How to Study the Bible
How to Study the Bible
I’ve been teaching the Old Testament for the past twenty years. I’m reminded as I teach in churches that the Old Testament is not any easy book! People often ask me how they should go about studying the Bible. So here are my “tips,” which also include an explanation of how the Casket Empty Bible resources will help you study the Bible.
First of all, it’s important to remember that the Bible is one redemptive story from beginning to end. While there are many different books and authors covering over two thousand years, these books were written in specific time periods and they all contribute to our understanding of this redemptive story, which is really God’s plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus. So as you consider how to study the Bible, the first thing to recognize is that it there is one storyline—with Jesus at its center.
The second thing to keep in mind is that the books of the Bible are not all in chronological order. I discuss this in the Introduction to the Old Testament Study Guide, and David does as well in the New Testament Study Guide. The reason this is important is that if you are trying to understand the storyline of the Bible, you cannot simply read through one book after the other based on the Table of Contents, as you would if you were reading a book with chapters. Reading an individual book will help you know the content of a particular book but it won’t help you locate the book within the larger storyline. Do you see the problem?
What we often do is read individual books on their own, or we’ve taken our favorite Bible verses and memorized them, but this doesn’t help us learn how the books fit into the larger redemptive story. We have a “cafeteria” style method, where we pick and choose what we read based on our favorite verses or books without ever knowing the full story. What I’m suggesting is that this is not the best way to study the Bible. And it can lead us to draw the wrong theological conclusions because biblical texts need to be read in context. We might assume that the blessings in Deut 28 apply directly to us today as we obey God, while not realizing that they were part of the old covenant given to Israel.
The Casket Empty series is designed to help you learn and study the Bible by first identifying the main storyline of the Bible, and then placing each book in its correct time period. The CASKET EMPTY acronym will help you since it identifies the key movements of the redemptive narrative of the entire Bible, with the word CASKET representing the Old Testament (Creation-Abraham-Sinai-Kings-Exile-Temple), and the word EMPTY representing the New Testament (Expections-Messiah-Pentecost-Teachings-Yet-to-come).
The visual Old and New Testament timelines will also help you see the larger story of the Bible, and help you trace the storyline through key periods, seeing common threads that connect the biblical books. All the biblical books for each period are listed on the timeline so that you can locate them within the story. I would encourage you to keep the timelines in your Bible, and whenever you hear a sermon or do a Bible study, take out the timeline and see where the biblical book is located on the timeline. This will help you keep the context in view rather than isolating the book or verse apart from its original setting.
The third thing to keep in mind is that the Old and New Testaments are not only part of one redemptive story, but the people and events that take place in the Old Testament anticipate what will happen in the New Testament. For example, Abraham is a key figure in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, yet he is mentioned over 75 times in the New Testament. This means that you will not be able to understand the New Testament without understanding the Old Testament. The Casket Empty Study Guides are designed to help you make these connections. Along with the visual timelines, the Study Guides will walk you through each major period, highlighting the key events and people, and showing you how they connect to the other parts of the story, and especially to the New Testament. I would encourage you as you read through the Bible to look at the cross references, since they will alert you to other related passages in the Bible.
If you want to learn the storyline of the Bible, I would encourage you to begin by reading through the Old Testament Study Guide, along with the key bible verses that are highlighted in it. You may want to do this in a small group, perhaps taking 10-15 pages each week and then discussing together what you’ve read. And keep your timeline open as you read, so that you are always locating the particular book in its correct time period and setting.
So in summary, my three bible study tips are as follows:
1. Remember that the Bible is one redemptive story, not simply a series of separate books. This means that when you study the Bible, you need to keep this larger story in mind.
2. The books of the Bible are not all in chronological order. This means that if you want to learn the storyline of the Bible, you’ll need some other help to do this. The Casket Empty Timelines are designed for exactly this purpose.
3. The people and events described in the Old Testament anticipate what will happen in the New Testament. This means you need to know the Old Testament to understand the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the New Testament. I would encourage you to read through the Old Testament Study Guide (in a group if possible). Just start working your way through it, chapter by chapter. It will change the way you read the Bible! Once you’ve read the Old Testament Study Guide, then continue with the New Testament Study Guide. I’ve read through it many times. You will find your heart further stirred to love Jesus and be part of His mission!
Press on with your study of the Bible! This takes a commitment to spend time to read and study, but your relationship with God will be enriched as you learn about all that our God has done. If you can do this in the context of community—all the better!
Dr. Carol Kaminski
Image Credit: Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash