How might you study the Bible in order to experience its life-changing message? Here’s some guidance adapted from The American Bible Society.
Begin with prayer. Clear your mind and focus your attention. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to lead you as you study and reflect on a passage.
READ THE PASSAGE
Read the passage several times. Try reading it in different translations—at least one that is more word-for-word, like NRSV or NASB, as well as a translation that’s more thought-for-thought, like GNT or NLT (you may use the YouVersion or BibleGateway app/website). What words and images stand out to you?
WHO IS SPEAKING? TO WHOM ARE THEY SPEAKING?
Sometimes the speaker and audience are disclosed in the passage; at other times you have to go back several verses or chapters.
WHO ARE THE KEY CHARACTERS?
Find out who they are. Do they appear anywhere else in Scripture? Do they have a backstory? Do they have a title or role?
WHAT IS THE GENRE OF LITERATURE?
Biblical genres include narrative, law, prophecy, letters, wisdom, and apocalyptic literature, among others. Identify the genre of your passage and think about how the genre affects how you should understand the passage. Is it meant to be literal or figurative? Is it teaching, telling, or mandating something? Is it expressing appreciation? Lament? Other features?
WHAT DOES THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE SAY?
Use an online tool like Blue Letter Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/) to research the Greek and Hebrew words behind the English translation of your passage. Where else in the Bible has this word been used?
WHAT COMES BEFORE AND AFTER THE PASSAGE?
What is happening before and after your verses? Is your passage a continuation of what came before? Is it setting up something that comes later?
WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WHOLE BOOK?
Consult a commentary, online Bible resource, or notes included with your Bible or study Bible. What is the historical or cultural context? What are the book’s themes?
WHAT IS THE PASSAGE’S MESSAGE TO ITS INTENDED AUDIENCE?
What do you think this passage’s message is to its audience? To the wider community of faith? Does this passage illuminate other parts of Scripture that you have read recently?
REFLECT ON THE PASSAGE’S SIGNIFICANCE FOR YOU
Contemplate what this passage may be saying to you. God may be showing you something specific about your own journey and spiritual growth. Take time to reflect and listen.