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Studying Your Bible

Written by: Dolim, Michael    Posted on: 05/07/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

APO:Studying your Bible  by Michael Dolim



  For centuries, skeptics and atheists have attacked the Bible, claiming it was nothing more than a collection of man's overactive imagination. "Where did Cain get his wife?" became the question that was supposed to discredit the Bible, silence its defenders, and place it on the shelf with fairy tales and other works of fiction.

  In a heated discussion over the reliability of the Bible, one skeptic asked an evangelist, "Now tell me where did Cain get his wife?" The evangelist answered with this question, "Are you going to let another man's wife keep you out of heaven?"

  Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they don't understand, but for me, I have always noticed that the passages that bother me are the ones I do understand."

  People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them. What the Bible has to say to us can be very disturbing. This is why people have, for centuries, tried to bury the Bible in their funeral services of ridicule. But, the Bible gets resurrected over and over again, always managing to outlive its pall bearers.

  Voltaire, the outspoken skeptic said, "In a hundred years, the Bible will be a forgotten book, found only in museums." One hundred years later, the home in which Voltaire made that prediction was occupied by the Geneva Bible Society.

  Why does the Bible have this ability to survive its critics? Why does it continue to be the number one best seller of all time, and the most printed book in the world? Why is it the Bible never grows old? We grow old. Our houses, cars, and cities grow old, but the Bible never changes. It speaks a clear and vibrant word to every generation, in every culture.

  If the Bible offers us so much, why have Christians neglected to study this amazing book? Many have attempted to study the Bible, only to get discouraged and drop out. The scenario goes something like this. Mr. Jones hears a rousing sermon about the importance of the Word of God, and why we are to study to show ourselves approved. He goes home, determined to read through the bible from cover to cover. He enthusiastically starts with the book of Genesis, and is delighted as he reads the colorful stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Exodus comes next, which is full of the dramatic exploits of Moses, and the escape of the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Who hasn't seen the Book of Exodus come alive in living color, as in Cecil B. DeMille's extravaganza, starring Charlton Heston? Mr. Jones moves on into the Book of Leviticus, expecting even more historical pageantry, but he is stunned by the minute detail given to dietary regulations, sacrificial offerings, and priestly performances. The endless material that seems so foreign to Mr. Jones is so overwhelming, he closes the book in discouragement, muttering, "I can't understand this." If only Mr. Jones had someone to help him understand what he was reading.The purpose of this study is to introduce some practical ideas to help you in understanding the most unique book on earth. You will be introduced to the basic and important rules of interpreting ANY piece of literature (especially important in the Bible), and you will be introduced to some of the tools and authors that help in studying the Bible.This study is not 'gospel' in the sense of saying 'thus says the Lord'. Rather, these are aids and ideas which have helped many people understand God's Word. Many of the 'rules' are employed by Bible Scholars and theologians who seek to ACCURATELY determine what God is saying to man.

  Up front, serious study of the Bible will demand two things of you: time and money.

  You must 'make' the time. Perhaps you will have to juggle your schedule a bit, wake up earlier, go to bed later, take some leisure time, break away from one of your favorite TV programs, or delegate work to someone so that you can find the time. There is no short cut. It will cost you time.

  It will also cost you money. Reference books are not inexpensive. As a mechanic makes a major investment in tools that last him a lifetime, so will you have to make an investment in the reference books that will serve you in an eternity of benefits.An opinion on Bible reference books: I know of no other place where I think it is justified to throw moderation to the wind. If you find yourself really enjoying bible study and you really desire to get into it, I think this is one safe area where you can freely indulge to your heart's content. On the other hand, for those of us on tighter budgets, take comfort in the fact that you don't need to run right out and buy EVERY book referred to. It is highly advisable anyway that you do this a little slowly. When the reference books are discussed, the more basic, or fundamental ones will be noted as the ones to get first, again one or two at a time. This may be done slowly. Gradually, you will acquire a respectable library of good reference books that will serve you and your family throughout your lives.


  The Bible was not addressed to just anyone. Sure, anyone can read it, but not everyone can understand it - not even with a million reference books! Not everyone is 'qualified' to understand the Word of God.

  "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor. 2:14).

  "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

  "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" (1Cor. 1:18).

  Before even bothering to attempt to understand the Bible, in order to qualify, you must be born again.


  One of the charges made against being 'dependent' on using reference books is that someone will say something like 'the Holy Spirit will reveal the Word to me. What do I need man-made helps for?' Well, you're right in the sense that the Holy Spirit will reveal the Word to you. No one else CAN! Concerning man-made helps though, take a look at your bible. Notice that there are chapters and verses? These, themselves are man-made helps that ALL of us use. Some of the reference books do nothing more than provide data and background. Others aid you in understanding the Word by giving an explanation of the passage.

