Studying the Bible can be a daunting task if you are unfamiliar with it. Yes, plenty of people have read their Bibles for hundreds of years, and had no problem…or so they thought. The problem is many people have a surface understanding of scripture and what it means for Christ followers. If you want to take your Bible study to a whole new level, you have come to the right place. Today I want to share with you some tips and resources on how to read and study your Bible like a pro.
Quality over Quantity
When I was a young believer, I thought that if I didn’t read “X” amount of chapters a day, I was going to be in trouble with God. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have come to learn the importance of quality over quantity.
I would rather read one chapter or even half of a chapter, and
- fully understand what it is saying,
- actually apply it to my life,
- and find Christ in it regardless if it is in the OT or NT
than try and gorge myself on scripture and get nothing out of it.
Take your time reading and studying what it means, what the author meant, studying the words, and commentaries. You don’t have to meet some spiritual quota to earn favor with the Lord. When we try to earn spiritual badges of valor by reading massive quantities of scripture at a time sometimes we miss out on its life changing ability.
This isn’t to say never read large quantities, just don’t make it a law unto yourself. Learn to move in the ebbs and flows of the Spirit, which we will talk about in a bit.
Understanding Context When Reading The Bible
To read and study the Bible like a pro you have to understand the context in which it was written. I believe this is the number one area where many readers go awry in their study and application of scripture. Here are some points to take into account:
- What was the historical context?
- What is the eternal lesson, and how does it point to Christ?
- Was the author addressing a specific cultural situation?
- When was the book written? The standard Bible is not arranged in chronological order. Get a chronological Bible to get a better understanding of the Biblical timeline. Here are two options:
- What specific events were happening that the author was addressing?
Failing to understand proper context of a scripture is what leads many people to misquote it and use it to support their point. The Bible contains a vast amount of categories. Commentaries and concordances will help you to understand these contexts. And, while a scripture may have been written to a particular situation or person, or group of people, it may also contain eternal truths that still hold true today.
Concordances and Commentaries
If you want to study the Bible like a seminary professor I would recommend using commentaries and a concordance. A concordance is like a dictionary on steroids. Since the Bible wasn’t written in English, it can be difficult to understand what the writer originally meant. You look up the word in English, and it will give you a reference number to the Hebrew or Greek word that it corresponds with.
Scriptures from the Old Testament will refer to Hebrew words, and scriptures from the New Testament will refer to Greek words. The Hebrew and Greek words will be separated into two separate sections so as not to confuse you. This will give you a better understanding of author’s original intent. The concordance may also contain weights and measures from Biblical times.
I personally use and recommend The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
Now a commentary is a whole other animal when it comes to Biblical studies. A commentary provides a theologian’s or multiple theologians view points on a book of the Bible. They will provide historical data, author information, information regarding what was happening before, during, and after the book was written, why the author was writing it, and then they will begin to walk through a book of the Bible and break it down verse by verse.
There are numerous commentaries available from literally hundreds of various theologians. You will find countless viewpoints when it comes to scripture. It is important to compare and contrast what you find, and allow scripture to come alive to you. If you have questions regarding a verse or verses, feel free to shoot me an email.
I recommend utilizing commentaries from various theologians to gain a broad understanding of scripture. This helps you avoid getting pin-holed into one view point, doctrine, or dogma.
A couple of the commentary resources that I personally utilize are:
- Expositor’s Bible Commentary
- Logos Bible Software
- Jewish New Testament Commentary
- Holman Concise Bible Dictionary
Logos Bible software is expensive, but its capabilities are immense. I have a mid level version of the software and still have yet to utilize it to its full capacity. You can also utilize a study Bible with study notes as well. This can act as a small commentary. Here’s the Study Bible I use. (I can see his doctrinal bend in some of his notes, so I often cross reference with other commentaries to help me gain the best understanding possible.)
You can also download an app called The Blue Letter Bible. This app has a wealth of knowledge, including commentaries and concordance references. I often reference this on the fly when I am away from home. The resources available in it are not the most extensive, but they are better than nothing.
One of the best tips of advice I received is the importance of journaling. Journaling about what you read and/or studied will help you put into your own words all of the thoughts, ideas, and revelations that are flooding through your mind after reading scripture, commentaries, and concordances. Sometimes it can all be overwhelming, and just writing it down helps you to make sense of it all.
Down the road you can look back at what you read. You will find encouragement, be reminded of the revelation you had about a particular scripture, or even see how you have grown, changed your thoughts about something, or even how what that meant then has grown even bigger for you.
You can use either a regular spiral notebook, or I like to use a Moleskine Classic Notebook for its classic look and durability. I also use a note taking app called Evernote.
It’s a Spiritual Book
Finally, and most importantly, the Bible is a spiritual book, I encourage you to pray when you read your Bible. Take time either before or after, or both to spend just a few minutes in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you concerning what you are about to read or just read. Taking these few moments will help you to grow in your understanding of scripture immensely.
Be attentive to the ebbs and flows of the Spirit when reading. Sometimes you may read massive quantities of scripture because it is spiritually filling. Other times you may meditate on one particular verse the Holy Spirit is illuminating to you. Don’t allow the demands of life or others dictate how much scripture you read. Do as you see the Father leading you (John 5:19).
3 Final Tips On How To Read The Bible Like A Pro
Find Christ In Every Scripture – Jesus told the disciples that all the scriptures point to Him (John 5:39). Find Christ in every part of the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you if it does not stand out.
Read Intentionally – Don’t just read words on the page. Read with the intention of understanding and correctly applying it to your walk with the Lord, and your daily life.
Read Scripture multiple times in one sitting – This goes back to a quality over quantity. Read a chapter or set of verses multiple times to help it come alive to you and to saturate your soul. I have had days where I have reread a verse or set of verses numerous times
Let’s summarize how to read and study the Bible like a seminary professor:
- Go for quality over quantity.
- Understand the context.
- Use Commentaries and concordances.
- Journal about what you read.
- Begin and/or end your Bible reading with prayer. It is a Spiritual book.
- Read Intentionally.
- Find Christ in the Scripture.
- Read scripture multiple times in one sitting.
I believe every follower of Christ should be like the Berean’s who studied the scriptures daily with great eagerness. Don’t just take everything your hear at face value. Study it for yourself. If you want to read and study the Bible like a pro, or like a seminary professor, you have to think like one. Implementing these strategies will take your bible study to a whole new level.