Bible study should be a vital part of our lives. These 10 principles, derived from the scriptures and combined with years of experience should help in your search for understanding.
1. The things of God are spiritually revealed. (1 Cor 2:10,11); therefore ask the Eternal for His holy spirit (Luke 11:13). The holy spirit will teach you all things and guide you into all truth (cf. John 14:26; 16:13). It will not speak from itself, or in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but it will compare spiritual things with spiritual things, scripture with scripture (cf. John 16:13, 1Cor 2:13; Isa 28:10). It “will bring to your remembrance all things” (John 14:26). It “knows the things of God” (1Cor 2:11); it knows how to properly compare spiritual things with spiritual things (1Cor 2:13).
2. Get all the scriptures. “One witness is not sufficient testimony” (Num. 35:30) By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established (2Cor 13:1). This does not mean that we do not believe statements contained only once in the Bible, but it means you cannot leave out scriptures that have a bearing on your topic of study. You must take the whole Bible in its entire context, before you can come to the knowledge of that particular subject from the Eternal’s viewpoint.
3. Check the context. In order to understand any scripture thoroughly, in its context, ask and answer all the following questions: What? When? Where? Why? Who? How? No verse should be interpreted in isolation from its context. Both the immediate context and the larger context may need to be carefully considered. Who is the scripture about. Who is writing it? And to whom are they writing? What is this passage about? What is happening? When did the events described here take place? Where did these events happen? Why did these events happen? Why did the author write this passage? How is something to be done? Or how does the author illustrate his point? How does this apply to me?
4. Seek the meaning of the original language. Translation is an art, not a science. Translators must choose words based on what they think the writer meant. Use several Bible translations to see if there are other possible meanings. Use a Hebrew or Greek concordance to see where the same word was used elsewhere in scripture.
5. Do not establish doctrine based on a single Bible help. E.g., Strong’s word number 5590 defines the Greek word pneuma as the “rational and immortal soul,” implying that man is, or has, an immortal soul—probably a personal belief of the author. Yet, in referring to mankind, 1 Corinthians 15;53 says that “this mortal must put on immortality.” Also, we read “in Adam all die” (1Cor 15:22) and “[Jesus Christ] alone has immortality” (1Tim 6:16).
6. Study the historical setting and background which produced the writing. Make use of Bible dictionaries, atlases and encyclopedias.
7. What does the Bible say? Always ask and answer this question. E.g., John 3:6 is saying that flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit; and 1 Corinthians 15:50 says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Therefore, the church cannot be the kingdom of God.
8. Let the Bible interpret the Bible. Meanings are derived by usage and by context—not by etymology. Good lexicons supply references to contextual usage for our study. Study words in contexts.
9. Do not put vague scriptures first. Difficult and apparently ambiguous verses should always be understood in the light of the many verses that are perfectly clear.
10. The Bible never contradicts itself. “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal 3:6). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). If any particular scripture seems to contradict another scripture, either your understanding of the particular scripture or the translation that you are reading is incorrect or misunderstood.
compiled by James R. Calvert