Here is a guide you can use to study a complete book of the Bible on your own, complete with questions to help you tease out the deeper meanings in the texts.
The reason we study the Bible is to better understand the foundations of our faith, to nurture a relationship with God, and to grow our spiritual understanding. There are a variety of approaches to Bible study; the following, suggested by Rev. Anne, will help you to explore individual books of the Bible.
How to study a whole book of the Bible
The following is a general guide that can be useful for any book of the Bible. Keep in mind that not all questions will be needed for each book. Try to do the work without looking at the notes in a Bible or at other commentary.
The purpose of this study is to get a general introduction to this book, to discover why the book is in the Bible, and to understand the basic truth that it is teaching us.
- Begin with a prayer.
- Read the book with an open mind:
- Read it through in one sitting.
- Don’t analyze it or try to figure it out. Simply enjoy it as a good book.
- If you have read it before, try reading it in an unfamiliar translation.
- Reread the book, this time pondering the following:
- What is the atmosphere of the book? What feeling is evoked through the author’s use of words or placing of events or ideas?
- What type of literature is it? Is it poetry, history or biographical narrative? Is it a collection of sayings or stories (parables) or a letter? Does it prophesy, teach or describe a vision? One book may include several literary elements.
- What is the structure of the book? Are there clear divisions in theme or literary style? Is there an introduction and a conclusion, an argument and an illustration, a comparison or counter argument? You do not need to itemize these things; you are simply looking for a general shape.
- Note possible answers to the following questions, using evidence from the book alone
- Who wrote the book?
- Who is it about?
- Who are the main characters?
- Who is it written for; that is, who is the audience?
- When was the book written?
- When did the events take place?
- If the book describes future events, when will they happen?
- Where are the events and characters of the book or the audience to whom it is addressed located?
- Is there movement from one place to another?
- What are the main events?
- What are the main ideas?
- What are the main teachings?
- What is the author talking about?
- What chapter or section contains the key theme, if any, of the book?
- Why was the book written? The purpose may be clearly stated or implied by the main subjects, by problems named by the writer or by the exhortations directed to the reader.
- Why is so much space given to these events or teachings?
After you put down the book, think about the following:
- What have you learned about God from this book?
- What do you think is the basic truth that this book reveals?
- Why do you think that this book is in the Bible?
- Can you give the book a simple subtitle that captures its essence?
Find the book in a study Bible and compare what the commentary says to what you gleaned in your reading.
Seek out resources to help you explore further. If you’re not sure where to look, The Bible Project (thebibleproject.com) is a good place to start.
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