"The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words, and that which was written uprightly, even words of truth" (Ecclesiastes 12:10 ASV). Plenary inspiration is "the conviction that the words of Scripture as originally penned in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek were inspired by God" (Lockman Foundation). The Bible was inspired in this way, word-for-word rather than thought-for-thought. "And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (1 Corinthians 2:13). This is exciting; it means that God has chosen to speak to man through the lasting medium of the written word!
Bible study is essential to the success of Christianity. Bible study allows one: to determine the accuracy of the preached word (Acts 17:11), to make progress in Christianity (1 Timothy 4:13-15), to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2), and to ensure that one has the Spirit. The Spirit indwells the Christian exclusively through the word of Christ. Bible study is much neglected by the average Christian. Also, reading and understanding are not the same; understanding comes from study. Following are some suggestions to aid the individual in profitable Bible study.
First of all, study the text itself rather than 'scholarly' writings about the text. It is useful to study the text from different versions of the Bible, because no version is perfect. It would be helpful to have versions from different Bible families; perhaps the King James family (KJV, NKJV), the American Standard family (RV, ASV, NASB), and other families, and maybe a Catholic Bible. Using different versions will introduce the student to words they better understand and phrases which are more familiar.
Remember that the Bible is composed of different covenants which need to be distinguished from one another; of which only one is bound on mankind in this age. However, the Old Testament should not be neglected "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). Much of what is alluded to or mentioned in the New Testament is more fully explained in the Old Testament. Some of the most practical words for daily living appear in the wisdom books of the Old Testament, which are probably the most neglected books of the Bible.
The Bible can be studied profitably and thoroughly with no extra materials. However, the Bible may be studied more easily with extra materials. Concordances (Cruden's, Strong's) and Topical Bibles (Nave's, Torrey's) are designed to give exhaustive references for Bible words. Also, many Bibles are cross-referenced to aid the student in fully understanding a text by studying similar texts. A Bible Handbook (Halley's, Unger's) is handy because it combines features of a Bible Dictionary, Bible Encyclopedia, and concise commentary in one book. Commentaries are not as useful as many preachers claim. They tend to be written in a way that makes little sense to novices or even more experienced students. Commentators record an interpretation of Scripture, but the purpose of study is for the student to interpret Scripture. Most Bible publishers make these types of books available especially for the Bibles they publish. In any case, these extra materials cost money and having them is irrelevant to whether or not one can read to understand the Bible. One should study the Bible by whatever method helps them.
By Shannon Ramey
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