Getting more out of the Bible
Suggestions for every stage
How do I get started?
Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed. Carve out time each day when your mind is uncluttered (morning is often best) to read the Bible and pray.
Quiet Time Helps
- Create a weekly prayer list of people to pray for each day
- Print out a reading scheme and tick off what you have read each day
- Use the Oxygen Quiet Time Diary with reading scheme, prayer list and space for daily notes in one handy booklet.
- The Bible Book by Book gives a straightforward overview of each one.
Refreshing your Quiet Time
Often we set off a Quiet Time reading scheme with good intentions. Then we miss a day, get behind, get down about it and give up. Or we keep going methodically but things just seem very dry. Here are some suggestions to freshen things up.
Alternative Quiet Time resources
- The Prayer Mate app helps you to create and manage large prayer lists and download helpful material.
- The Valley of Vision and Spurgeon’s Prayers Personalised provide material to stimulate deeper prayers.
- The Journible series of notebooks provides an opportunity to create your own copy of the Scriptures like Israel’s kings (Deut 17:18); you can also copy the idea with your own notebooks!
How can I study a passage?
Whether studying a passage to lead a church Bible Study, a ladies’ study or a Sunday School lesson, most reach the same conclusion. We gain far more than we feel we are able to communicate. Every believer has the Spirit within them to illuminate God’s Word, so every believer can study the Scriptures for themselves. But how can we do this? Here are some suggestions.
Commentaries and other resources
Printing out a passage and annotating it, or copying it out phrase by phrase helps us chew over a passage and discern how different parts fit together. It helps us spot repeated words, the climax in a narrative or the logical argument in epistles.
The best modern commentaries are recommended here and here. Modern commentaries are good on structure and analysing the human author. The best (and free!) older commentaries are recommended here. Older commentaries are generally better on the divine author, pointing to Christ and devotional application. Reading both older and modern helps to gain a more balanced understanding of the Scriptures.
Classic whole Bible commentaries by Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole and John Gill are very helpful. Calvin’s commentaries are probably better than his more famous Institutes, though not covering every book. Robertson’s Word Pictures are useful for New Testament analysis.
Bible Study Software
Free Bible Software (Word with modules and Esword with modules) are very useful. A wealth of top older commentaries can downloaded. Searching by Strong’s number allows you to see how a Hebrew or Greek word has been translated in different context. There are free Bible Dictionaries, Maps and aids to Bible Study like Young’s Literal Translation.
How can I dig deeper?
The more we study the Bible, the more we realise we don’t know. Getting to grips with different passages often makes us hungry to understand more of big picture aspects such as:
- What is the distinctive message of different books?
- What are the principles of interpreting Scripture?
Digging Deeper Resources
Bible Book Introductions
Richard Pratt (a Presbyterian) has made his helpful introductions to each book of the Bible available freely online.
Old Testament History
Old Testament scholars with a robust view of Scriptural authority are rare. In Kingdom of Priests, Eugene Merrill helpfully deals with issues of chronology, such as the overlapping reigns of some of the kings of Israel and Judah. He compiles the Biblical data and demonstrates how it interfaces with current archaeological data.
The remarkable richness in the Bible with its different genres of literature and its nature as God’s unfolding revelation can stretch the reader. Principles of interpretation (hermeneutics) are important. This course and linked book, An invitation to Biblical Interpretation are very helpful in delving deeper for serious study.