How to study the Bible in a deeper way

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This article contains some notes on how to study the Bible in a deeper way, including information on useful study helps and tools.

Some general notes on study.

Believers should study the Scriptures, but one must keep in mind that one cannot “earn salvation” through bible-reading. There are many methods and ways to study the Scriptures, but the manner of each day reading the Bible for a certain period of time, for the reason that one feels that one “must” do that, is one of least fruitful ways of study.

True religion is not a “theoretical science”. It’s a way of life. What counts is how one lives – behaves and acts – and not how much one “studies”.

But yes, believers should study the Bible. One of the reasons for this is that if one does not personally study the Scriptures in depth, one will be easy prey for all kinds of deceivers.

It is important that one always studies for the purpose of finding out what the Bible says, instead of trying to find confirmation for the teachings or dogmas of some church or preacher.

Some might feel that they do not have the time for any deeper study. Now, time can be used in different ways. The article nwa060.htm provides an easy way to get more time for important things such as active family life and good works, and even for bible-study.

Also: If one acquires a decent computer-bible suite and learns to use it, one can study the Scriptures in a much faster and deeper way than what is possible by using printed books. (Some people might feel that computer bibles are too complicated for them. If you feel so, see the article nga020.htm which provides easy keys to better biblical understanding. Those easy keys can be used also when one studies with printed bibles.)

Bible-versions.

Many people look for advice regarding “recommended bible-versions”, or guidelines for “choosing a translation”. But, one must keep in mind that all translations have been produced by biased and erring men. There is no “best” translation, and not even any “good” one. To some degree, all of them contain bias and error, and all too often even purposely twisted things. So, when one studies some specific passage or matter, one should compare different translations. Those who are able, should even endeavour to check what the Hebrew and Greek texts really say. Some of the more advanced computer bible suites are a handy tool in that regard.

For English-speaking people, there are numerous bible-versions to choose between. Some older people might be used to king James’ bible or something similar, but most younger people have problems with the archaic words and spellings that older translations contain. For instance the HCSB, NASB, NKJV and NRSV are easier to read. But again, one must keep in mind that there are no “good” or “reliable” translations.

When one studies some specific matter, one can check the relevant passages in several different bible-versions, comparing them. The best tool for studying multiple translations parallelly, is a computer bible suite. For those who are not familiar with computer bibles: Simply said, they are bible-browsers, but at the same time much more. Many of them contain advanced study tools. There is more on this, a bit later.

Translation-related cults.

There are cults connected to several different bible-versions. One of them has to do with king James’ bible. Some have claimed that it is the “most accurate translation”, “inspired by God”, and even “better than the original”. Some have made claims of that kind into a dogma. But, what is the real story behind king James’ bible?

James was coronated as the king of England, in March 1603. In January 1604, he ordered the production of a new bible-edition, only two years after the previous Church of England translation had been published (the Bishops’ bible, edition 1602). The men whom James involved in producing a new edition for him, were given forty wide-margin copies of the 1602 edition, and they were told to produce a text that was as close to it as possible, with as few changes as possible – but, they were given specific orders in regard to certain things. That included orders regarding certain words and phrases that were to be used in the new edition. Those orders were not “theologically motivated” but were instead connected to James’ political plans and needs.

The article nsa030.htm has more on that matter. It has even some notes on the so-called “received text” or “textus receptus”, the Latin-Greek NT text which the Catholic priest Gerrit Gerritszoon (“Erasmus”) in the 1500s compiled for a Swiss book printer.

Paraphrased versions.

One should not use a “paraphrased” bible for one’s main study. Many paraphrases are even more biased than what “normal” bibles are. But, it must be noted that sometimes, a paraphrase version can render a given passage in a better way when it comes to clarity, and at times even accuracy. So, even paraphrases can be useful. (Of course, there are different kinds of them. Some are very unreliable and misleading.)

Regarding ‘interlinear bibles’, and concordances and so on.

Clarification: “Interlinear bibles” show the same text in two or more languages, parallelly. Some interlinears include Strong’s number codes for the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words.

