How to S.T.U.D.Y.
And Understand the Bible
In 5 Simple Steps
Without Learning Hebrew or Greek
© La Verne Tolbert, Ph.D.
1
The Law of the Lord is perfect
converting the soul.
(Psalm 19: 9)
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The Greatest Lie
“I Can’t Understand The Bible!”
We must study or…
Be diligent to present yourself
approved to God, a worker who does not
need to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:15)
3
Non-Negotiable #1
• The Bible is Inspired.
– 2 Timothy 3: 16, 17 (HO)
– History of the Canon (HO)
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A. D. 37 - 100 – Josephus, a Jewish historian, was the first to distinguish “canonical” books—22
Prophetic, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.
c. A. D. 146 – Marcion of Sinope provided a rather deficient canon—10 Pauline letters plus an
edited version of Luke. He rejected outright the entire Old Testament.
A. D. 150 – Justin Martyr vigorously opposed Marcion and was the first to designate the term, the
“Gospels.” He quoted the Jewish canon, but never the Apocrypha, confirming that what was
considered to be canonical among the devout Jews was also recognized by early Christians.
c. A. D. 160 – Tatian, Justin’s pupil, compiled the “Diatessaron”—“by means of four.” It assumes
the existence of only four authoritative (harmonious) Gospels.
A. D. 178 – Melite of Sardis provides the earliest Christian list of the Old Testament.
c. A. D. 178 - 200 – Irenaeus of Lyons “proved” that there were only four Gospels by observing
that just as there are only four principal winds and four points to a compass, so, too are there only
four pillars to the church—the Gospels.
A. D. 367 – Athanasius prepared a list of the earliest known recognition of the 27 books of the
New Testament as canonical—to which nothing is to be added, nothing subtracted.
A. D. 393 – Synod of Hippo and the Third Synod of Carthage agreed, probably under the
influence of Augustine, and scholars settled the limits of the New Testament—the 27 books of
Matthew through Revelation had divine authority equal to that of the Old Testament.
A. D. 420 – Jerome, an expert on biblical languages, confirmed the 22 book canon and rejected the
Apocrypha.
1517 – The Protestant Reformation. “Sola Scriptura” Martin Luther rejects church tradition and
affirms the Hebrew canon because they were acknowledged by Christ. The New Testament
quotes the Old Testament 300 times. (John Calvin was more moderate in his discussion of New
Testament authority. Although he felt that 2 Peter was not written by Peter, that did not, for him,
diminish its authority.)
1740 – An Italian historian, Muritori, published the Muratorian Canon. Although incomplete, it
rejected heretical writings but included the apocryphal book of Wisdom and a pseudepigraphic
work, The Apocalypse of Peter. Tertullian insisted on apostolicity as a major criterion of
canonicity. Clement was the first to use “Testament” in reference to New Testament writings.
Origen classified sacred writings into 3 categories—“acknowledged, disputed, spurious.” The
closing of the Old Testament canon occurred a century before the birth of Jesus. The New
Testament canon was closed in the fourth century.
April, 1954 –The Catholic Church accepted the Apocrypha as canon and added 7 books to the Old
Testament.
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All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine (teaching),
for reproof (teaches us what sin is),
for correction (when ther is error),
for instruction in righteousness
(how to live holy)
that the man of God may be complete,
thoroughly equipped
for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16, 17)
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Non-Negotiable #2
• The Bible is Inerrant.
– “without error”
– Like wet and water, inspiration
and inerrancy are inseparable
– If we can’t believe everything in
the Bible, how can we believe
anything in the Bible?
– Jehovah’s Witnesses (p. 12)
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Non-Negotiable #3
• The Bible is Alive.
– Hebrews 4:12
“For the word of God is living and
powerful...”
God is speaking to us today.
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Hebrews 4:12, con’t
“…and sharper than any double-edged
sword, piercing even to the division of
soul and spirit, and of joints and
marrow…”
God knows our spiritual condition.
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Hebrews 4:12, con’t
“…and is a discerner of the thoughts and
intents of the heart.”
God knows what we’re suppressing.
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Where do I begin?
•
•
•
•
•
Begin with context;
Begin with a framework;
Begin with a good translation;
Begin with genre;
Begin with prayer.
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Begin with Context
• How do we read other
books?
• Context means the verses
are connected to the verses
that precede it and to the
verses that follow.
• The OT helps us understand
the NT.
12
Begin with a Framework
The metanarrative presents the BIG picture
from beginning to end.
13
Begin with a Good Translation
• The best translation is the
one you read…or listen to!
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Begin with Genre
• Know the type of book you’re
reading so you’ll look through
the correct lens and read it
correctly. (TEST HO)
• There are 5 different genre in
the OT: law, history, poetry,
major prophets, minor
prophets.
• NT: gospels, history, letters or
epistles, general letters,
prophecy.
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5 types of Genre
On a blank piece of paper, trace your hand.
Write the 5 genre or types in the Old
Testament. Repeat for the New Testament
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Genre of the Old Testament
1. Law Books
Genesis – Deuteronomy
2. History Books
Joshua – Esther
3. Poetry Books
Job – Song of Solomon
4. Major Prophets
Isaiah – Daniel
5. Minor Prophets
Hosea – Malachi
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Genre of the New Testament
1. Gospels
Matthew-John
2. History
Acts
3. Letters
Romans-Hebrews
4. General Letters
James-Jude
5. Prophecy
Revelation
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Begin with Prayer
• Our relationship with God has
to be cultivated through the
spiritual discipline of prayer
and Bible study.
• The Holy Spirit is our guide,
our helper (John 16:13).
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S.T.U.D.Y. and Understand
Step into the sandals of the author.
Take time to look up words.
Understand the figure of speech.
Dig deeper than the surface.
Yield to God.
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Step Into the Sandals of the Author
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A New York Slogan
If you can make it here, you’ll make
it anywhere!
What slogans or sayings are generic
to the place where you were born
and raised? (Neighbor Nudge)
Debrief with class
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Answer the 5 Ws and How!
• Who is the audience?
• What is the situation being
addressed?
• When is the author writing
(immediate historical event)?
• Where is the author writing
from…to (place)?
• Why is the author writing
(purpose)?
• How is God relating to His
people in this passage?
23
See the biblical account unfold in
Israel, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Look closely at the dusty land and
ancient world of the Bible.
Smell the fish of the fishermen, the
sweat of the warriors, the foods of
foreign lands, and the incense in the
Temple. Note customs and ritual
performances filled with Messianic
expectations. See the OT as a shadow
of the NT as the writers anticipate the
redemptive plan of God.
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Virtual Tour of Israel
The culture of the Bible is very
different than the culture of our
21st Century Western world.
Here’s a brief peek...
Video
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Homework:
Read Psalm 1 three different times.
– Read silently
– Read aloud
– Read to music
What did you hear?
What did you notice?
26
So far, we’ve learned to…
Step into the sandals
of the author.
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Take Time to Look Up Words
Did God really say that?
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Dictionaries, Concordance,
History, Commentaries
• Bible dictionaries are the best source
for defining biblical words.
• Concordance helps us to find the
original scripture passage.
• Reference books that offer pictures
of the land of Israel and show the
customs of the people shed light on
cultural nuances.
• Commentaries are someone else’s
comment. These should be our last
resort.
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A Recommended List…
of Bible study tools…
– Strong’s Exhaustive
Concordance
– Vine’s Expository Dictionary
of Old and New Testament
Words
– The IVP Bible Background
Commentary: New
Testament by Craig S. Keene
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So far, we’ve learned to…
Step into the world of the
author.
Take time to look up
words.
31
Understand the Figure of
Speech
Figures of speech
are a writer’s
arsenal because
words
have power!
32
What is a Simile?
A simile is a comparison
that is obvious.
Simile uses words, “like”
and “as”.
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What is a Metaphor?
A metaphor is a figure of
speech that suggests or
implies a comparison.
Things unrelated are
compared for the sake of
emphasis.
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Examples of Simile and Methaphor
Simile—uses the words “like” or “as”
I Peter 5:8 (adversary roams about as
a roaring lion)
Metaphor—implicit comparison
Psalm 91:13 (tread upon the
lion and cobra)
Mark 16:18
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObhvOeNCKh
s
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What is Hyperbole?
Hyperbole is exaggerated
language.
Hyperbole is used for
emphasis.
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Example of Hyperbole
Hyperbole—exaggerated
language
2 Timothy 4:17 b (delivered
out of the mouth of the
lion—See also Psalm 22:21
to which Paul may have
referred.)
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What is Anthropomorphism?
Anthropomorphism is a figure
of speech that attributes
human forms or personality
to God.
