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EFFECTIVE BIBLE STUDY

A BEGINNING (BUT CRITICAL) TIP

Look for Bible "echoes"

Ask: What does this remind me of?

Consider this example of when the Pharisees and Herodians attempted to catch Jesus in his words, so they could arrest him. They asked:

"Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay?" Mark 12:13-17

Jesus recognized their treachery and asked for a penny. He asked "Whose image and inscription is this?" They replied, "Caesar's," to which Christ responded, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Fair enough. The clear answer is pay your taxes because they belong to man's system of things. But what are the things we ought to render to God? Look back to Genesis 1:27:

"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him."

Whose image and inscription are we? Jesus' full message is not merely to pay your taxes, but also that we are in the image of God and must render to Him His due by reflecting (or manifesting) His image and character.

This is not a mysterious connection. It is merely an association gained by careful reading.

Let's learn more......

Some Facts About The Bible

  • Holy Bible: means "holy, or separate book" ("holy" means "set apart" or "separate;" "Bible" is derived from the Greek word biblia, "books")
  • The Bible contains 66 books
  • In the Old Testament there are 39 books
  • In the New Testament there are 27 books
  • There were over 40 writers including kings and peasants, doctors and fishermen, princes and herdsmen, poets and labourers, rich and poor, educated and uneducated
  • It was written over a period of 1600 years
  • There are 2,930 characters in 1,551 places
  • There is every imaginable literary form (poetry, prose, etc.).

BACKGROUND TO THE BIBLE

Even with so many different writers and subjects, all parts of the Bible agree with one another. Though the writers were divided by class, period, country and disposition, there is wonderful harmony in all they wrote. There is no contradiction or disagreement. Whence came this wonderful unity? From God! They all wrote by divine inspiration. They were God's agents, proclaiming His message to humanity.

INSPIRATION

All Scripture is inspired by God. Often it says in the Bible "Thus saith the Lord . . ." or "The word of the Lord came unto me saying . . ." God spoke to men who then recorded His words, not their own.

Some examples of inspiration:

  • David:

"Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; Thus says the man raised up on high. The anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue." Samuel 23:1-2

  • Jeremiah:

"The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying: 'Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.'" Jeremiah 30:1-2

  • God is the Author of the Bible:

". . . and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [lit., "is God-breathed"], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17

  • God's Word never fails, nor should it be added to:

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6

  • The Bible is the source of truth:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." Psalm 19:7-9

THE IMPORTANCE OF READING THE BIBLE

  • God's Word will make us wise:

". . . and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17

  • God's Word gives us hope:

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4

  • God's Word provides salvation to those who believe:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" Romans 1:16-17

  • God's Word prepares us to defend the faith:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear . . ." 1 Peter 3:15

  • God's Word provides direction for daily living:

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8

THE BIBLE INTERPRETS ITSELF

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS...

How many times have you heard of someone who spent a frustrating evening assembling his child's toy only to find out after the fact that he has assembled it incorrectly? Of course, we all know the modern proverb "when all else fails, read the instructions."

This is also true when reading the Bible. We need to learn from our life's experiences and recognize that the key to easier (not easy) understanding of the Bible is found within its own pages. Our tendency is to not look far enough for answers within the book when we encounter something we do not understand.

A basic principle of reading the Bible more effectively lies in this simple fact:

Your questions about what the Bible teaches are answered in the Bible.

We know this sounds obvious. However, with human nature, the obvious solution is often our last resort. Reading the instructions first is the obvious solution to preventing frustration with most of life's projects.

ANSWERS ARE FOUND NEAR AND FAR

- Look in the same chapter or surrounding chapters:

For example:

  • Christ's explanation of the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-8 is contained in Matthew 13:18-23 (note they are not immediately adjacent).
  • Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the Image in Daniel 2:31-35 is interpreted in 2:36-45.
- Look in other books of the Bible:

For example:

  • It was an angel who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. Compare Exodus 3:4 with Acts 7:30-31.
  • The reason why Jesus said "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) is made clear with a thorough reading of Psalm 22.

WHY THE BIBLE IS DIFFICULT TO READ?

If you find the Bible difficult to read in places, it's probably because it sometimes is difficult to read! Once we accept this fact and realize that God has a purpose in this, then frustration turns to challenge. Millions of readers work the Sunday crossword puzzle. How many spend a few minutes of time to unlock the puzzles of Scripture?

Always remember:

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter." Proverbs 25:2

WHY DID JESUS SPEAK IN PARABLES?

The disciples posed this question to Jesus in Matthew 13:10. His answer reveals that it is a separation process:

"Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given"

(If a question of whether or not this is fair arises, consider Paul's comment in Romans 9:18-21).

TO WHOM IS TRUTH REVEALED?

  1. To "babes:" Matthew 11:25
  2. Not to those who consider themselves wise or "learned:" 1 Corinthians 1:17-31

HOW DOES ONE GAIN UNDERSTANDING?

  1. Prayerful reading of God's Word.
  2. Application of time and energy.
  3. Slowly and carefully.

UNDERSTANDING IS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO SEEK DILIGENTLY!

We must ask in faith (and this involves prayer), but understanding is assured if we are patient to receive it.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. " Matthew 7:7-8

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." James 1:5-6

REMEMBER: YOU CANNOT SPEED READ THE BIBLE!

TIPS ON READING

The importance of Bible reading is summed up in 2 Timothy 3:15-17:

"ALL SCRIPTURE . . .

Makes one wise for salvation.

Is profitable for:

          doctrine
                  reproof
                         correction
                                    instruction in righteousness

. . . so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE:

A STEADY CONSISTENT DIET OF THE WORD OF GOD

We recommend a regular intake of God's Word (the Bible) of at least fifteen to twenty minutes daily.

An example is given us of the Bereans in the book of Acts who were:

"more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

There are many different Bible reading plans available. One such plan, the Daily Bible Companion, [available FREE of charge] is structured to take a person through the Bible in a year, reading three portions daily. By doing two readings from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament daily, at the end of the year, a person has read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

The people of Israel were to begin and end their day with prayer and meditation with God during the daily and evening sacrifice; this provides a good example for us.

HOW SHOULD WE APPROACH READING THE BIBLE?

If we are to gain what we can from Bible study, we need to approach it with the right attitudes. We need to be open to the Bible's teachings, and this may mean exposing ourselves to new ideas. If we approach all ideas with a "fortress mentality" --thinking that our main job is to defend the walls that we have built up--we will have very little space for growth.

The Bible is a book of strength that has withstood all kinds of attacks during its history. As in all other areas of study, scholars build upon and re-evaluate the work of earlier scholars. We need not fear examining new ideas and evaluating them carefully in the light of all the teachings of the Bible.

We need an attitude of willingness to meditate on what we are learning and to think through for ourselves how our learning can and should be applied in our own lives. To do this, it is usually helpful to share our ideas and interpretations with other Bible students for discussion and evaluation. We can learn from each other.

Bible study is trying work. It is also exhilarating and life changing. The study of the Bible can enrich us as no other study can. You will experience a new exhilaration as you learn to make your own judgments based on firm principles, and the Bible will become more alive and powerful in your life. Remember, God intended for you to understand this remarkable book and to meet Him in its pages.

BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR READING THE BIBLE

  • Study every passage within its literary context. Literary context includes both a text's immediate setting (the verses around it) and its relationship to the entire book.
  • Recognize that the cultural, social and historical environment represented in a biblical passage differs from that of today, and then try to understand a passage in light of those differences.
  • Translations often reflect the translator's understanding. Therefore, when studying a passage, compare several translations, or versions, to try and discover the most likely meaning of a word or phrase.
  • Interpret any single passage in light of what the author has written elsewhere.
  • Interpret the Bible as a whole. That is, interpret the Bible in light of the entire message of the Bible.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN READING:

  1. What is the main subject?
  2. Who are the main people?
  3. What does it say about God?
  4. What does it say about Christ?
  5. What is the key or main verse?
  6. What is the central lesson?
  7. What are the main promises?
  8. What are the main commandments or instructions?
  9. What error should I avoid?
  10. What example is there to follow?
  11. What do I need most in this chapter to apply to my life today?
  12. Are there cross references that can be used to develop the theme of the passage or add clarity of understanding?
  13. Are there any key words or phrases? Do they appear in other sections of the same book as well as other books?
  14. Are there any words I should look up to clarify a definition?

HOW READEST THOU?

It is one thing to read the Bible through,
Another thing to learn and read and do.
Some read it with desire to learn, and read,
But to their subject pay but little heed;
Some read it as their duty every week,
But no instruction from the Bible seek;
While others read it with but little care,
With no regard to how they read or where;
Some read it as a History, to know
How people lived two thousand years ago,
Some read it to bring themselves into repute,
By showing others how they can dispute;
While others read because their neighbors do,
To see how long it takes to read it through.
Some read it for the wonders that are there,
How David killed a lion and a bear;
While others read it with uncommon care,
Hoping to find some contradictions there.
Some read as though it did not speak to them,
But to the people at Jerusalem.
One reads it as a book of mysteries,
And won't believe the very thing he sees;
One reads with father's specs upon his head,
And sees the thing just as his father said;
Some read to prove a pre-adopted creed,
Hence understanding but little as they read,
For every passage in the book they bend
To make it suit that all-important end.
Some people read, as I have often thought,
To teach the Book, instead of being taught;
And some there are who read it out of spite
I fear there are but few who read it right.
One thing I find, and you may find it too,
The more you read, the more you find it true;
But this to find, an open eye is needful,
With often prayer, and humble heart all heedful;
The one who reads with pride or inattention,
Will only find full causes of dissension,
The one who reads with modest penetration,
Will find the joy of comfort and salvation.

DO:

  • Look first to the Bible for answers to questions
  • Read all of the Bible to find answers to your questions
  • Use clear passages to explain the more difficult ones
  • Write down your questions (it may be a while until you get to the answer)

DON'T:

  • Expect quick answers
  • Look at isolated passages and draw conclusions

TIP 1: PREPARATION

  • Allow Time
  • Select a Translation
  • Be Comfortable

TIP 2: HOW TO READ

  • Read Aloud
  • Listen for Echoes
  • Ask Yourself Questions

TIP 3: WHEN YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND

  • Be Patient
  • Use Other Translations
  • Use Study Tools
  • Seek more experienced Bible readers

VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE

The great number of versions available in the English language is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because the diverse range of English translations of God's Word provides us with a wealth of alternative renderings that can help us in our reading and study of the Bible. It is somewhat of a curse because the veritable babel of translations can be confusing and make it harder for us to memorize Scripture. In this section we will consider briefly the history of the English Bible and outline the characteristics of the four main types of Bible translation.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE

From the early Middle Ages until the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Latin Vulgate was the official Bible of the Church. This was unfortunate, since only a few educated people could read Latin. Thus the Bible was a closed book to the majority of people.

The later Medieval period, however, saw the production of several partial translations into Old English (Anglo-Saxon). The first full translation of the Bible in our language was the Middle English translation of John Wycliffe in 1382.

Still, it was not until the time of William Tyndale in the Reformation that the Bible was translated into English from the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. From Tyndale's translation work at the beginning of the sixteenth century to the translation of the King James Version early in the seventeenth century, several English versions were produced:

  • 1525 Tyndale's New Testament
  • 1535 The Coverdale Bible
  • 1539 The Great Bible
  • 1560 The Geneva Bible
  • 1568 The Bishop's Bible
  • 1611 The King James Version

The King James Version reigned dominant until well into the twentieth century, and still remains popular. Whereas almost all English translations from Tyndale to the American Standard Version tended to be literal, the twentieth century saw the rise of other less literal forms of translation.

THE FOUR MAIN TYPES OF BIBLE TRANSLATION

1. WORD-FOR-WORD (LITERAL)
  • 1611 The King James or Authorised Version (KJV or AV)
  • 1881-5 The Revised Version (RV)
  • 1901 The American Standard Version (ASV)
  • 1946-52 The Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  • 1971 The New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 1982 The New King James Version (NKJV)
  • 1989 The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2. MEANING-FOR-MEANING
  • The Good News Bible / Today's English Version (GNB or TEV)
  • The New English Bible (NEB)
3. WORD-FOR-WORD AND MEANING-FOR-MEANING BLENDS
  • The New International Version (NIV)
  • The Jerusalem Bible (JB)
  • The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
  • The Revised English Bible (REB)
4. PARAPHRASE
  • J.B. Phillips
  • The Living Bible

GENERAL GUIDELINES AND SUGGESTIONS

  • The literal (word-for-word) versions are the most accurate renditions of God's Word and include the least amount of translational bias.
  • Since the literal versions are the most accurate, they are usually the best for Bible study.
  • The King James Version is linked to more study aids (such as Strong's and Young's Concordances) than any other English Version.
  • Because of their literary style, many of the less literal versions (such as the NIV) make good versions for personal reading.
  • It is helpful to include both literal and less literal translations on your bookshelf.
  • It is best to stay with a single version for most of your reading and study (this aids in memorization).
  • When choosing your main Bible, look for durable binding, cross-references and perhaps wide margins (for your personal notes).
  • Study Bibles, since they do not encourage personal study, are best used as bookshelf references.

MYSTERY?

