December 12, 2012

Going Deeper in Bible Study

I was recently asked my opinion on where to start for going more in depth in Bible study. My answer is generally applicable, so I'm reproducing it here. This is just my advice based on quite a bit of exposure to studying. Take it as nothing more than that.

1. Learn how to fish.

Spend some time learning sound methods biblical interpretation. It will pay off dividends in your studies and will keep you from many unfruitful detours in interpretation. Here are my suggestions (you would only need one to start):

Solid Introductions:
Duvall & Hays, Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible
Plummer, 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible

More Advanced and Detailed Treatments:
Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
Kostenberger & Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology

2. Go fishing.

a. Get a solid overview of the whole Bible.

Just read through it cover to cover, and precede each book by getting an introduction of the contents, authorship, historical situation, critical issues, etc. Recommendation:
Old Testament: Dillard & Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Second Edition
New Testament: Carson & Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament

b. Dig deeper into specific books.

Utilize the tools you learned above to do exegesis of the text, understanding and applying its message. This is where commentaries come in handy to provide insight and aid in study. The recommendations here will vary depending on the book. I don't suggest buying a complete commentary series, but finding the best for the specific book you're studying. A good site to use is http://www.bestcommentaries.com

Some generally solid series are:
Devotional/Pastoral
The Bible Speaks Today (BST)
The NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC)
Intermediate Scholarly
New American Commentary (NAC)
Calvin's Commentaries (Available free online)
Advanced Scholarly
New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT)
New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT)
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament (BECOT)
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT)

For example, if you were studying Romans, I would recommend referencing either Thomas Schreiner's BECNT commentary or Doug Moo's NICNT commentary as you work through the text. Good scholarly commentaries can be pricey (upwards of $30 for a book), so that's where the library becomes a big asset.

3. Eat and be nourished.

a. Apply.

Apply what you're learning in the Bible to circumstances in your life, focus your prayers on God's word and promises, and share your insights with others.

b. Learn Theology.

Theology in its best form is simply an explanation and defense of the Christian faith as taught in the Bible. Recommendations:
Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine

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