Where Do I Begin?
Let’s face it – deciding to study the Bible can seem like a daunting task. After all, it’s a big book with lots of print and no pictures! And given the fact that it covers so much time and history, where does a regular person begin to get a grasp on all that it covers? After all, there are so many people with so many different views, how is a person supposed to know what is correct?
I don’t blame you if you’re asking these questions, and I also want to commend you if you want to learn more about the Bible. It’s what teaches us about God and our relationship to him. So let’s begin with some common questions and some suggested resources as you step out to begin learning more. Below I’m going to walk thru a number of resources you may want to use. Everything listed here is free (except the book mentioned in Step 3), so cost won’t be an issue.
Step 1: Get A Good Bible Translation
There are so many different translations out there that it’s hard to know which translation to use. I generally use one of two different translations.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB or NASU) is a great translation known for it’s scholarship and accuracy. But that scholarship and accuracy means that the readability level is going to be higher.
The New Living Translation (NLT) is also a great bible, but has a much easier readability level. If a person is just starting out in Bible study, this is the translation that I recommend they use first.
Both of these translations are freely available on your computer or mobile device. You can find a great free Bible app at Bible.com that has both of these translations. The good folks at Bible.org also have a free study environment called Lumina which contains both of these translations. We’ll come back to Lumina later in this article.
Step 2: Find Some Good Study Tools
All of us – myself included – benefit from the study of other Christians who have gone before us. The good news is that many of these study tools are now freely available thanks to the internet.
If you go to the Lumina study environment, you’ll see in the top of the right side a button labeled ‘Constable’s Notes’. These are the Bible study notes created by Tom Constable, who for years was a professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. These are excellent, and you’ll notice that they adjust to whatever Bible passage you’ve got present in the left pane on the screen.
You’ll undoubtedly still have questions, so I recommend using the Got Questions website. This site was started by a graduate of Calvary Theological Seminary in Kansas City. The questions have been carefully edited and thoughtfully answered. I recommend it as a good, consistent source of Bible knowledge.
Step 3: Review Hendrick's Bible Study Methods
If you type ‘How to Study the Bible’ into Google or Bing, you’ll get all sorts of writing on the topic by various authors. And while many are good, the best I’ve ever seen was developed by Dr. Howard Hendricks.
Dr. Hendricks was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who for many years taught a course in Bible Study Methods. This course has influenced Bible teachers all over the world (including me) and is still taught to this day. You can find the abbreviated version of this course in a number of formats. A summary handout titled Howard Hendrick’s 4 Bible Study Steps will give you an overview of this topic. If you want a slightly longer format with questions and short videos, you can take a free 4 week course on this topic from Dallas Seminary (Don’t worry – no grades!).
The absolutely best format for Dr. Hendricks teaching is thru this series of 15 videos. Each video is only six minutes long, but is jam packed with truth. Each YouTube video can be selected from the playlist on the right.
Perhaps you’re more of a reader. If so, Dr. Hendricks wrote the book Living By the Book with his son, William Hendricks. It will give you a lot to ponder.
Step 4: Begin Studying
You’ve now got your Bible, some good study tools, and you’ve been thru Dr. Hendrick’s teaching. Now what?
First, I almost always begin my Bible study by asking God to teach me. It’s amazing, but even after all these years, I still learn a lot in study.
Second, I’d choose a place to start. If you’re just beginning this journey of Bible study, I’d suggest beginning with one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Or you might want to look at one of Paul’s shorter writings (like Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, or James). I don’t recommend you start at Genesis and begin reading your way thru the Bible at first.
Bible study is one of the most rewarding things you’ll do in life. It’s the way to get to know your Savior better. I’ll be linking to more resources in this series to help you grow in your faith. Let me know how you’re doing.