In these pages we have looked at ways we can gain an understanding of God's Word through reading and studying the Bible. But what about the claim that the Bible contains unfathomable "mysteries"? It is certainly true that God's ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that our minds are too finite to understand such things as the mechanics of creation (Job 38:4-7) or how God could know the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

Yet, it would be wrong to conclude that scriptural teachings are unfathomable or that the Bible is a mysterious book. At least two reasons lead us to this belief. First, God expressly sent His Word (the Bible) as a message to mankind; therefore, it was written in a way that men and women could understand it. Second, while the Bible does speak of mysteries, it also makes it clear that these mysteries have been revealed. Here it is helpful to remember that the entire Bible is in fact a revelation--a book revealed by God.

Perhaps part of the problem lies in our modern sense of the word "mystery" as it is used in religious contexts. In the New Testament the Greek word mysterion simply refers to something formerly unknown that has been revealed, or something that is only understood by an inside group. Because of this meaning, some translators feel the word "secret" more accurately captures the meaning of the word mysterion.

But who are the people that make up this inside group? No-one more mysterious than Bible readers! Let's begin by looking at an important New Testament example.

THE "MYSTERY" OF THE GOSPEL

During the ministry of Christ, his disciples preached the Gospel of the Kingdom without teaching about his sacrificial death. They never thought such a thing would happen.

"He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." Luke 9:2

"'Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.' But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying." Luke 9:44-45

Had the apostles understood the things spoken by Jesus, his death would have confirmed their belief that he was the Christ.

"For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead." John 20:9

"His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him." John 12:16

After Christ's ascension to heaven, the Spirit revealed this "mystery" of the Gospel to the apostles before they resumed their preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

THE MYSTERY REVEALED

The Apostle Paul speaks about another crucial aspect of the Gospel that was revealed in New Testament times. He deals with this in Ephesians 3:1-7, a section the New King James Version entitles "The Mystery Revealed."

First Paul begins by telling the Ephesians about "the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you . . ." (Ephesians 3:2). What was this dispensation of grace?

". . . that by revelation He [God] made known to me the mystery . . ." (Ephesians 3:3)

This mystery was not fully understood before the coming of Christ:

". . . which [mystery] in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets . . ." (Ephesians 3:5)

What was this particular mystery that God revealed to Paul and other Christians?

". . . that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel . . ."(Ephesians 3:6)

Other aspects of the Gospel were revealed in a complete sense in the New Testament as well:

". . . and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest . . ." Romans 16:25-26

". . . the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints." Colossians 1:26

The prophecies concerning Jesus Christ that have been fulfilled are the facts embraced in the Gospel of the Kingdom; the mystery made known is an important theme connected with the Gospel (see also Acts 8:12), and involves the teachings of the Kingdom and of the Messiah.

". . . preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ . . ." Acts 28:31

The conditions of salvation are based upon the revealed mystery.

SUMMARY

  • God intended His message to mankind to be understood
  • Aspects of the Gospel were a "mystery" to the world only until the apostles' day
  • The apostles received an understanding of the mystery of Christ
  • What was once a mystery is no longer a mystery
  • God has revealed His plan gradually through the ages
  • The revelation is complete with the New Testament
  • The "mysteries" of the Bible can be understood by Bible readers

STUDY TOOLS

CONCORDANCES AND LEXICONS:

Concordance:

an alphabetical index of all the principle words in the Bible listed with the phrase in which they occur

Lexicon:

analogous to a dictionary; it is an alphabetical arrangement of the words in a language with their definitions

USING A CONCORDANCE:

  • Useful when trying to locate a verse when you just remember a word or phrase from that verse.
  • Useful in performing word studies by looking at other passages that might relate.
Recommendations:
  • Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (includes lexicons)
  • Young's Analytical Concordance (includes lexicons)
  • Englishman's Hebrew-Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament
  • Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament
  • Cruden's Concordance
  • On-Line Bible (Free Software for Computers)

USING A LEXICON:

  • Its principle use is for looking up word definitions.
  • It provides insight into how else a given word is used in the Bible.
Recommendations:
  • Strong's
  • Young's
  • Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament
  • Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

WHEN HEBREW AND GREEK MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

"Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch." Genesis 6:14

There are two different words here for "pitch." According to Strong's Concordance, the first occurrence is #3722 and the second one is #3724 (Strong's provides number codes for each Hebrew and Greek word; this makes using the lexicons easier). Looking it up in Strong's Lexicon we have:

3722 - kaphar, kaw-far'; a prim. root; to cover (spec. with bitumen); fig. to expiate or condone, to placate or cancel: -appease, make (an) atonement, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, purge (away), put off, (make) reconcile (-liation).

