How to Study the Bible

2 Timothy 3:14-4:4; Hebrews 4:12


As we have learned, God speaks to us as we spend time reading the Bible.  As we invest time studying the Bible, we can grow deeper in our understanding and love for God.  Proper hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) can be summarized in three steps: seeing, understanding, and applying.


The entire purpose of this first step is to observe all that is happening.  Read through the entire passage a few times.  As you do, try to answer the following questions: Who are the characters? What is happening? When is it happening? Where is it happening? Why is it happening? Circle words or concepts that are confusing that you would like to understand better. You can also outline the chapter to help you get a better sense of what is happening.


The second step is to understand what you have come to observe by putting it into context.  There are various ways to understand the original intention of what was written before applying it to our present situation.

  • Placement: How does the passage apply within the context of the greater story that it is in? Verse > Paragraph > Section > Book > Era > Bible > God (eternal)
  • History & Culture: What is the culture and history of the period that the passage is written? What does the passage say and not say?  What do outside sources help us understand about the culture?
  • Literary: What type of literature am I reading? Is it biographical, apocalyptic, exposition, narrative, parable, poetry, poetry, proverb, satire, wisdom? Is it meant to be factual, symbolic, or metaphorical?  Is it personally reflective or directive?
  • Theological: How does it compare to other passages? Is it consistent?  Is it the only place that the idea is found in the Bible?  Is there a paradox that I don’t understand?
  • Spiritual: Are there layers of understanding of the passage?  Can it refer to multiple ideas?
  • Jesus: How does this scripture reveal Jesus? How does it fit into the life and message of Jesus? (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Outside Resources

You can use external resources to help you find out more about what is happening.  Start by studying the words that you circled and referring to outside commentaries on the chapters themselves to understand the context behind what you are considering.

  • Bible Dictionary – a tool that helps summarize the meanings of difficult Bible words. Some of the most popular are the Vines Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
  • Commentaries – an explanation of a passage of scripture based on the author’s understanding and knowledge. Some of the most popular was written by Matthew Henry, John Gill, Jamieson Fausset and Brown, and the Expositors.
  • Concordance / Lexicon – a tool that helps you understand the original language for each translated word.
  • Online – many of these tools are found for free online at Bible Gateway,,
  • Software – you can also find software that combines all the above at,com,

The final step is to make the principles practically relevant. Here are three ways you can take what you have read and understood how they apply today.  As you work with a mentor, you will be able to use the scripture to your situation in a healthy way and apply it to life situations on your own.

  • Categorize the timeless truth (principles): What does this passage suggest about all times and all places? About God, human nature, society?
  • Find contemporary parallels: In what types of situations do I find a similar principle working today?
  • What don’t I understand? What is unclear and hard to understand? What do I need more help with or need to leave alone rather than conclude currently?
  • Spiritual application: Is there a personal message to me from God? Does the passage spark ideas or thoughts as I journal and begin to hear God for myself?
  • Confronting our thoughts: How does this principle contradict my ideas about life, God? What would I have customarily believed to be true? Who will I trust: my thoughts and experiences – or what God teaches?  What does this mean about how I interpret the past?  What does this suggest about how I live my life?  What do I have to change?

With the help of your mentor, try applying these principles to a passage such as 1 Samuel 3:1-10.  What are the timeless truths that you pull out of these verses?

Observations Understanding Application

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