V. Tools for Bible Study
Bibles: The New Scoffield Reference Bible. This is complied from a dispensational point of view and is “based on the assumption that the best approach to the Bible is one that allows the reader to understand the greatest portion of the Bible. The dispensational framework does this”.
Thompson Chain Reference Bible. This study Bible combines the Analytic and Synthetic systems of Bible study and is easy to use.
The International Inductive Study Bible. Specialized instructions for personal study help you to delve into the Bible yourself.
Nave’s study Bible
The NIV Study bible
The Believers’ Study Bible
Newberry Reference Bible
Dakes Annotated Reference Bible
The Open Bible
Disciples Study Bible
Nelson Study Bible
There are many more study Bibles available on my desk, but I would still prefer a Wide Margin Center Column Reference Bible for my study. This helps the student to make plenty of notes on the margin itself.
There have also been many translations after the King James Version. Some of these translations are:
a. The Revised Version The Revised Standard Version New English Bible New King James Version New International Version New American Standard Version The Amplified Version The Living Bible etc.
Concordance: There are two popular exhaustive concordances available today. They are Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Young’s analytical Concordance. Cruden’s Concordance is more concise and easy to use.
Bible Dictionary/Encyclopedia: These tools explain to us many of the words, topics, customs and manners of Bible lands etc. They also give historical, geographical, cultural, and archeological information.
New Bible Dictionary Unger’s Bible Dictionary International Standard Bible Encyclopedia The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the bible
Topical Bible: Nave’s Topical Bible. All the verses on a particular topic are mentioned together in this Bible. Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.
Bible Handbook: Halley’s Bible Handbook Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible Unger’s Bible Handbook
Old Testament: Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies Girdlestone’s Synonyms of the Old Testament Dictionary of old Testament Words for English Readers by Aaron Pick
New Testament: Englishman’s Greek concordance of the New Testament Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament Interlinear Greek English New Testament The Complete Word Study New Testament The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words* Expository Dictionary of Bible Words* Synonyms of the New Testament by RC Trench Word Meanings of the New Testament by Ralph Earle (* contains both Old and New Testament)
Note Book: The student always has his Notebook ready while attempting his study and note down the insight he receives. It is not always possible to retain all information in memory and many have lamented afterwards, that they were not able to recall what light God have given them in the Scriptures.
No Bible student need be perplexed by the plethora of tools available today, but should consult his church leaders to help him select the few he needs for his study. Afterwards he himself will be able to add to the list as he continues his study and further need arises.
VI. Different methods of Bible Study
There are different ways or methods of Bible Study. The following among them may be noted.
1. Thematic or Doctrinal Method: In this method you select a theme or a doctrine. Care should be taken to see that the questions you ask are selected and not too many. Try not to get bogged down and discouraged. Even before a theme is selected prepare the questions you intend to ask, five or six at the most. A Topical Bible will be very useful for this study. Disciple’s Study Bible lists 27 major doctrines and gives the major divisions and all the scripture references concerning each doctrine it deals with.
Topical study also actually is a thematic study but deals with more scripture references and more questions about the topic.
2. Studying a book of the Bible: This is one of the basic units. Any verse in a book should be interpreted only in the context of the entire book. Any verse taken out of context is only a pretext. Even in studying a book, you may study a particular doctrine/doctrines contained in that book or practical application of that doctrine or both.
Continuous, uninterrupted reading of a book will help you to understand the purpose of the book. In the early stages of your study you should avoid all commentaries or other help/tools available. Let the Bible alone speak to you direct. One reading is not sufficient. On your further reading you may note down your observations.
After your last reading make a summary of the chapters and of the whole book. This would help you to outline the book. Note down all the doctrines that are immediately applicable to you personally. You can add to this as you continue to study.
3. Studying a Bible Character: With the use of a concordance pick out all the verses that mention the Bible character. Then try to classify these references into the person’s environment, family, the meaning of his name, significant events in his life, his contemporaries, his witness and statements, his influence, his strength and weakness etc.
4. Studying a word: List all the reference both in the Old and New Testament. Segregate it. Understand the meaning both in Hebrew and Greek. Read different translations to get the different shades of meaning. In the case of the New Testament with the help of the Englishman’s Greek Concordance, find out the different Greek words used to translate your English word, and also as to how that particular Greek word has been variously translated. This is one of the most interesting studies and you find the riches of the word as you dig deeper.
Look up the context to see what possible meaning(s) of the word do not fit the context. Does the word have any special religious meanings?
There are other methods of study like verse by verse analysis, Devotional method, Biographical method etc.
VII. Symbols, Types and Allegory
The Bible is written in plain, understandable languages and is to be understood literally. At the same time there are certain portions of the Bible where symbols and types are prominent. These should be particularly noted.
1. Symbols: Though neither the words ‘symbol’ nor ‘symbolism’ occurs in the Bible, they have an essential place in the Bible. Though symbols are signs, signs communicate directly and symbols metaphorically. Symbols in the Bible convey to human mind ideas about eternal things.
There are symbols drawn from nature (sun, moon, stars, desert, springs, valleys etc.) animal creatures (lion Wolf, lamb, eagles dove etc.) Inanimate things (tree, flowers, grain etc.) shoes, helmet, crown etc. made by man; colors, metals, precious stones etc. Numbers and persons are also used as symbols. In interpreting symbols first we need to note the qualities of the object or persons. Then try to understand the purpose for using the symbol. Sometimes the symbols are explained. Then we are able to draw the connection between the symbol and the truth it teaches easily. If it is not explained look to the context or other parts of scripture where the symbol is mentioned.
Sometimes the symbols would have been very clear to the original reader but the meaning is obscure to the modern reader. Scriptural background and culture may be looked into with the help of Bible dictionary or a commentary in such cases.
2. Types: A type is a divinely purposed illustration of some truth. It may be (a) a person Rom.5.14; (b) an event 1 Cor.10.11; (c) a thing Heb.10.19-20; (d) an institution (Heb.9.11-12) or (e) a ceremony (1 cor.5.7). Types occur most frequently in the first five books of the Bible, but are found more sparingly elsewhere also. The anti type, or fulfillment of the type is found generally in the New Testament.
Two warnings are necessary. (1) Nothing may be insisted upon as a type without explicit New Testament authority; and (2) All types not so authenticated must be recognized as having only the authority of an analogy, of scriptural congruity.
3. Allegory: An allegory is more than a parable. A parable has only one main thrust. It is a similitude used to teach a truth. Our Lord said that he spoke in parables because his disciples may know the mysteries of the kingdom, and those with hardened hearts may not understand. But an allegory is a story having several points of comparison. By an allegory a truth can be legitimately taught, but allegorizing is that method of taking any narrative which was not meant to teach truth by identification. This method of arbitrarily handling any narrative should be avoided.