  Why use these works? Primarily, it saves time. Authors of Bible Commentaries have spent years (sometimes lifetimes) building their knowledge on others' study. They've written down the results of their years of study. Now you can benefit from what they've already done, and go on from there.You will have to be cautious of course. There are many wolves attempting to write 'sheep-books'. Your best defense in the beginning is to be familiar with the basic doctrines of Christianity.

  "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1Thes. 5:21). "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS WERE SO" (Acts 17:11).

  So we see that man-made aids and reference books can be valuable, but understand that they can never replace The Word of God. They aid you in understanding the Word, but they cannot substitute your reading of the Word.


  We also must understand the purpose of the Bible. God gave us His Word. He could have given us a million more books. He could have given us less. What He did do is give us 66 books, written by over 40 people. Everything He had to say to man is in the Bible. Nothing in the Bible is unnecessary, or not applicable to you and I today, in the twentieth century. Everything from the Levitcal laws to the extensive genealogies have a purpose and a meaning to us.The purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus Christ.

  "the volume of the book is written of Me" (Psalm 40:7)

  "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39)

  "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me" (John 5:46).

  It has been said that the Torah (the first five books, written by Moses) lays the FOUNDATION for Christ. The Historical Books are the PREPARATION of Christ. The Poetic Books are the ASPIRATION for Christ. The Prophetic Books are the ANTICIPATION of Christ. The Gospels are the MANIFESTATION of Christ. Acts is the PROPAGATION of Christ. The Epistles are the INTERPRETATION of Christ. And Revelation is the CONSUMATION of everything into Christ.The Bible shows us God's plan for man. It is quite condensed in the sense that EVERYTHING God wants us to know is contained in it concerning our relationship with Him.

  "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name" (John 20:30-31)

  "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John 21:25).

  DON'T! Don't open your bible in front of a blaring television or radio, and expect to put some quality time into your studying. You need a quiet place and some quiet time alone. Make sure it's away from ringing door bells, telephones, distractions, and interruptions. Set aside a time and place. It may be morning or night that is more convenient for you. Whatever that time is, guard it jealously. You will be presented with many 'reasons' to set your study time aside. Don't do it! Don't study in an inconsistent fashion. Letting five days go by, and then, 'doubling up' to make up for lost time is an enemy to good study habits. It would be far better to set aside less time, and study consistently, than to lump a lot of hours together, and study haphazzardly.Don't trust your memory. Even after you have finished studying, your mind will continue to turn over the truths you have gone over. Inspiration does not keep office hours. You will discover it comes when you least expect it. So, keep a pad and pen handy, and be prepared for a sudden burst of insight, or you will lose it. It would be a good idea to keep a pad and pen handy near your bed at night. There will be times when you will wake up in the middle of the night with an insight, an idea, or an illustration. Do not remove yourself from the passage you are examining. You must consciously remove your twentieth century point of view, but do not remove yourself. While you are reading, ask yourself, "What does this mean to me? How would I have reacted, given the same situation? How would I fit into this account?" Put yourself into the story. Figuratively, slip out of your culture and surroundings, and get into the sandals of the Bible characters. Feel the excitement in the air as you walk with little David toward Goliath. Find youself being forcibly taken to the lions' den with Daniel. Walk with Ezekiel into the vision of the vally of dry bones. How would you have felt being asked to preach to a pile of sun-bleached bones? Put yourself into the story. How would you have handled it? What would you have done? You will discover a very interesting phenomenon taking place on occasion. Sometimes, when you hold a magnifying glass over the truth, you are made strangely aware that the truth is holding a magnifying glass over you...scrutinizing and examining you. During moments like this, you will discover how very personal your study can become.

  DO Have your reference books in a handy place, so you can quickly get the information you may need. Play 'detective' with the text. Go to the Bible as a private investigator who is on a case. Use questions to uncover the mystery.

  Kipling once wrote: "I keep six honest serving men. They taught me all I know. The names are what, and where and when, And how and why and who." Be alert when you read the Bible. Investigate the text. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to probe. Some have found it beneficial to keep a 'Bible Diary'. This can be structured in any way that is comfortable to you. Some people keep binders, others use a plain old diary or notebook, some people use loose-leaf paper and file folders, they even have used 'Day Runners', or personal organizers. Use anything you like. Arrange it any way you find comfortable. Some people go through extensive planning in how they keep organized so that they can always find something they wrote down.Always write down your study. It has been my experience that when you write something down, you will have learned it FAR better than if you didn't write it down. Just the act of writing is a MAIN benefit.When you come to a passage that you can't make any sense out of, it has been suggested that you put Jesus Christ in the middle of the passage, and many times the passage makes sense.

  When you come to a passage that you don't understand, you have a precious chance to do a lab experiment with The Holy Spirit. We have a promise given to us by Jesus. John 14:26 says "But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you." With this promise in mind, write down your frustration in attempting to understand the text. The purpose being to document the problem. Then pray about it and ask for understanding. Leave the passage, go on to something else for awhile. Come back to it in a couple of days and you will find that you understand the passage completely, and can't understand why you never understood it before. You will have experienced a miracle and will have proven to yourself once again, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the supernaturalness of the Word.



  General hermeneutics is that set of rules employed in all materials which stand in need of interpretation. It is used, with proper adaption to the subject matter, in art, history, literature, archeology and translation. Something stands in need of interpretation when something hinders its spontaneous understanding. To put it another way a gap exists between the interpreter and the materials to be interpreted and rules must be set up to bridge this gap. In that the interpreter is separated from his materials in time there is a historical gap; in that his culture is different from that of his text there is a cultural gap; in that the text is usually in a different language there is the linguistic gap; in that the document originates in another country there is the geological gap and the biological gap (the flora and fauna). In that usually a totally different attitude towards life and the universe exists in the text it can be said that there is a philosopical gap.

  Biblical hermenteutics is the study of those principles which pertain to the interpretation of Holy Scripture. Here, we will briefly consider the following hermeneutics:

  - Understanding the Purpose of the Book - Understanding the Historical Background - Understanding the Culture - Understanding the Context - Understanding the Meaning of the Words - Understanding the Parallel Passages - Understanding the Literary Styles - Understanding How to Make an Application


  There are 66 books in the Bible. Each one has a specific purpose whic relates in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Leviticus has an entirely different purpose from say, Romans. When you read something in Leviticus, you would not apply it in the same way as you would Romans. Understanding the purpose of the Thessalonian letters greatly helps in trying to understand some of Paul's comments there. Each of the four gospels has a different purpose, which explains why they are not identical biographical sketches.

  To aid us in understanding the purpose of a book, we use a Bible Handbook, or a Survey of the Bible. Commentaries will also contain information on the purpose of the book. Some Study Bibles also contain this information.


  One of the more critical principles in understanding the Bible is to understand the Historical Background of a passage. For instance, in Luke 4:25-30, we find the Jews trying to throw Jesus off a cliff because of what He said. We can only understand why they wanted to do this by understanding the historical background of the two people Jesus spoke of. In John 10:22, if we knew the historical background, we would have very interesting information about why the Holy Spirit saw it as important to add that the feast of the dedication was in winter. Understanding the historical background of, say Ezekiel 26 in how the prophecy against Tyre was fulfilled gives us an example of how God intends us to interpret prophecy, and with what precision it is carried out. In Revelation 3:18 we read of the things of which the Lord counsels the church at Laodicea to buy of Him. If we understood the historical background of the passage, we'd understand the irony here.

  To aid us in understanding the historical background of books and passages in the Bible, we could look at a Bible Survey, a Bible Handbook, or a Bible Dictionary. There are also many books available devoted to the history of specific times during the Bible. Alfred Edersheim is the classic work on THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH. He also wrote a very interesting work on The Temple. Josephus was a historian who wrote during the time of Jesus and discusses some of the verbal traditions of the Jews at the time as well as a 'secular' view of Jewish history. Charles Ludwig wrote a book on the Rulers of New Testament Times which is quite inexpensive, very interesting, and quite helpful. Commentaries, and some really good Study Bibles will also contain some historical background.


  Again, a critical subject. Not understanding the culture in a passage sometimes may lead to a false interpretation of what is read. In Romans 12:20, for example, if we knew the culture, or customs of the land, we'd know that Paul is not showing us a way of "Christian vengeance." In Matthew 13, Jesus draws heavily on the customs of the day in giving His kingdom parables. Not understanding the customs have lead many liberal scholars down completely false paths in trying to understand the purpose of the church.

  To aid us in understanding the cultural background of various passages in the Bible, we use books on manners and customs in the Bible. Again, some commentaries may contain some of this information.


  Misinterpreting Scripture, and wrenching things out of the text that were never there goes on all the time. It is not difficult to pull a Scripture out of its context, and give it a completely different meaning. When interpreting Scripture, it is critical to keep the text in context. By context, we mean the parts of a sentence or paragraph, immediately next to or surrounding a passage. Some passages that seem very difficult clear up nicely when we carefully examine the context.

  The whole prosperity doctrine and presumptuous faith movements largely build their doctrines on taking scripture out of context and making the Bible say things that it never said.

  There is no book really that can help us learn to study the context of a passage. Our resources here are limited to possibly using a commentary as a helpful guide in reinforcing, or contradicting our interpretation.


  One of the obstacles we face in understanding the text is finding out exactly what the author meant when he wrote the words. We must not impose our definition on the words, but find out what they meant when they were written. This is a particularly difficult, or at least tedious task since this problem is compounded by understanding the english word in our translation, understanding the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word in the original, and understanding what that word meant when it was written. Words change in meaning even in our own generation. Words are not static. They are constantly changing in their use and meaning. There are many ways we can attack this problem. On the first level, a good english dictionary should not be overlooked. You might be surprised at how often this will serve as a valuable tool. On the next level, it begins to get difficult if you are not familiar with Greek or Hebrew.Strong's Exhaustive Concordance proves to be the easiest way to do a complete, original study of a particular word. However, this is only the beginning! In conjunction with Strong's, we use a set of four books published by Baker Book House. These include a Greek Concordance, a Hebrew Concordance, a Greek Lexicon, and a Hebrew Lexicon. These books will be discussed later in this text.

