Traina. This book is dry and doesn’t tell many stories. But it’s delves the depths of the model like nothing else.
See our page with recommended commentaries that promote OIA Bible study skills. I don’t have recommendations for every Bible book yet, but I update this page as I come across helpful volumes.
The best thing you and your church can do for your children is to buy them a Bible and teach them to use it. In my household, that means we buy ESV pew Bibles (the cheapest we can find) almost by the case. These things will get beat up and need to be replaced often, so there’s no use in getting the authentic-porpoise-leather-imported-from-Mars-heirloom-editions just yet.
When children are first learning to read, I’ve found it helpful to give them the NIrV. This builds their confidence in reading the very words of God in their own language. Remember, the story Bibles are good, but God’s undiluted word is even better.
And before dipping into the supplemental resources below, perhaps you’d consider printing out a few simple devotional pages for your kids, so they can explore the Scriptures for themselves before hearing what others have to say about the Scriptures.
Read Aloud Bible Stories – Brief Bible stories that draw in young children, letting the children know these are their stories. Get it at Amazon.
The Gospel Story Bible – Retellings of 156 Bible stories, synchronized with the Gospel Story for Kids curriculum, and devotionals Long Story Short and Old Story New. The best part of these stories are that much use is made in the retelling of the actual text of Scripture. Get it at Amazon | Westminster
The Jesus Storybook Bible – Gripping gospel focus, though it sometimes seems to suggest that Bible stories are not meant to serve as examples (contrast with 1 Cor 10:6, 11, etc.). Get it at Amazon | Westminster
Mark’s Marvellous Book – I still hope this becomes more of a trend: A children’s story Bible that follows the shape and themes of a book of the Bible (rather than cherry-picking certain stories, ignoring the fact that they were written to an audience in a context). See my review. Get it at Amazon | Westminster
The Big Picture Story Bible – A marvelous overview of the Bible’s rich storyline: The people of God under the rule of God in the place God gives. Read this to your kids at ages 0-2; then have them read it to themselves at ages 5-7. Get it at Amazon | Westminster
The Radical Book for Kids – This is the kind of gift you get for your kids, but it’s also, sort of, partly, perhaps, for you. You know, like Legos, football tickets, or family room surround sound systems. It’s an engaging and delightful handbook of the Christian faith. See my review. Get it at Amazon | Westminster
I highly recommend the series of devotionals by Marty Machowski. These volumes don’t merely communicate Christian truth, as important as that is; they train children to study the Bible and find that truth for themselves. In addition, the “daily” family devotions take only 5 days/week, and they truly take only 10 minutes per day. The payoff is high, but the price of entry is low. This makes it more likely you’ll be able to stay consistent with them. Every volume in this series has the same high quality; each also has the same basic structure for each day’s devotion. See my review.
Happy gift shopping!
Disclaimer: Links in this post to Amazon, Westminster, or Logos are affiliate links, which means this blog receives a small commission when you click those links. Doing this helps us to cover our costs, enabling us to continue recommending decent resources. Thank you.
According to the book of Proverbs, the chief difference between wisdom and folly lies in how willing a person is to listen to God’s instruction. In other words, are you teachable and open to counsel from the lips of God? I blogged my way through the first 9 chapters of Proverbs a few years ago to show this is so.
On his blog, Kevin Halloran recently summarized, in a few key principles from Proverbs, how to be teachable:
Halloran lists specific proverbs for each point, along with many helpful suggestions and a closing prayer for teachability. He does a great job showing us how to apply these truths from Proverbs in personal and specific ways.
When I first learned how to study the Bible, I heard the story of Professor Agassiz, telling his student to look, look, and look again at a fish. The story tells of the wonder and amazement that comes from simply learning how to observe. And it shows how difficult it is to overcome our assumption of familiarity which prevents us from observing as we ought.
It’s a classic illustration, and John Piper tells it beautifully in this short video from Desiring God.
Let this spur you to keep looking at the Scripture. You might think you already know it, but you’ll be amazed at how much more there is to see of the beauty and glory of Christ. Check it out!
HT: Andy Cimbala
Every Wednesday, I encourage you to check out something on the web (not on this site) to show that we’re not the only ones talking about or employing the OIA Bible study method. In particular, I’m eager to show you that I didn’t invent this method, and that I’m not the only one using it with great profit.
This week I am delighted to refer you to the keynote messages from our recent DiscipleMakers Fall Conference. (DiscipleMakers is the campus ministry organization I serve with.)
In these messages, the main speakers walked through John’s account of the last few days of Jesus’ passion week. We aimed to observe the text, interpret what John meant to communicate, and apply it practically and specifically. These men have been some of the most influential teachers in my life, and I’m eager to commend their messages to you.
Mark Fodale on the arrest of Jesus:
Brian Parker on the trial of Jesus:
Rhys John on the crucifixion of Jesus:
And I closed the conference with the resurrection of Jesus. In this talk you’ll notice many themes from my recent studies in Exodus. John has much to say in applying tabernacle imagery to the work of Christ:
If you’d like to see more such teaching, getting more models of OIA Bible study in action, you can find our library on the DiscipleMakers website. Check it out!