It appears that some people have thought that interlinears are somehow more “objective” or “reliable” than translations which do not include a Hebrew or Greek text. But, even interlinears are written by men. Also in them, the translators have included their bias and sometimes even church dogmas and so on, either through their choice of words or by other means. In other words: Even interlinears have errors, and they are just as biased and slanted as other translations. The same goes for “amplified” and “emphasized” bibles and the like.

As for printed concordances – they had their use in the days when people did not have access to computers. But, if one has a computer with a large screen, there is no reason to acquire or use a printed concordance, or a printed interlinear. Modern computer bible suites have made such things obsolete. Bible software is available even as free downloads. The article nsa020.htm has some notes on that matter.

A note: For instance “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” can severely mislead anyone who uses it, because of the limited and biased Hebrew and Greek lexicons which it contains, and also because it is many ways connected to one single translation (king James’ bible).

On Hebrew and Greek lexicons.

A note: The so-called “lexicons” in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance are limited and biased and thus also misleading and not worth much.

If you have a computer bible, it may contain some “biblical” Greek and Hebrew lexicons – even there, a note of warning: All religious or “biblical” lexicons of old Greek and Hebrew are limited, biased and misleading.

For old Greek, there are better lexicons available, such as ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott, and also the shorter ‘Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’ by the same authors. Even they contain some religious bias, but not to the same degree as the so-called “biblical” Greek lexicons.

A note: The use of printed editions of the lexicons by Liddell and Scott demands that one is familiar with the Greek alphabet. But, there are online versions where that is not a must.

Here is a link to an online version of the extensive variant, ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ (“LSJ”) by Liddell and Scott:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057

On that page, you can change the display to “Latin transliteration” (under “display preferences”), if you are not used to Greek letters. Also, some might find it easier to use the word-browse bars at the top of that page, or the word menu on its left side, instead of trying to write in a Greek word.

The abridged variant, ‘Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’ (“ML”) by Liddell and Scott:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0058

Even on that page, you can change the display to “Latin transliteration”, under “display preferences”. Check also the other settings and functions on that page, including the word-browse bars on the top and the word menu on the left.

For some people, a printed copy of ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott might be easier to use, provided that one can read Greek letters. But, on the other hand, the above-mentioned online lexicons can do many things that a printed book never can.

The site archive.org has had downloadable facsimile PDF-versions of those lexicons (older editions, no longer copyrighted), but they are large files (circa 2 gigabytes for a PDF-version of the “LSJ”, less for the “ML”), and one needs a fast computer for handling such large PDF-files.

(Some of the more advanced computer bible suites include those lexicons by Liddell and Scott. A word of caution: Some may have shortened or in other ways modified those lexicons.)

Regarding personal notes on page margins in a printed bible.

Many people have over the years made margin notes in their bibles. Often, those notes represent what they have been told by some church or preacher – their dogmas. If one uses a bible with notes of that kind, then one will constantly be feeding church dogmas into one’s head. Consequently, when one starts studying the Bible in more depth, one should start afresh, with an unmarked bible.

Many computer bible suites provide the user a way to make personal “margin notes” in the Bible, in electronic form, verse for verse. One can then edit, change and revise those notes, as one’s study goes on. In some computer bibles, each verse where one has written a personal note, becomes marked in some way, for instance so that the verse number is highlighted. Often, it is possible to make backup copies of such personal note sets.

Suggested tools for study.

• A somewhat literal and easily read printed bible in one’s own language, with a font and text size that are comfortable for one’s eyes.

• A modern, extensive computer bible suite. The article nsa020.htm has some notes in that regard. See also the article nga020.htm, for easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures.

• Those who can read Greek letters, might eventually have use for a printed copy of ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott (and Jones), the “LSJ”, or the not quite as extensive but perhaps more easily read ‘Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’, the “ML”, by the same authors. A note: There are many different editions at greatly varying prices.

(As was mentioned earlier, there are even online variants of those two lexicons, and editions which are no longer copyrighted and can be downloaded in PDF-form. Also: Some computer bible-suites include the LSJ or the ML, or both, but please note that all too often, computer bible suites contain abridged or limited or in some other way modified materials, instead of original versions.)