  Another way to study the meaning of a word is to use a book called Vine's Expository Dictionary. This book lists the english word, gives the passages which are relevant and discusses the meaning of that word. The only real shortcoming in using this approach is that it is not exhaustive. There are words that are not discussed. However, this is an easy short-cut if your particular word is listed.

  Other approaches are to purchase word studies. Wilson's Word Studies are very popular. Wuest's Word Studies are also popular and inexpensive.


  When studying the Word, one must take into consideration all the Scriptural passages that shed light on a particular subject. Let the Bible speak for itself. The Bible in many cases is its own best commentary. Practice comparing Scripture with Scripture.

  Whenever you come accross some new amazing discovery in the Bible relating to a spiritual principle, there is a nice little rule of thumb I like to use from the Bible itself. That is, 'by two or three witnesses shall a thing be established.' What I mean here is that if this new discovery is an important spiritual principle, I should be able to find it reiterated somewhere else in the Bible.

  The book that really helps in this area is a good Study Bible. I prefer to use Scofield, but there are others as well.


  Throughout the Bible, you will encounter various literary styles, such as history, poetry, prophecy, proverbs, and parables. We cannot interpret these differing styles in the same way. History passages should be interpreted literally, while poetry passages are often written in figurative language. The greatest help we have in these circumstances is our common sense. We also have the context of the passage we are dealing with. If we understand the background of what we are reading, we should rarely have a problem with literary styles. Being careful not to jump to conclusions will serve us well.

  Let's look at a few figures of speech used in the Bible.

  The Metaphor

  A metaphor is a figure of speech, in which a word or phrase that ordinarily means one thing is applied to another thing, in order to suggest a likeness between the two. Examples of metaphors are, "a copper sky" and "a heart of stone."The Simile A simile is also a comparison between two things, like a metaphor; only, the comparison is indicated by, "like," or "as." Examples of this are, "a face like stone," "as hard as nails," and "his eyes were like fire."

  The Analogy

  An analogy is a likeness in some ways between things that are otherwise unlike. There is an analogy between the human heart and a pump, the Lord and a shepherd, and the saints and sheep.The Hyperbole The hyperbole is an exaggerated statement, used for effect, and not meant to be taken literally. An example is in Matthew 7, where Jesus talks about the person looking for the specks in his brother's eye, while having beams in his own eye.

  The Personification

  The poetic device which takes inanimate objects, and gives them human characteristics is called a personification. An example is saying that the mountains sing, or clap their hands.The Idiom Every language has certain peculiar phrases, which cannot be analyzed by the usual grammatical process. Idioms are a mode of expression that defies the rules, and depends on the society to supply the definition. the dictionary defines idioms as, "a small group or collection of words expressing a single notion." We often say that "we're in a pickle," or "it is raining cats and dogs," or "he's dead from the neck up." These are all idioms, and we depend on everyone "getting the picture" because they live in our society.


  How do we apply the truths found in the Word? There are some passages of Scripture that are obviously not to be applied in the same way they were applied at the time of their writing. Yet, if there was no application for us today, the passage would never have been in the Bible for "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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2Timothy 3:16-17)

  Often, in the Bible there are multiple levels of application. Let's briefly look at a few of these levels.The Practical Application Easily seen and most obvious level of application, this is when the bible hits you right between the eyes. ."..this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment." There is no problem in figuring out how to apply this passage. It is practical, and applicable to our lives right now, this instant, and also next Tuesday when we are wronged by a brother.

  The Secondary Application A Secondary Application is often needed when we see commandments or teachings that primarily apply to the culture during the time of the writing. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul instructs Christian women to cover their heads. At that time, an uncovered female head was either an unfaithful wife, or a prostitute. Paul was instructing the women of the day not to exercise their freedom in this regard in violating the standards of their culture, thus bringing a scandalous appearance and a reproach to the Gospel. One of my favorite illustrations of this secondary application came from a Christian musician who spoke during a concert. He recalled the story of Peter walking on water. Here, there are TWO secondary applications. We all know the story, Peter jumps out of the boat and begins to walk on water when he takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink. Our application is to keep our eyes on Jesus and not look at our circumstances. The other application is that there were 12 people on the boat. The only one who had enough faith to even jump out of the boat was Peter. The application is that it is better to at least make mistakes for the Lord than to sit in a nice comfortable "boat."