3724 - kopher, ko'-fer; from 3722; prop. a cover, i.e. (lit.) a village (as covered in); (spec.) bitumen (as used for coating), and the henna plant (as used for dyeing); fig. a redemption price:- bribe, camphire, pitch, ransom, satisfaction, sum of money, village.

Another example . . .

"So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.' He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.' He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'" John 21:15-17

Two different words are used for "love" in this passage. Christ uses one and Peter another. Christ uses #25 and Peter #5368. In Strong's Concordance we have:

25 - agapao, ag-ap-ah'-o; perh. from agan (much) [or comp. 5689]; to love (in a social or moral sense):- (be-) love (ed). Comp. 5368

5368 - phileo, fil'-eh'-o; from 5384; to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), i.e. have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while 25 is under, embracing espec. the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as 2309 and 1014, or as 2372 and 3563 respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); spec. to kiss (as a mark of tenderness):- kiss, love.

In addition to the concordances and lexicons that we have already considered, there are also many other works of a more general nature that can prove helpful in your reading and study of God's Word. Below are a few suggestions.

BIBLE DICTIONARIES

  • Unger's Bible Dictionary
  • Smith's Bible Dictionary
  • Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament
  • Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

BIBLE ATLASES

  • The Macmillan Bible Atlas
  • The Oxford Bible Atlas
  • The NIV Bible Atlas
  • The Harper Atlas of the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

  • The Bible as History (Werner Keller)
  • Old Testament Bible History (Alfred Edersheim)
  • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Alfred Edersheim)
  • Josephus

COMMENTARIES

  • Speaker's
  • Pulpit
  • Eerdman's Bible Handbook
  • Halley's Bible Handbook

GENERAL

  • Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life
  • Nave's Topical Bible
  • Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge
  • Harmony of the Gospels (Robertson)

A WORD OF CAUTION

Commentaries, dictionaries and encyclopedias are the work of uninspired men and women commenting about inspired scripture passages. Such books are very useful as works of reference, but they should always be read carefully with an eye towards the potential for personal bias. Never place total confidence in these writings. Verify or disprove what they suggest for yourself, from the Scriptures.

USING CROSS REFERENCES

There is no better commentary on the Bible than itself and no-one is better suited for interpreting God's Word than God Himself. It is here that cross references can be so valuable.

WHAT IS A CROSS REFERENCE?

Cross references are verse "references" supplied by the translators that direct the reader to other locations in the Bible where the same (or similar) phrase, word or event can be found.

FORMATS FOR CROSS REFERENCES:
  • Centre or side margin references
  • Footnote references
  • Separate books (e.g. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge)
  • Computer reference systems
USES OF CROSS REFERENCES:
  • Linking teachings and prophecies between the Old and New Testaments

Example 1: Link: Luke 1:31-33

31 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.
32 "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33 "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

With: 2 Samuel 7:14-17

"'I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, who I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.' According to these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David."

Example 2: Link John 1:19-21

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ.'
21 And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' And he answered, 'No.'

With: Deuteronomy 18:15,18

"'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear . . . and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command him.'"

Example 3: Link Luke 4:16-21

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

With: Isaiah 61:1,2

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has annointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God."

  • Filling in details on persons, places and subjects

Example 1: Hebrews 6:20

where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Who is Melchizedek?

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High." Genesis 14:18

Example 2: Matthew 12:42

42 "The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here."

Who was the queen of the South?

"Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions."1 Kings 10:1

Example 3: Acts 1:1

"The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,"

What was the former account?

"It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus." Luke 1:3

  • Filling in the details of parallel accounts

Example 1: History of Kings of Israel & Judah

1 Kings 15:34

34 "He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin."

With:

"After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priest of the high places. And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth." 1 Kings 13:33

1 Kings 15:23

23 "The rest of all the acts of Asa, and his might, all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet".

With:

"And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was very severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians." 2 Chronicles 16:12

1 Kings 22:44

44 "Also Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel."
"Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab [king of Israel]." 2 Chronicles 18:1

Example 2: Gospel Accounts

Luke 9:7-9

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead,
8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again.
9 And Herod said, "John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?"
And he sought to see Him.

With:

"But when Herod's birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head here on a platter.'" Matthew 14:6-8

Matthew 27:44

44 "Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing."
"Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, 'If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.' But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Luke 23:39-41

  • Clarification of meanings and teachings

Example 1: Matthew 9:10-13

10 And so it was, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
12 But when Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13 "But go and learn what this means '
I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

With

"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

Example 2: John 4:5

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

With:

"And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money." Genesis 33:19