Lately it’s dawned on me how much the proliferation of Bible study guides have robbed some Christians of the great enjoyment that comes from mining for gold themselves. I think many people have become so comfortably accustomed to being spoon fed from study guides with the anticipated questions at the end of each chapter that they wouldn't know where to begin to do an in depth study of their own. (Please don't take that to mean I'm against study guides). So I'd like to offer some suggestions as to how we might get the most out of our time in the Scriptures by learning how to do our own Bible study. These suggestions may sound like a lot at first but once you have good study tools and know the basics of sound Bible interpretation you can adapt the amount of time you spend studying to your situation. I was able to do Bible study this way when my kids were young and my schedule was hectic - in fact, this was the most common way I studied then and now.
Part 1: Study Tools
The second post in this 2 part series will focus on hermeneutics which is the art and science of Biblical interpretation, but today I want to share some suggested resources I use to dig deeper to discover the riches in God's marvelous Word.
We're fortunate these days to have many great study resources available for free online and I keep a list of some of them on my Bible Resource Study Links page. For those who can afford programs like LOGOS there's even more available at a fraction of the cost of buying all these books for your library. Since my husband was in the ministry we’ve been able to collect a decent library over the years but these days younger students mostly have digital libraries. I still love books, but sometimes it's easier to look up something online.
So to begin, if I were stranded on a desert Island and could only take one book with me besides my Study Bible, it would have to be the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Here’s a picture of my beloved dog-eared copy circa 1975.
Each verse in the main concordance includes a number known as “Strong’s Numbers” which refers to the back of the book to either the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament or the New Testament Greek Dictionary. This is a great tool for people like me, who don’t know Greek or Hebrew.
All total, the Strong’s lists 8674 Hebrew root words used in the Old Testament and 5624 Greek root words used in the New Testament. Quite often one word will be used in the English when there are several different words in the original language that can take on different meanings.
The following online version links information from Lexicons and the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament and also provides a phonenic sound button which is nice if you’re teaching and want to know how to pronounce a word. An example of how this works using the word “love” from Genesis 29:32 which is Strong’s word #157 from the OT, can be found HERE.
Running a close second for a favorite Bible study tool is The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge which provides extensive cross referencing which can be found online HERE .
“For generations, the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge has been an enduring cross-reference resource for Bible students worldwide. This highly respected and nearly exhaustive compilation of cross-references was developed by R.A. Torrey … With nearly 500,000 cross-references it is the most thorough source available.”
Besides an exhaustive concordance and cross reference next in line for study tools would be Lexicons, also known as word studies or dictionaries; Interlinears, which show the Hebrew and Greek words above the literal English translation of each word; and commentaries. Here’s a few I like with links to them.
- Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon of the Old Testament which is keyed to the Strong’s numbers.
- COMMENTARIES : Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Matthew Henry, John Gill, Matthew Poole, and more. If you can buy them it’s good to have whole sets of commentaries such as John MacArthur’s commentary on the New Testament. There are also many excellent multiple and single volume commentaries by more modern authors such as James Montgomery Boice and Martyn Lloyd Jones, etc.. so always try to read more than one opinion about a passage if you can.
- The Pulpit Commentary which I’ve used extensively, is a 23 volume set with homilies from over 100 contributors can now be downloaded for free - but I have to warn you that some of the authors didn't believe in a literal 6 day creation because this was written during a time when naturalism was starting to take hold in the Evangelical world.
In addition to the above resources it’s also fun to use Bible maps and encyclopedias. Having Bible study tools is very helpful but more importantly, it’s essential to know HOW to study the Bible correctly so next time we’ll look at some thoughts on that.
"Study to show yourself approved unto God,
a workman that needs not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15