  The Prophetic Application

  In this application, we are not so much considering the end times as much as we look at God's plan for man. There are scads of places in the Bible where we use this application, mostly in the Old Testament. This is easily seen in all of the laws and regulations laid out in the Torah, or the five books of Moses. There are fantastic discoveries awaiting you by studying each and every detail in these tedious laws. The many sacrifices all look forward to Jesus Christ as the final, ultimate sacrifice. Daniel's prophecies tell of the last days, Isaiah 53 tell of the coming Messiah, Ezekiel 28 tells of Satan. Almost every chapter in the Old Testament has a prophetic application.

  The Mystical Application

  What I mean here is applying the text in order to understand the Lord more. All over the Bible, we are commanded to know the Lord. The Lord often says "And they will know that I am the Lord." We can learn of the ways in which God deals with people, points that the Lord tries to make, get an insight into eternity, we can gain insight into understanding how God thinks, and why He does certain things. In this case, the question we seek to answer is "why did God put that there? "One of the most dramatic and consistent insights we get from making the Mystical application is the evidence of design in the Bible. We can see Jesus Christ on every page. We see the fingerprint of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. This strengthens your faith, and gives you a respect for the authority of the Word in every situation.


  Reference books are the tools of the trade for people who study the Bible, that is, you and I. As with any trade, there is a large investment in tools. Bible Study is no exception. This is the one place I can think of where you really can throw moderation out the door. Here, you can completely indulge yourself. Buy all the books you can afford, get into them, and learn of God!

  Some of us don't have that kind of budget though! So where do we start? Hopefully, we will answer that question, or at least address it so that we don't wander aimlessly through the local bookstore spending lots of unnecessary money on something we don't yet need.

  These ideas are mostly my own, so remember Acts 17:11!


  Easily, and without debate, the most important book you will ever own is a Bible. What kind of bible do you buy? What translation?

  Translations are pretty much a matter of personal taste, and there is much to be said for each one of them, except of course the New World Translation (from the Jehovah's Witnesses)! In a bible to be used for study, the choices basically come down to three possibilities: King James, New American Standard, and the New International Version. An important concept to keep in mind is that whichever translation you choose, stick to it! Why? Because you'll find it MUCH easier to remember verses and figures of speech if you stay with one text. King James is the classic translation used for years by almost all bible teachers. The good points in choosing King James is that most reference works key themselves to King James, almost all the commentators quote from King James, and is a very well known translation. The Standard. On the bad side, King James is difficult to get used to. Many of the words used are outdated, there are some innaccuracies in the translation (all of which by the way are addressed in reference books), and is by far the least readable of the translations. New American Standard sought to be a more literal translation of the Bible. It is probably the second most popular translation in use today, and there are many reference books that key to it. On the bad side, the classical commentators did not have a New American Standard to quote from, so not all reference works will key to it. While New American Standard is a definite improvement in readability over King James, it is not the most readable of the three most popular translations.New International Version is the most readable translation. Modern English was used (it is the newest of the three translations). On the bad side, almost no reference books quote from New International...yet! This translation is gaining in popularity probably faster than any other translation today. OK, so which one do you go for? Well, how good are you at the English language? How diligent a student do you plan to be? Are you willing to overcome the difficulties of old English? Perhaps you'd like two different translations. One for study, and one for casual reading. I highly reccommend King James if you can put up with the old English. If for no other reason than that almost all reference books key to it, and quote from it. Once you get used to the language, it becomes second nature to you. If you find that you have trouble with King James, pick up a New International Version for casual reading. But in the end, the choice is up to you!

  Once you've selected a comfortable translation, the question is which bible to buy. This is the last place you want to skimp on! A good reference Bible is an absolute necessity! There are many out there, of which I'll name just a few that I'm familiar with.

  The New Scofield Reference Bible

  This is probably the one for the serious student seeking the most scholarly, or advanced work. However, Scofield is quite opinionated. Scofield's notes and outlines reflect a heavy bias towards Dispensational Theology, and a pre-tribulation rapture. These notes are quite valuable if you hold these views, but I imagine would be a pain in the neck if you don't. Scofield has many many cross-references which are a definite aid when studying, and there is a small concordance in the back of the book, as well as a few maps, and chain references. This is the Bible I use, if you haven't already guessed.

  The Open Bible

  This is a delightful Bible for those who are just beginning in their Bible Study quest. It is available in King James and New American Standard, and contains all kinds of valuable study aids which allow you to put off purchasing many of the reference books for awhile. There is a special edition of the Open Bible which gives an in-depth study of the end times. It is called the Prophecy Bible, and is available from The World Bible Society, Box 1, Los Angeles, California 90053. If I couldn't have a Scofield, this is the one I'd get. Also, if I couldn't afford to buy alot of reference books, or if I was just starting out, this is definitely the Bible to get.

  Those are the only Bibles I use, but through talking with people, I've heard many good things about The Thomas Nelson Chain Reference Bible, and the Ryrie Study Bible.

