I’m a very long way from knowing how to study the Bible well myself, so this post is more a list of resources I have found from others who have learned how they best study the Bible. I wanted to begin with this picture of one of Frances Havergal’s Bibles. She would study in-depth, using original texts as well as English translations, and then sometimes give the Bible with her study notes at the end of a year of constant study to someone such as a niece.
Isn’t it absolutely fascinating to see her method of marking and cross-referencing her precious copy of God’s Word?
My friend Kasi sent me an interesting article several months ago called, “How to Study the Bible,” by David Jon Hill. (Read it HERE.) He has very definite ideas about even how to mark your Bible. (And, yes, I do realize that some people believe that it is disrespectful to mark up a Bible in any way.) His system so far has been a bit overwhelming for me to understand–not because it’s difficult, but because for a while I would need to consult it every time I wanted to underline something in the Bible and right now that’s not what I want to do! However, he has some excellent advice about gleaning truths from the Word. Here’s a sample quote: “yet another vital rule of Bible study would be: Never establish a doctrine by a vague or difficult-to-be-understood scripture….When studying anyone particular biblical subject or doctrine, begin with the plainer scriptures. Reserve the more obscure ones until you have more knowledge. Realize that some scriptures — if taken by themselves and out of context — can be made to say more than one thing. This is why it is important to observe a previous rule: Study all the scriptures on anyone subject to get at the truth. But, always begin with plain, clear scriptures.”
Some study guides can be very helpful. I’ve found the LifeChange series to be good, in-depth guides to studying particular books of the Bible because they have you read long passages at once and send you to numerous supporting Scriptures instead of just giving you one verse to study each day. John MacArthur’s study guides are helpful for giving some word meanings, and would probably be excellent with a group. But they aren’t my favorite for in-depth study.
John Piper has a “Look at the Book” video series that are regularly published on YouTube and that show how he examines a Scripture. You look only at the words of the Scripture, not Piper’s face! Here is an example as he looks at II Peter 1:3-4.
Concordances can be found online–for example, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. They help you figure out the background meanings of certain words in the original languages. Also check out Blue Letter Bible, an amazing resource for studying the Bible word-for-word as well as for accessing commentaries, etc. Here’s a screenshot of a portion of John 3. I recommend that you play around with the website a bit to figure out how it can help you when you’re doing a focused study of one passage of Scripture.
One of my favorite commentaries is Matthew Henry’s–and it’s also online in the complete version! [Matthew Henry Complete Bible Commentary] I also glean a lot from John Gill [John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible], although I find him a bit harsher at times than Mr. Henry, and John Calvin [Calvin’s Commentaries].
Sermons can also be very helpful. Desiring God has numerous sermons (by John Piper) organized by Scripture or topic. Many of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are also online; sometimes I will Google a particular Scripture reference and his name (e.g. Spurgeon Psalm 32) to see what I can find. In the case of Psalm 32, which I chose at random, I found an actual expository article by Spurgeon working through the verses on the Spurgeon Archive website. The same website has a section just for Spurgeon’s sermons.
It’s easy to compare translations of Scripture online, as well. [Note: The Message is a paraphrase, NOT an actual translation of the Bible! Use it at your own risk, and please don’t use it as a study Bible!] Bible Gateway has a very easy method for comparing 2 or more translations. Here’s what a screenshot of Isaiah 6 looks like:
Just click on this symbol to add another translation/transliteration/paraphrase.
I hope this list of resources has been helpful, and I hope to continue adding to it!