I first wrote this post for another blog I manage (not very well, I might add) – one for a Christian Fellowship I lead at my work. While this particularly talks about Bible Study, the strategies can be applied to any book to help you get the most out of it. Enjoy!
Bible Study. Sometimes these two words leave us feeling scared, confused, maybe angry. Either we don’t understand the Scriptures, or there are so many differing opinions on one paragraph that our minds spin. Could it be that God left His word open to each of us to interpret how we want? Did He leave it so vague that it didn’t matter how we understand it, as long as we read it?
Let me ask you this: If your spouse wrote you a text and asked you to pick up a gallon of milk on your way home from the store, and you arrived with a pound of bacon, do you think they would be happy with the way you “interpreted” their request? Would they understand if you told them “well, I thought milk was simply your way of saying groceries in general…or pick up something we need…”
I think we all know how that conversation would continue.
So, if we write letters/communicate in various ways with each other with specific intentions in mind, do we not believe that the Creator of Everything who chose to reveal Himself to us through His word has specific intentions? After all, if He is trying to get us to know Him through His word, do you think He would leave it to our understanding to figure Him out when He is beyond our understanding?
Now, interpreting the Bible is difficult, but not impossible. There is a field of study that teaches us how to study the Bible effectively, and it’s called Hermeneutics. This is a vast area of study, and something worth exploring. I will, perhaps, start posting about Hermeneutics in depth at some point, but I wanted to make a post about the basics. The best way to know what you are reading, and to understand what you are reading, is to know how to read in the first place.
I don’t mean literacy. If you’re reading this blog, then I know you can “read”. This is true. But, do we really know how to read in such a way that we move beyond words on a page?
Here are Ten strategies for better reading, which will lead to better understanding. If you employ these ten strategies, even if you do no further study of Hermeneutics, you’ll have a better understanding of Scripture.
These are the foundations of understanding anything you read, whether it’s the Bible or your favorite classical literature.
And yes, I do believe Biblical text has one interpretation. If it is done correctly. However, that one interpretation has many different applications. It’s the application that depends on our circumstances and experiences. Like the milk example above. If my wife asks me to get milk, I know that I need to get a gallon of organic, nearly raw milk. Your spouse may ask you to get milk, and you pick up the Walmart 2%. Others may only drink Whole milk. The interpretation is all the same, the application is different.
Without further ado: Ten strategies to Great Reading
- Involves Study – don’t put your brain on neutral
- Bible doesn’t yield its fruit to the lazy
- The truth is there – you must probe for it
- Chew on it as spiritual cud
- Be an investigator – dig for answers on your own, without prejudice.
- Read books at one sitting
- Start at the beginning of the book
- Read it in different translations
- Listen to recordings of Scripture
- Read the Bible out loud
- Set up a schedule for Bible reading
- Don’t expect instant results
- It’s not running sprints, it’s cross-country
- Work with one book for one month
- Get the “big picture” with reading in one sitting (or in its entirety). Detect flow, progression of events/ideas.
- Zoom in on something that seems prominent and spend a week on it.
- More strategies you use, more insight you’ll gain
- Be patient with the text and with yourself
Read Selectively – Six Questions to Ask Any Passage
- Who are the people in the text?
- What does the person say/do?
- What is happening in the text?
- What are the events? In what order?
- What is the argument? What’s the point?
- Where is this taking place?
- Where are the people?
- Where are they coming from?
- Where are they going?
- When did the events take place?
- When did they occur in relation to other events in Scripture?
- When was the author writing this?
- Why is this included?
- Why is it placed here?
- Why does it follow that?
- So what? What difference does it make? For me? For others?
- Ask God to open His word to you
- Don’t try to imitate other Christians
- Do turn Scripture into prayer
- Psalm 119 – an example of prayerful Bible study
- Bible doesn’t have to be mechanical and boring
- Use different translations and paraphrases
- Rewrite the text in your own paraphrase
- Read it in another language – if you know any
- Have someone read the text to you
- Vary your setting when you read
- Act it out – if possible
- Think about what you read, don’t just read it and forget it
- Look for Grammatical Structure
- Verbs; Subject and Object; Modifiers; Prepositional phrases; Connectives
- Look for Literary Structure
- Biographical; Geographical; Historical; Chronological; Ideological
Read Acquisitively – retain and possess it
- Get involved in the process
- Act it out; rewrite it in your own words; study a character in-depth
- Marry the truth of the word with your own interests and experiences
Read Telescopically – view the parts in light of the whole
- Look for the connectives
- Pay attention to context
- Evaluate passage in light of the whole book
- Look at historical (when it happened, what was going on at that time, cultural influences, theological influences) context of the book
So, this highlighted studying the Bible, and I would love to hear what you do if and when you do study the Bible. Also, do you see how this can apply to any book you’re reading? Do you think it would bring a richer, deeper connection to the book, or is this a “meh, I read just fine, thank you” moment?
Let me know!
And don’t forget my Compassion Book Project! I want your stories!
Need a good story? Join my New story Email Group and get my two Scifi short stories as a gift!
Or join my Developing Story Email Group and be in the know of new and developing stories.