What are some different methods of Bible study?


Answer: There are several different methods one can use to study the Bible in an organized or systematic way. However, for the purpose of this article, we will classify them into two broad categories: Book Studies and Topical Studies. Yet before discussing the different types of Bible study methods it is important to recognize that all of them have certain things in common and must follow certain hermeneutic rules or principles in order to avoid misinterpreting what the Bible says. For example, whatever type of Bible study method one uses, it is important that the study carefully takes into consideration the context of the subject or verse being studied both, within the immediate context of the chapter or book itself, but also within the overall context of the Bible. Likewise, there are certain hermeneutical principles that must be recognized if one is going to accurately study and interpret the Bible. While it is beyond the scope of this article to address these principles in any detail, it is important to recognize that they exist and must be followed in order to prevent taking Scripture out of context or misinterpreting what it says. Whatever Bible study method we use, our first goal must be to understand what the original or intended meaning of the passage is. In other words, what was the human author's intended meaning and how would his original audience have understood what he wrote. This principle recognizes that the Bible was not written in a vacuum, but is an historical document written at a specific point in history with a specific audience in mind for a specific purpose. Once the true meaning of the passage is understood, then we should seek to understand how it applies to us today.

Book Studies: This method of Bible study focuses either on a specific book in the Bible or specific part of a book. This type of study could involve studying the complete book or breaking the book down into smaller sections such as a specific chapter, a range of verses, or a single verse itself. With chapter and verse-by-verse methods of Bible study together in comparison to the study of an overall book of the Bible, the principles and goals are the same, only in smaller sections. For example, in order to do a thorough book study, one must necessarily also study the context of individual chapters and verses. Likewise, in order to correctly study a particular verse, there is some need to also study the overall message of the chapter and book that verse is found in. Of course, whether it is on the individual verse level, or a complete book study, one must always consider the overall context of the whole Bible as well.

Topical Studies: There are many varieties of topical studies that one can do. Some examples include: biographical studies where you study all the Bible says about particular person; word studies, where you study all the Bible says about a particular word or subject; geographical studies where you learn all you can about a particular town, country, or nation mentioned in the Bible. Topical studies are important for us to understand all the Bible teaches on a particular subject or topic. We must be careful, though, that the conclusions drawn from a topical study do not come from taking verses out of their original context in order to imply a meaning that could not be supported by doing a verse study or book study. Topical studies are helpful in systematically organizing and understanding what the Bible teaches on specific subjects. But great care is necessary to avoid taking a verse out of context and implying a meaning that is not supported by the overall context.

In studying the Bible it is really quite beneficial to use different methods at different times. Sometimes we might want to devote extended time to do a book study while at other times we can benefit greatly from doing some type of topical study. Whichever type of study we are doing we must follow the same basic steps of: 1-Observation-what does the Bible say? 2-Interpretation-What does the Bible mean? and 3-Application-How does this Biblical truth apply to my life or how is this passage relevant today? However, no matter what method of Bible study one does you must be careful to rightly divide the Word of God so that we are workmen that need not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15).

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