5 Techniques To Study The Bible
"They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" — Luke 24:32
If the Jews failed to understand Scripture, in their own language, how can we possibly understand Scripture in the light of its context, especially if it's lost in translation? If we want our hearts to burn, we need a guide to help us appreciate the richness of the Word. In this blog, I want to share with you five techniques I use when I study the Bible.
Biblical Typology is the idea that the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is revealed or made manifest in the New. When you study Biblical Parallels, you will see how the Old Testament prefigured the New Testament and how everything ties together. Here’s an example:
Other typologies you can study include:
1st Century Jewish Perspective
When we read the Gospels, we read accounts of Jesus teaching the Jews. What we don’t realise is that the Jews were hoping for a Messiah that would bring about a New Exodus. In the same way that Moses delivered the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, the Jews desired for the Messiah to deliver them from the Roman Empire.
Yet, to bring about a New Exodus, they would need a New Passover. In the Old Testament, the Passover Lamb had to be unblemished, sacrificed and eaten in order to complete the Passover Sacrifice and atone for their sins. In the New Testament, Jesus is our unblemished Passover Lamb sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins and as a result, Christians are to eat of the flesh of lamb of God in Communion. When you understand the Jewish beliefs for the words 'remembrance' or 'memorial', you will see that the Passover was not a mere symbol, but made 're-present' the one sacrifice.
It's the reason why the Early Church believed that when a validly-ordained priest consecrated the Bread and Wine, it became the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Only priests were allowed to pour out blood, so it would have been obvious to the disciples that Jesus was instituting a new priesthood at the Last Supper.
Only with the Old Testament as a backdrop, does the Bible truly come alive. You may have realised that in the Davidic Kingdom there were 3 main roles: the King, the Queen (the mother of the King) and the Royal Steward who was left in charge when the King was away (Isaiah 22).
In the same way, in Christ’s Kingdom: Jesus is the King (Luke 1:32-33), His mother Mary is the Queen (Rev 12:1) and Peter became the Royal Steward (Matthew 16:18-19), who was given authority and left in charge when Jesus ascended into Heaven.
When you understand Judaism as the foundation of Christianity, you will see how many doctrines in the Early Church were fulfilments of the Jewish Law. For instance, Baptism became the fulfilment of Circumcision. These would have been so obvious to the first-century Christians, but unless we understand the New Testament through the lens of a first-century Jew, we will never truly appreciate the richness of Scripture.
Early Church Perspective
The New Testament was written between 50AD - 100 AD, so we only get a small glimpse of what the Early Church looked like. Yet what many people don’t realise is that we still have access to thousands of historical Early Church writings and letters from the 1st Century onwards. If we want to understand the Bible better, then why don’t we look to what the Early Church Fathers believed and how they interpreted Scripture?
“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” — 1 Timothy 3:15
You can find Early Church writings on websites such as New Advent or Church Fathers. However, Jimmy Akin’s book 'The Fathers Know Best' contains over 900 excerpts of writings from the Early Church outlining the key doctrines of the Church and the heresies that arose.
Many of these heresies are still alive to this day, but one thing's for sure is that the Early Church agreed on fundamental things such as the Authority of the Pope (Peter), the role of Priests and Bishops, Infant Baptism, Real Presence Communion, Confession of sins to a Priest and the Intercession of Mary and the Saints. Moreover, they believed that abortion and contraception were morally wrong. Not only was the Early Church known as the Catholic (Universal) Church, but it was also Catholic in every aspect of doctrine.
By trusting the New Testament writings, you indirectly trust the authority of the Catholic Church because it was the Church which compiled the books of the Bible together. Moreover, these Theologians would have been the best interpreters of Scripture, since they were previously Jews, with full knowledge of the Old Testament.
You see, Jesus taught John, who taught Polycarp, who taught Irenaeus, who taught Justin Martyr and the fact that they all agree on the fundamental beliefs and traditions above, demonstrate the reliability of the teachings handed down from the apostles to the rest of the world. Remember, the Bible wasn’t compiled until the 4th Century, so these teachings would have been passed on by word of mouth. The wisdom of these Early Christians in their sermons is incredibly fascinating, as they unveil the hidden depths of Scripture.
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.”— 2 Thessalonians 2:15
One of the best gifts I've ever received is the Thrive: Devotional Bible for Women. It's the New Living Translation (NLT) and contains treasure truths, love letters from God, biblical character profiles, devotionals and mini prayers which are slipped in between the Scripture they relate to.
With 110 overarching themes including beauty, choices, confidence, doubt, friendship, promises, identity, modesty, purity, rejection and wisdom; this Bible is perfect when studying the Word from a thematic perspective. This approach is something you should do if you want God to speak to you about a specific topic.
This five step technique has been around since 300 AD and it invites you to mull over God's Word, as you meditate with Scripture. To help me focus and practice daily meditation, I use the apps Lectio 365 and Hallow, which guide you through the steps below.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and speak to you as you pray with Scripture.
Normally it is a Psalm or a small part of a Gospel passage, but you could apply this and read any passage of Scripture. Ask yourself what is the passage saying?
Focus on one verse which stands out to you. Listen to the voice of God and meditate on what He has placed on your heart.
Open up a dialogue with God, ask Him the questions that came to you during your meditation. Ask Him to reveal something in you that is holding you back from deeper intimacy with Him.
Listen closely to the voice of God speaking to your heart and try to put into practice what He asks of you.
Let me know if you try out any of these techniques - I hope they help :)