  Bible Handbooks and Surveys

  These books are really great. They contain background, archaeology studies, histories, explanations, mini-commentaries, notes, outlines, maps, and all kinds of information you would otherwise have to pour through volumes and volumes of books to get. This is the basic reference book. There are two pretty much standard works used by almost everyone. Halley's Bible Handbook (about $10-15), and Unger's Survey of the Bible ($11). There are many others that are quite good, but these two seem to me to be the most useful.Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias A Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia lists just about any concept or topic in the Bible and seeks to explain it, or give background on it. You might look up chariots and find out all kinds of things about a chariot. You might look up Paul and get a brief biography of him. These books are not just parallel passage works (although they contain that as well), but also contain archaeologic and historic information not found in the Bible. You could spend many a fulfilling evening browsing through one of these books. Some names to look into are Unger's Bible Dictionary, Simth's Bible Dictionary, New Bible Dictionary, Davis Bible Dictionary, Harper's Bible Dictionary, and many many others. Depending on where you go, and which one you like, you'll spend between $10 and $25 for these. Unger's Dictionary is also available in a generic softcover for less than $10 when you can find it.


  A Commentary seeks to explain the scriptures to us. There are many many many commentaries out there. The list is endless. Their focus ranges from devotional to expository, from practical to prophetic, from surface level to in-depth, from complete sets to individual books, from one-volume commentaries to 20, 30 and 40 volume sets. Everyone should probably have a one-volume commentary, at least most people think so! The classical, standard one to have is Matthew Henry's one-volume commentary, but deserving of mention is the Wycliffe One Volume Commentary. These are pretty much basic, devotional commentaries that will help with insights that you can use every day.But you don't just buy a one-volume commentary thinking that you'll never buy another one! A one-volume commentary is of very limited use. More useful is to buy a commentary on a book you are studying. For this, you'll have to become familiar with authors until you find your favorites. I probably have five or six commentaries on the book of Revelation alone, not to mention at least that many sets of commentary tapes on the book of Revelation! The best I can do to stretch your commentary dollar is to list a few authors I like. To name just a few out of literally hundreds, I'd say Ray Stedman, Arthur W. Pink, Donald Barnhouse, G. Campbell Morgan, M.R. DeHaan, and John Walvoord. But don't go out and buy a million commentaries right away. Just pick up a one-volume commentary, and gradually acquire a collection later.


  Now we get into reference books where YOU do the work instead of benefiting from work already done. It is important to get an exhaustive concordance. An exhaustive concordance will list EVERY word in the Bible alphabetically. There are many uses for this. When you can't find a certain passage, but you know a couple of the words, look it up in the concordance. When you do a word study of, say the word gold, you can find ALL the places where gold is mentioned. A good concordance will also give you the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic definitions of all the words in the Bible.

  Despite their size, concordances are not all that expensive. If you shop around, you can find concordances for $10. There are two popular concordances: Strong's and Young's. I guess I should just say to go for the best deal. Just make sure it is an exhaustive concordance. Manners and Customs Books These books give insight into the backgrounds of the culture and practices of Bible times. There is no real set standard here, but a valuable feature in one of these books is that it is keyed to the Bible reference rather than by topic.

  Expository Dictionary

  An expository dictionary differs from a Bible Dictionary in that we actually look up a word used in the Bible and get a complete definition of that word as used in the text, as opposed to a general definition as you find in a concordance. Here, the standard and basic work is Vine's Expository Dictionary. Available in a single volume, the price is quite modest. Also, there is Wilson's Dictionary of Old Testament words, and others. Often, these works are not exhaustive, but will contain just about any word you'd like to look up.

  Interlinear Bibles

  An Interlinear Bible will have the actual original language of the Bible and a literal, word for word translation right below it, with a King James (or other) text on the facing page. The word for word translation will be in all its glory of being in bad english grammar (obviously) and sometimes misleading, but nevertheless QUITE valuable when you need to know the exact word, or you'd like to see what the text says literally.

  Hebrew and Greek Concordances

  What? Another concordance? Yes, this time instead of looking up a word in english and finding all the occurrances of a word, we can look up the original Hebrew or Greek word and find all the occurrances! So what if you don't read Greek or Hebrew? No problem if you bought Strong's Exhaustive Concordance! You look up a word in Strong's and get Strong's word number (there is a number for every word in Strong's). Then you take that number and, if you buy Baker's Hebrew and Greek Concordances, and look it up. The book will list ALL the places that exact word is used. Of course, I'd definitely reccommend the Concordances published by Baker. The official titles are The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance by George V. Wigram, and The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance by George V. Wigram. Both are published by Baker Book House and go for $20 a piece.


