Rules for studying the Bible

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What are the fundamental rules of Bible study? How can they help us deepen our understanding of foundational doctrines?

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 Bible discrepancies are explainable.

One important rule to remember is that there are no sections of the Bible, be they in the Old or New Testament, that have less authority than others. Anyone who states that a person need only to live by or study part of the Bible (e.g. just the New Testament) is incorrect. The doctrines supported by the New Testament simply cannot be understood unless they are firmly built upon what the Old Testament teaches.

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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 when only a few selected pieces of Scripture determine a conclusion. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to "rightly divide" the Scriptures (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, or the authoritative way in which they speak, along with emotional reasoning, to push their false teachings.

Biblia Sacre (Holy Bible) Venice
Biblia Sacre
Venice, 1479

As a general rule, in order to come to a proper understanding of God's truth while we study the Bible, we must be aware of our own emotional biases. We must honest enough with ourselves 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 through the Bible (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 the Bible 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.

During your study it is also wise to 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 benefit the most from the time spent on Bible study, we must be willing to let God's spirit lead and guide us into what is right and acceptable in his eyes. The rules on this page will help you reach your goals of understanding the basics about our loving Creator!

Additional Materials
Where were Biblical books written?
What are the oddest translations?
How did Elijah humorously rebuke pagans?
Are there modern day prophets?

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