Methods of Bible Study Part 8E–A Basic Approach

E. A Basic Approach to any Passage

1. “What does it say?”

A) Summarize in your own words or

B) Outline the passage

A summary should be no longer than 5 to 8 words per verse.

2. “What does it say that I don’t understand?”

State the problem briefly and clearly.

To clarify the meaning of the passage in order to gain an understanding of what it means, read the text in other translations; read more of the context; consult cross references, especially those given in sources devoted to cross reference Bible study such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (which is considerably more accurate and complete), or Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible. If these sources do not clarify the text and answer your question, then consult the notes in any of several available study Bibles for help, or a commentary on that book of Scripture.

3. “What does it say to me?”

A) State in your own words the truth of the verse or verses from which you draw your application.

B) Indicate how this applies to you–what needs this brings out in your life, where you fall short, or what new appreciation or understanding it gives.

C) Write what you intend to do about it. Use the personal singular pronouns “I” and “me.” It should be stated clearly enough to be understood by anyone you might ask to read it.

4. “What does it say in other places?”

Discover for yourself what the Bible says about subjects and themes in the passage you are studying by looking at the other verses which are on the same subject or are related to the verses you have read. To do this, take the time to carefully look up the cross references given in your reference Bible, in a study Bible, or best of all and far more complete, in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.

Often, there simply is not time enough available to look up everything. Select just one verse that most strikes you from your current study, and look up the cross references for just that verse.

It amazes me how few Bible reading, Bible-believing Christians actually make use of cross references in their study. Even pastors! Pastors and Sunday school teachers need to take the time to teach those under their spiritual care how to study the Bible, and that includes making good use of cross references. If you don’t do cross-reference Bible study, you cannot imagine what you are missing when it comes to studying the treasures in God’s Word.

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5 Responses to Methods of Bible Study Part 8E–A Basic Approach

  1. ken sagely says:

    hello jerry, excellent points on asking questions for bible study. 6 six questions that you can use for a verse , paragraph, chapter can really give you insight into the scripture passages your studying.1 who{persons,christ,peter,john,daniel, luke,matthew },2 what{the subject of the passage, what is he talking about,grace,sin,salvation, }3.when{time year, month, day.}.4 where{location,jerusalem,antioch, galilee,bethlehelm},5how{means, how is it accomplished, and how does this passage apply to me act 16/30-31 what must i do to be saved? ans vs 31 believe on the lord jesus christ and thou shalt be saved} zec 4/6 not by might,nor by power,but by my spirit saith the lord.6. why{purpose} the why question can really open up insight into a passage.rom 8/2 for the law of the spirit of life in christ jesus hath made you free from the law of sin and death. look for repetition of words ex love, 1 co 13. , cause and effect good ex. psm 9/10 jerry has great note on this in cgb. contrasts, the use of” but” in pauls epistles brings alot of great themes of scripture,rom 5/8 but god demonstrates his own love for use while we were yet sinners christ died for us!! the bible will change our lives by the power of the holy spirit if we will let it. i pe 2/2

  2. Hi Jerry,

    I want to give a personal plug for meticulous and time consuming cross reference study as a means of unearthing what the Bible says about a subject matters closely related to it . There is something so solid about convictions that one reaches through one’s own diligent study rather than on the basis of something one’s crowd habitually believes, or the teachings of some favorite author or spiritual leader. There is of course a place for heeding the instruction of gifted and called others, but without diligent spade work, ideally with another dedicated study partner, conviction and understanding will be shallow. And the Bereans were noble because even in the case of having heard the Apostle Paul, they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what he said was so.

    I am happy to report that I have delighted in doing some studies of this sort using as an aid your New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. After ten years, these studies have stood the test of time and continue to bear fruit both for myself and others.

    Let me say in conclusion, that cross reference study is NOT proof-texting, which is notoriously unreliable. If Scripture teaches “Let everything be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses” (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Numbers 35:30; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17,18; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28), and it does, then surely it is beneficial to establish what we believe on a matter on the basis of multiple witnesses in Scripture, wherever that is possible. This means finding the witnesses, hearing the witnesses, and weighing the results. This is cross-reference study . . . and although it is surely not the END of good Bible study, it is very much the beginning.

    Thank you for your good work, Jerry. You and those who have gone before you in your cross referencing research have done an incalculable service to more than can be counted.

  3. Jerry says:

    Dear Stuart,

    Thank you for your very kind and supportive comments regarding cross reference Bible study. I am delighted that you have found my work of creating the NTSK helpful in your own study of God’s Word.

    You have made a most helpful observation when you remark that doing cross reference Bible study is not the same as “proof-texting.” Cross reference Bible study, properly done, is the very opposite of proof-texting, because as you follow through on looking up all the evidence the cross references lead to you will quite often encounter connections in Scripture you had not been aware of before. That contrasts starkly with “proof-texting,” which locks those who do it into the same tired rut!

  4. Cross-reference study is a corrective against proof-texting because it broadens the base upon which one makes judgments about what Scripture is saying. I would only add something with which I know you will agree, but which many avid Bible students neglect to their peril: in each case, for each text and cross-reference, one must examine the context to determine what the human author was getting at, what situation was being addressed, and what the original recipients of the revelation were likely to rightly understand of the revelation under consideration. Then of course, in making application, one must rightly determine the degree to which one’s own situation is or is not actually parallel to that being addressed in Scripture.

    Sadly, when one fails to consider context in such a manner, one may just multiply the errors inherent in proof-texting for all the cross-references one examines, thus multiplying the exegetical sin!

  5. Jerome Smith says:

    You’ve got that right, Stuart.

    That is why I prefer to look up cross references using a hard copy Bible, for then I see the context, and often read further, perhaps the whole chapter!

    Using computer software is much faster and more convenient, but the pop-up window only displays the single verse, not the context, unless you click on the verse and go to the referenced passage where you then see the whole chapter.

    I believe the Bible is a self-correcting, self-interpreting Book when we study it correctly, and observe the 23 Rules of Interpretation I’ve listed in the October 2010 archives here.

    More people need to get into the Word of God and do Real Bible Study for themselves.

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