  Now that we can look up all the occurances of the original words, we can get even more complete definitions of words! Again, coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and published by Baker Book House, there are Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to The Old Testament a dictionary numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance with an exhaustive English index, and Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament a dictionary numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. Again, these two books are $20 each, and match the two concordances previously mentioned. Now, understand that you aren't locked in to purchasing only these works. There are lots of others. The advantage to these is that you don't need to read Greek or Hebrew. Otherwise, good luck! That about sums up a BASIC reference library, although I'd be quick to add that there are a few books worth getting that don't really fit into a reference classification per se, but nevertheless are great references.

  Topical Bibles Harmony of the Gospels History of Christianity Foxe's Book of Martyrs The Works of Josephus Chronological Bibles Meredith's Book of Bible Lists Number in Scripture (E.W. Bullinger) Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah (Edersheim) Systematic Theology The "All The..." series by Herbert Lockyer Bible Atlases

  And there are many many more. This does not include a really fine background books which will be discussed in the next installment.

  Saving Your Money One of the most frustrating things is to not be able to afford the reference books you need to indulge in a certain study you'd like to take on. I have two possible solutions to this problem. One way of getting reference matierials for free is to resort to commentary tapes. There are many many good sets of commentary tapes available for free from one of two sources:

  Philologos Tapes 4901 Green River Drive #9 Corona, California 91720

  Firefighters for Christ 8866 Barcelona Plaza Westminster, California 92683-5495

  Both places have catalogs available by just writing to them.

  The other solution is by purchasing your books through the mail via one of the Discount Book Distributors. One source is: Christian Book Distributors P.O. Box 3687 Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3687 They always have great deals on their books. Usually, you can get 30-50% off or more!

  The following is a list of books that I've found to be quite helpful in understanding God's Word. Hopefully, these will serve you as well as they've served me. Also, hopefully this list will save you a few bucks worth of books that look really informative, but weren't what you expected.

  THE INVISIBLE WAR by Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse

  This should have a subtitle "Required Reading for all Christians intending to be Serious at all." There is a book report on this book available on Manna BBS. Ask the Sysop to put it online. Aside from the Bible itself, I find this to be the single most important book I've ever read. Dr. Barnhouse explores the situation man is in since the Garden of Eden affair. Barnhouse was one of those people who were unsurpassed in gleaning insights from the Bible. Absolutely profound.


  This is the definitive apologetic work on Chrisianity. An apologetic is a defense of the faith. In this book, Josh McDowell, probably one of the greatest Christian minds living today gives irrefutable evidence for the Christian faith. The book was not written for casual reading. Rather, it was written with documentation to be used in debates, college papers, witnessing, and basically anywhere Christianity might be challenged. Josh McDowell's tape series that goes along with this book (or used separately) is available for free on Manna BBS.

  KINGDOM OF THE CULTS by Walter Martin

  If you don't already know Dr. Walter Martin, you will find him to be probably the best authority on Comparative Religion in Christianity today. This, his best selling book is a survey of the most popular cults around today. He doesn't go into ALOT of detail, but there is enough here to gain an understanding of the many false teachings in the world today that claim to be Christian. The book was written in the 60s, and has been revised at least once since then in order to keep current with our changing world. Dr. Martin has also written other books about specific cults (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) which are also available at your local Christian bookstore.


  Again, Walter Martin has written what I think to be the perfect balance between a statement of faith, and a Systematic Theology. A Systematic Theology can weigh you down with thousands of pages of doctrine, and defense of that doctrine. They are generally hard to read, harder to understand, and even harder to stay awake through, not to mention a few of the weird ideas of the day! This book solves that problem quite nicely. This is a little paperback which discusses the 'essential' doctrines of the Christian faith. Dr. Martin shows from the Bible why these are doctrines, and how we defend these doctrines without getting completely boring! This is a fantastic book for a new Christian since it explains all the basic Christian doctrines we hold.

  THE TWO BABYLONS by Alexander Hisslop

  I hesitate to mention this one since it definitely upsets our Catholic brothers and sisters. This book goes into many of the old pagan rituals and shows the similarities to current Roman Catholicism. He gets a bit radical at some points, but there is alot of interesting reading here.

  A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO by Francis Schaeffer

  In this book, the late Dr. Schaeffer examines our current society and shows how we've fallen spiritually as a country in just the past 50 or so years. He shows why it happened and what we can do to reverse the trend. Dr. Schaeffer calls for each one of us to stand up to the shocking effects of humanism in our country today. This is a pretty heavy book to read in that Dr. Schaeffer deals with complex thoughts, but is well worth the effort.


  This set of three books is very inexpensive (about $3 each) but worth their weight in gold! They are hard to find, but again, worth the effort. In 'Made According to Pattern', Slemming looks at the Tabernacle and its spiritual significance. In 'These are the Garments', he studies the High Priest's robes. He considers the colors, textures, and all the accessories, and shows the significance of each one. In 'Thus Shalt Thou Serve', the topic is a study of the Offerings and feasts of early Jewish worshippers, and how this applies to us. Together, these three books will help you come to appreciate the Torah more than you ever did before. This is a wonderful demonstration of just what you can get out of using typology as a way of understanding all the more tedious parts of the Bible.

