The Bible boldly claims that all its words are directly inspired by an almighty God who created all things (2Timothy 3:16). Although some scriptures seem to contradict each other, on closer examination and study, the apparent discrepancies are explainable.The New Testament scriptures are no more important nor do they have more authority than the Old Testament scriptures. Anyone who states that a person need only to live by PART of Scripture (e.g. just the New Testament) is WRONG. The doctrines supported by the N.T. simply cannot be understood unless they are firmly built upon what the O.T. teaches.
The Bible is not like a topical book where all the information on a particular subject is in one place. Like a puzzle, a correct understanding of doctrine comes only when ALL the pieces related to the topic being studied are put together to form a whole (Isaiah 28:10). False teachings occur, in part, when only a few selected pieces of Scripture determine a conclusion. The apostle Paul encouraged his young evangelist friend Timothy to "rightly divide" the Scriptures in order to insure the truth is taught (2Timothy 2:15).
Personal opinions, no matter how strongly held or emotionally supported, do not constitute divine truth (2Peter 1:20). Many false prophets rely on charisma, the authoritative way in which they speak and emotional reasoning to push their false teachings. It is almost as if they believe the adage "When in doubt, shout!" In order to come to the truth of God in our Bible studies, we must be aware of our own emotional biases and be honest enough to admit a belief is wrong when we discover its foundation comes more from opinion than facts.
The Bible calls on us to PROVE what is true (1Thessalonians 5:21). Proving what the word of God teaches is a lifelong endeavor. Like the Bereans, we must be willing to constantly search the Scriptures to either validate or refute what we believe (Acts 17:11). It is God's will that we PROVE what is his good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
What are some principles of Bible study that will aid our understanding of the world's greatest book? Ideally, it is best to conduct any studies in as quiet and private a place as possible. Begin by humbly praying that God lead your mind to HIS truth, in spite of any biases you may possess. Let Scripture interpret and prove itself. Do not look for what YOU want to prove, seek for what the Word actually proves.
When studying a particular topic, collect those Scriptures that are easy to comprehend before moving on to more difficult ones. Try to understand the overall context of the Scriptures being reviewed. Ask yourself what the Bible says in the verses and chapter BEFORE and AFTER what you are reading. Look for the writer's intended meaning.
Research the original language (Hebrew and Greek) words and phrases, and their original meanings, on a given topic. Be careful using reference works such as commentaries and dictionaries. While they can be of great help, they are still the creation of fallible humans with their own biases.
When you research the Bible, ask yourself what the verses you are reading say and do not say. Be willing to research who wrote the verses you are reviewing and to whom they wrote them, as well as looking into the general historical period of the passages studied. Remember that many times Holy writ uses symbols, parables, metaphors, poetry, personification, allegories, idioms, hyperboles, and other literary devices to teach. Lastly, in order to achieve the goals of our studies, we must be willing to let the spirit lead and guide us into what is right and acceptable in God's eyes.