Ways to Help Your Passage-by-Passage Study of the Bible (Part 1 of 3)

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by: Pastor David Huffstutler

10/03/2021

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What follows below is simple advice for reading your Bible and specifically how to understand a specific passage in depth. This advice is geared towards teachers but hopefully anyone who reads it.

First, understand the passage in its broader context. Gain a preliminary standing of the whole book that you are studying. Read introductory sections in study Bibles or introductions to the OT or NT that summarize and outline the book that you want to study. Know as much as you can about the author, audience, setting (time and places of author and audience), etc. Read the book for yourself several times, and outline the book passage by passage. If possible, identify key verses in which the author states his purpose for the whole book.

Second, understand the passage itself. If the passage is short enough, write it out by hand word for word. Narrative passages make this step difficult if the passage is longer, but reading it several times and taking notes can still be helpful. Once written, jot more notes next to your hand-written passage to identify each part of your passage and how its parts relate to others: (1) words – if a word could have multiple meanings, what does each word mean in this particular context? Are there connector words that tie what follows to what has gone before? (2) phrases – e.g., prepositional phrases – what word does this phrase modify? Are there parallel phrases that act as a series? A list? A progression of actions? (3) clauses – Is the clause subordinate to another clause? Is the clause independent (it makes for a sentence by itself)? Are the clauses assertions, commands, questions, etc.? (4) paragraphs – How does one figure out when the paragraph begins and ends? Are there repeated words? Commands? A theological theme? Are there transition words that begin one paragraph to the next? Usually what we think of as a “passage” is often a paragraph of Scripture, especially in the letters of the NT. (5) units – Do multiple paragraphs fit together? (6) whole Books – How does a paragraph or unit bring out the theme of a book? (7) testament – How does this passage and book fit within the storyline of the gospel in its testament? When was this book written? Before or after other books? (8) whole Bible – How does this passage and book fit within the Bible as a whole? How does it touch upon the gospel? What does it tell us about God’s rule over us and His desire to fellowship with us forever? How does this passage contribute to a broader theological theme?

Third, if preparing to teach through the passage, make an outline of your passage and then make a succinct statement that captures the big idea of your passage. Having a good understanding of the passage, read a soundcommentary or two on your passage. Use Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias to look up names, key words, etc. Study Bibles give notes to help interpret a passage. The MacArthur Study Bible is the first that I would recommend

What follows below is simple advice for reading your Bible and specifically how to understand a specific passage in depth. This advice is geared towards teachers but hopefully anyone who reads it.

First, understand the passage in its broader context. Gain a preliminary standing of the whole book that you are studying. Read introductory sections in study Bibles or introductions to the OT or NT that summarize and outline the book that you want to study. Know as much as you can about the author, audience, setting (time and places of author and audience), etc. Read the book for yourself several times, and outline the book passage by passage. If possible, identify key verses in which the author states his purpose for the whole book.

Second, understand the passage itself. If the passage is short enough, write it out by hand word for word. Narrative passages make this step difficult if the passage is longer, but reading it several times and taking notes can still be helpful. Once written, jot more notes next to your hand-written passage to identify each part of your passage and how its parts relate to others: (1) words – if a word could have multiple meanings, what does each word mean in this particular context? Are there connector words that tie what follows to what has gone before? (2) phrases – e.g., prepositional phrases – what word does this phrase modify? Are there parallel phrases that act as a series? A list? A progression of actions? (3) clauses – Is the clause subordinate to another clause? Is the clause independent (it makes for a sentence by itself)? Are the clauses assertions, commands, questions, etc.? (4) paragraphs – How does one figure out when the paragraph begins and ends? Are there repeated words? Commands? A theological theme? Are there transition words that begin one paragraph to the next? Usually what we think of as a “passage” is often a paragraph of Scripture, especially in the letters of the NT. (5) units – Do multiple paragraphs fit together? (6) whole Books – How does a paragraph or unit bring out the theme of a book? (7) testament – How does this passage and book fit within the storyline of the gospel in its testament? When was this book written? Before or after other books? (8) whole Bible – How does this passage and book fit within the Bible as a whole? How does it touch upon the gospel? What does it tell us about God’s rule over us and His desire to fellowship with us forever? How does this passage contribute to a broader theological theme?

Third, if preparing to teach through the passage, make an outline of your passage and then make a succinct statement that captures the big idea of your passage. Having a good understanding of the passage, read a soundcommentary or two on your passage. Use Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias to look up names, key words, etc. Study Bibles give notes to help interpret a passage. The MacArthur Study Bible is the first that I would recommend

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