  THE TEMPLE by Alfred Ederscheim

  Primarily focused on the Temple at the time of Christ, this is a fabulous study on the Christian significance of the Levitical observances by a noted Rabbi who became a famous Episcopal Bishop.


  Imaginative and scholarly classic; caused major uproar when originally published, but has captured increasing respect in recent years. Stimulating background reading, although not a Christian apologetic. To find these, you have to check out one of the secular bookstores. Not generally found in Christian bookstores.


  Hal Lindsey is the most popular writer in Christianity. He has sold more books on prophecy than anyone else. He is easy to read, yet is quite informational. His books are timely, so I'd suggest reading the newer ones like 'There's a New World Coming' and 'The Rapture'.

  ADDICTED TO MEDIOCRITY by Franky Schaeffer

  In this book, Franky Schaeffer discusses how so many of us Christians insist on separating our spiritual life from our secular life, and how this can cause so much trouble. He discusses the error of reading books, going to movies, or listening to music and appreciating art only if it has some kind of 'Christian Stamp of Approval'. A very though-provoking book, he has also given a lecture that is parallel to it which is available on Manna BBS.


  Lewis These books discuss how Satan works in the world today, and the games he loves to play with us Christians when we are basically too stupid to recognise these games. Hal Lindsey's book is more on the factual, scriptural side, while C.S. Lewis' book is more of an imaginative scenario of a demon assigned to hassle a believer.

  THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

  Don't ever let anyone tell you that God does not have a plan for this country! This book examines the lives of the founding fathers of our country from Columbus to Washington. This is not a fictional book, but rather, is written from actual diaries and documents written at the time. This is a highly exciting and readable history of the United States where you can re-learn our heritage from a Christian perspective.

  PROPHECY IN STONE by David Webber and Noah Hutchings

  If you ever wondered about the Great Pyramid in Egypt, this is an inexpensive and easily read little book that discusses it. To get it, you need to write to The Southwest Radio Church, P.O. Box 1144, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73101.


  This is a great shortcut to understanding the times of Jesus and Paul from a historic perspective. Its greatest value is that it is so easy to read. Again, a very inexpensive book ($2.25).


  Tim LaHaye is one of the best authors to read. He has great experience in counselling which gives him alot of esperience in understanding people. In these two books, he examines the temperaments of human beings, and how God can actually use each temperament. In the second book, he examines four examples of the four basic temperaments, which is an interesting look at the personalities of Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul.


  These two controversial books are extremely good to have just to wake us up to the times we live in. These are quite controversial books in that many people object to them. You can cut the air with a knife whenever Dave Hunt lectures on his book in some places. Nevertheless, we should be aware of the issues discussed in both of these books since they are discussed so often today.

  Now, I'd like to take some time to list a few of the authors that whenever I see their books, I buy them on sight because their insights into the scripture are just that valuable.

  Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse

  Dr. Barnhouse has written commentaries on Romans, Genesis, and Revelation. He is quite readable and probably one of the best devotional authors.

  Arthur W. Pink

  My favorite author, this guy gets more out of a single verse in the Bible, than most people get out of the whole chapter. He isn't as readable as alot of other writers, but he packs more information into a book than anyone else.

  M.R. DeHaan

  Another one like Pink, but DeHaan also keeps the big picture in view. He's more apt to look at things chapter by chapter. A bit easier to read than Pink, DeHaan was also a doctor.

  G. Campbell Morgan

  His books are transcribed from his sermons (like many other authors). He, like Pink and DeHaan examines things using typology when applicable. He has a great set of commentaries out on the gospels, and another great book on the Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord.

  Ray Stedman

  Ray Stedman is a teacher in central California who is always writing new books. He is quite readable and the first choice when it comes to the New Testament in particular. He also has one of the best commentaries on the Book of Esther, which is a book still debated about today as to whether it belongs in the Bible at all. Reading this book will confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that Esther VERY MUCH belongs in the Bible.

  John F. Walvoord

  This man is one of the editors of the Scofield Reference Bible, is president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and has written a couple of really good commentaries. The value to his commentaries are that they are contemporary. His commentary on Daniel deserves to be in everyone's library, as is his book 'The Rapture Question'.

  There is another source of information that you should be aware of. That is the Southwest Radio Church. This ministry broadcasts interviews and Bible Studies all over the country. They frequently feature books in their newsletter at reduced prices. They also have a monthly newsletter called the Gospel Truth where they examine one issue each month, usually quite timely. Also, they have a monthly booklet called Bible in the News, where they examine the news events of the month and how they relate to Christianity. In addition to all of that, they have a whole list of intriguing and fascinating studies written by a host of authors available at quite reasonable prices. You can write to them at P.O. Box 1144, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73101.

  Contributed by The Manna System

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