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Is the language…
• Anthropomorphic—
Attributing to God human
form
– Psalm 17:7; 18:35 (your right
hand has held me up)
– Psalm 34:15 (eyes…ears…)
39
Attributing to God
Characteristics of Birds and
Animals
God’s wings are a common
metaphor in Scripture, but
this does not mean that God
actually has wings!
Example: Ruth 2:12
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Is the metaphor…an animal or
bird?
Attributing to God the
characteristics of
animals:
– Rev. 5:5 (behold the Lion of
the tribe of Judah)
– Psalm 91:4 (God does not
have feathers or wings, but
feathers provide shelter and
warmth; wings protect)
41
So far, we’ve learned to…
Step into the world of the author.
Take time to look up words.
Understand figures of speech.
Words
have power!
42
Dig Deeper Than the Surface
43
Dig Deeper…Always
Read the pages in your study Bible that
precede each book. The details are
here…no need to search any further
unless you want to!
You’ll find for example:
Historical Background
Occasion and Date
Purpose
Characteristics
Content
Personal Application
Christ Revealed
The Holy Spirit at Work
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Circle the Neighborhood
Where are the schools?
Is there a McDonalds?
Supermarkets?
How far away is the
cleaners?
How close are the
freeways?
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Dig Deeper…Circle the
Neighborhood
The Passage
Immediate
Context
Wider
Context
Other Books
By the Author
Cross
References
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Example
• Romans 1:17
The just shall live by his faith.
Compare with Habakkuk 2:2
The just shall live by faith.
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Will you dig up something new?
Probably not!
2 Peter 1:20, 21
The Bible is the ultimate
authority!
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The Bible’s Common Thread
• God’s faithfulness to
mankind
• Man’s response to God in
faith
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Dig Deeper by Checking Details
•
•
•
•
Write it down.
Make a list, chart, or graph.
Draw a picture.
Keep looking for more
clues.
• Read the passage over
and over and over and
over and over and over
and over again!
50
Dig Deeper with Topical Study
Topical Study is a study
of…yes, topics!
What biblical topics
interest you?
How do you begin to dig
deep?
51
Choose The Topic, then…
1. Begin at the
end of your
Bible.
3. Read the
2. This
many
Concordance is
passages
shorter
about your
(abbreviated)
topic.
and a good
4. Apply the
place to begin.
same
principles—
check genre,
look up
words.
52
Word Study
Word study is a study
of…yes, words!
What words interest you?
How do you begin to dig
deep?
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Choose the Word, then…
1. Is it a noun
(people,
place, or
thing), a verb
(an action)?
2. Is the genre
the same—
literal or
figurative?
3. Look closely
at context for
the author’s
original
meaning and
intent.
4. Look up and
write down
the biblical
definitions.
54
Biographical
Biographical study is a
study of…yes, biography!
What characters or
individuals interest you?
How do you begin to dig
deep?
55
Choose The Character, then…
1. Read all
biblical
references
about that
character.
2. Write down
several
themes that
emerge from
your study.
3. Read the
passages
again to
discover which
theme is
primary.
4. Write a
“biography” of
the character.
56
So far, we’ve learned to…
Step into the world of the
author.
Take time to look up
words.
Understand figures of
speech.
Dig deeper than the
surface.
57
Yield to the Holy Spirit
58
Agree or Disagree?
If you don’t have regular
time in the Word, you will
never be used greatly by
God and will remain a
weak and ineffective
Christian all your life.
59
Agree or Disagree?
Not having time for Bible
study is a matter or
priorities, not a matter of
time. If you put God first in
your life, you will have
more time.
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Agree or Disagree?
It’s better to have Bible
study with a crummy
attitude than not to have
any Bible study at all.
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James 1:22-25
Know yourself.
Be honest with God.
Real feelings can be
expressed to God.
Example: Psalm 73
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It’s been said
“It’s not the
passages we don’t
understand that give
us problems. It’s the
passages that we do
understand.”
63
Dick Innes (author) I Hate to
Witness says:
• To know and not do is not
yet to know.
• To believe and not act is
not yet to believe.
• I truly believe only that
which causes me to act.
64
Ask…?
What has God been
speaking to you lately?
Is there anything that’s
keeping you from
obeying?
Neighbor Nudge…
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We’ve learned to STUDY
Step into the world of the
author.
Take time to look up words.
Understand figures of speech.
Dig deeper than the surface.
Yield to the Holy Spirit.
66
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How to S.T.U.D.Y. And Understand the Bible In 5 Simple