• Those who can read Hebrew letters, might eventually have use for a lexicon of old Hebrew, for instance the one by Brown, Driver and Briggs, the full version and not some abridged one. (A note: Just as all “biblical” lexicons, even that one contains bias and error and misleading things.) – But, for most bible-students, it is the Greek text of the New Testament that is most interesting.

• For many people, even a decent English-English dictionary might be helpful, in bible study. See the site http://wordweb.info/free/ for a free dictionary (for Windows); make sure to check the licence rules. That dictionary explains even some of the archaic words that appear in certain older bible-versions – such as “threescore”, “whither”, “cubit”, “fain”, “wot”, and so on. However, it is not reliable when it comes to the meaning of “religious” words such as “archangel”, “dragon”, “cherub” and so on. (A number of such words are included in the key-word index for this site.)

• A decent “bible map book”, preferably one that is better than the map-appendixes that are found at the end of some printed bibles. Even many computer bible suites have map-sets of some kind. (Please note that the various towns and sites are not always correctly placed, on those “biblical” maps. Many “identifications” of the locations of biblical sites are based on quite dubious sources and ideas. The article noa060.htm discusses one example of this.)

• Regarding bible-commentaries: Much in them is severely biased and misleading. But, sometimes those commentaries can serve as a helpful addition to one’s bible-study, such as through providing background information to various things.

Avoiding certain common pitfalls.

One of the most common errors that people make, is that when they read the Scriptures, they somehow think that the text which they read, talks about the one who reads it in our day.

One must keep in mind that when one sees in the Bible such words as “you”, “your”, “we”, “our”, “us”, those words refer to people of biblical times. Such as, those whom Jesus was speaking to, and the saints [a] who were the recipients of the letters the apostles wrote.

a “Saints” – just as in the Bible, even here that word refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in New Testament times or earlier.

There are many things to learn from what was said and written to those people, but again, one must not think that the Bible talks about the reader. An example: When the apostle Paul wrote his letters to the saints (people of the first century), he indeed wrote to and regarding those people. – It is clear that those letters contain important lessons even for us, but, one must not make the mistake of thinking that all the “nice” things that were said to and regarding the saints, would apply to us who now almost 2000 years later read copies of those letters.

The article nga020.htm has some notes on certain pitfalls in connection with bible-study, and how to avoid them.

For those who desire understanding.

This passage can be applied even in our day:

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom […] (AKJV)

One must always ask God in prayer, for guidance in one’s study, and for proper understanding. And then, one must firmly keep in mind that “study and prayer” are not a goal in themselves. Prayer is important, and it is important to personally study the Scriptures, but it is the “doing” part that is most important. That is: That one lives and acts in a way which is pleasing to God. A vital part of that is connected to how one treats other human beings, including one’s own family.

Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest rule. 39 And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself. (BBE)

James 1:22 But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like to a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. 25 But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (AKJV)

Make sure to carefully read and consider the three scripture-quotes above.

A good subject for starting a real, deep bible-study, is the matter of the two covenants, old and new. The articles nca080.htm, nca090.htm and nca110.htm provide some food for thought, in regard to that subject. The article nga080.htm has some notes on the matter of righteousness.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

On the King James translation. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → nsa030.htm

Some notes on computer bibles, bible study software. → nsa020.htm

A challenge to all believers, regarding something important. → nwa060.htm

Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → nga020.htm

The route of the Exodus, and the location of Mount Sinai. Did the Israelites cross the Red Sea by the Gulf of Suez, or by the Gulf of Aqaba? Or, was it some “reed sea” they went over, as some say? And, where did the forty-year desert sojourn take place? → noa060.htm

On Galatians 3:17–19 and what the apostle Paul meant by “added law”. → nca080.htm

The New Covenant is indeed something new, and not a “renewal” or “modification” of the Old Covenant. → nca090.htm

Many talk about “the spirit of the law” versus “the letter of the law”, but those expressions are not found in the Bible. On the meaning of the phrases “the Spirit” and “the letter” in 2 Corinthians 3:6–8 and Romans 7:6. → nca110.htm

What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → nga080.htm


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