When I rededicated my walk with the Lord at eighteen, I was hungry to dive into God’s Word. I had read my Bible lots of times, but this time it felt different. I wanted to dive in deep and know God’s Word well. There was a new spark inside of me that was ready to burst into a flame through time spent reading Scripture. But I didn’t really know how to start. Even though the Bible wasn’t new to me at that age, it felt new to me because I was coming to it in a different way than I had before. I realized that what I needed to do was learn how to study Scripture.
We are all at different stages when it comes to our Bible reading. Some of us have studied God’s Words for years, while some of us are just beginning. Even though this blog is mainly directed to those who are new at studying the Bible, this information can still be helpful to seasoned believers. So if you know how to study your Bible well or are just beginning, may these three tips better help you know and love God’s Word!
1. Understand How the Bible is Organized
When it comes to studying Scripture, understanding how the Bible is organized guides our reading. The Bible consists of 66 books that are divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament has 39 books, and the Old Testament has 27. What is unique about the Bible is that it contains different genres. Knowing the different genres of the Bible is important because each genre determines how a book should be read and interpreted.
In the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are classified as The Law. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are classified as History. Job, Psalm, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, are classified as Wisdom/Poetry.
The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obediah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
In the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are classified as The Gospels. Paul’s Letters/Epistles are Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The General Letters/Epistles are Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude. Revelation is considered Prophecy, and Acts is considered History.
2. Understand How to Look up a Bible Verse
Imagine that you are in a Bible study group, and the leader tells everyone to turn to Philippians 1:3. How do you do so? A great way to start locating passages and looking up verses is by using the Table of Contents. Each Bible has a page in the beginning that lists the books of the Bible and the pages where they begin. Another helpful tool can be Bible tabs. The Daily Grace Co.® has a bunch of different style Bible tabs that make turning to a book of the Bible easy!
Once you locate the book you are searching for, you will then find the chapter. Each book of the Bible contains a certain number of chapters. You can use the number at the top of your Bible to find a chapter, as most Bibles typically list the name of the book, chapter, and verse at the top corner. Chapters are also designated as numbers. The large print numbers indicate the chapter number, and the small print numbers indicate the verse number.
3. Know What to Look for When First Starting to Read a Book
Once you’ve located what you want to read, it’s time to start reading. But wait! While we can be eager to dive into reading Scripture, there are some things to look for that help make our study time intentional and fruitful. Each book of the Bible was written by a particular person at a particular time. While we can apply Scripture to our current circumstances, it’s important to understand the historical and cultural context of Scripture. Doing so allows you to understand when it was written, why it was written, and who it was originally written to.
So when starting to read Scripture, it’s helpful to answer these questions: Who? What? When? Why?
While you can certainly answer these questions by carefully reading the text, study Bibles give this information at the very beginning of each book. These pages at the beginning help you know the author, date, audience, and setting of the book. They also describe the reason why the book was written, important themes throughout the book, and helpful historical information.
When reading Scripture, you’ll likely come across a word you don’t know. The more you read Scripture, the more these words will become familiar to you. But in the beginning, it’s helpful to look up these words so you understand them. If you have a study Bible, most words in a passage can be found in the study notes at the bottom. Locate the chapter and verse number at the bottom, and you should find the explanation of a word or phrase. If not, a Bible dictionary is a great tool! Consider buying or borrowing a Bible dictionary and looking up the words you don’t know. There are also helpful online tools like Blue Letter Bible that help you find the definition of certain words.
It takes time to learn how to study Scripture well, but don’t be discouraged! The more we study the Bible, the more our knowledge of it grows. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can know how to mine the depths of Scripture. So rely on the Spirit, allow yourself that time to learn little by little, and watch as both your knowledge and studying skills grow!
Additional Resource for Bible Reading: