Getting Started With Serious Bible Study
There are, of course, a multitude of different types of Bible study schedules and plans that are available -- you can find many of them from Christian book publishers and from online sources on the Internet.The important thing is to have an organized approach -- if you were a student in school studying economics, for example, your instructor would map out a complete program that would take you through the entire textbook -- and this is the way you must approach your study of the Bible.
"Context" has several different levels: the immediate context, which are the verses and passages that surround the one that you are studying, the book context (how a particular Bible passage fits in with the theme or message of a particular book of the Bible), the literary context (how one prophetical writing, for example, fits in with the other prophetical writings), and finally the overall context of the entire Bible.Understand the Historical and Cultural BackgroundIt is also important to understand something of the cultural and historical setting in which the writings of the Bible were given. The Biblical documents were written thousands of years ago -- during times far removed from our own, when different nations ruled the earth, and when different customs and ways of living prevailed. None of us is born with a built in knowledge of those ancient times -- we must take the time to learn about them.Fortunately, there are a great number of resources available that can assist us in understanding the historical and cultural backgrounds of the Bible -- Bible study tools such as Bible Encyclopedias and Bible dictionaries can place the vast resources of biblical scholarship at our fingertips.Get a Larger PerspectiveAs you study the Scriptures, try to relate the message and meaning of a particular passage of the Bible to the overall message of that entire biblical book. For example, suppose you are studying Exodus Chapter 20, the account of the giving of the 10 Commandments. You need to ask yourself questions such as -- who wrote the book of Exodus? Who was the book of Exodus written to? What is the purpose of the book of Exodus? Getting answers to these questions is critical to gaining a proper understanding of what the Bible is all about.Use Good ToolsAgain, none of us is born with this information already packed inside of our head -- we will at some point need to look up and research this background using different types of biblical reference tools -- which means that part of your task as a serious Bible student is to build up, over time, a small personal or family biblical reference library. It is not that you were trying to become a "bookworm" -- you should view these materials as tools, just as any painter or plumber or a electrician has their set of tools which they need to get the job done.Fundamentally a Spiritual PursuitFinally, I would like to stress one last point: becoming a serious student of the Bible is just not a matter of using the proper techniques and resources -- fundamentally, this is a spiritual pursuit. For those of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition, our ultimate objective is to be brought closer to the creator. This is why it is necessary to combine our study of the Bible with other spiritual disciplines, such as prayer.