Holy Spirit Interactive
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Inside Holy Spirit Interactive

Direct Bible Discovery

Chapter 16 - Other Practical Matters

This chapter considers several practical details which have net been mentioned so far. Suggestions are given regarding time and place, books, choosing a translation, and how to relate DBD to your quiet time, Bible class, and Bible memorization.

Time and Place

Personal Bible study takes time. If you do not value personal Bible study very much -- if you place it low among your priorities, you may try to find time for it. But if you value personal Bible study greatly you will make time. Once you have decided to set aside some other activities, you will need to work out a number of details in order to make your Bible study time most profitable.

Plan to set aside larger blocks of time. Do not try to do your Bible study in five or ten minute snatches. Depth study requires longer periods of concentration. Also, plan to study during a time of the day when you are alert. Everyone is different. Some people's minds are wide awake very early in the morning. Others can think most clearly late at night. You will be wise to plan your day so that your routine tasks come during your duller hours and your Bible study comes during your sharpest hours. Even though longer periods of concentration will usually work best, at times you might find it helpful to give your mind a rest for a while so that you can return to your study refreshed. Also try to choose a time when you can expect no interruptions.

The place in which you study is also important. Find a place where there will be no distractions and no interruptions. You should also have good ventilation and a desk arrangement in which your Bibles and aids are all within an arm's reach.

You may never find a time and place as ideal as those just described. Nevertheless, whatever your circumstances, you should plan a time and place for your Bible study that will help you concentrate best.

Books

Bibles

You do not need a lot of expensive books in order to begin, but a few basics are essential. Of course, you need one or more Bibles. It is best to have just one or two good translations which you use as your basic study Bibles for most of your reading and close study, plus a few other translations for survey reading and for comparison. (Guidelines for choosing a translation are given in the next section.)

Notebook

You should also have a notebook for recording your observations, interpretations, questions, and many other things. A notebook which uses standard 8½ x 11" paper is best. It should be a loose-leaf notebook so that you can easily rearrange the pages, and so that you can neatly remove your notes when you have completed a study in order to file them under the appropriate book or topic in your file.

A word processor also works very well for recording your thoughts. It has several advantages, including the ability to easily revise your notes. Be sure to keep backups of everything. And when it comes time to archive any of your notes that are in electronic form, remember that word processing software, operating systems, and media change over the years. So if you hope to be able to read in 15 years what you wrote today, save hard copy along with your files.

The importance of writing out your thoughts during Bible study cannot be overemphasized. In Bible study you should never read without thinking, and never think without writing. Writing out your thoughts will help you in three ways. First, it will force you to make sure that your thoughts are clear enough to be written down. When we try to write out our ideas, we often find that we need to rethink them and unravel them before they can actually be put into writing. Second, the mere exercise of writing out our thoughts helps impress them on our memory so that they can be recalled more quickly and accurately later. Months or years later you will probably be surprised to read how much you had discovered and thought through which is by then forgotten. You will then be able to review and build on your previous efforts without having to redo a lot of work. An old proverb states that the strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink.

As a general rule, do not mark up your Bible. Some people clutter up the text in their Bibles by underlining words, filling in verses with colored pencils, drawing circles and arrows in the text, or writing notes in the margins. Indeed, such marks are handy at the moment. However, in the future they may hinder your discovery of all that the passage has to say. These marks may become a distraction, making it difficult to see any more than what you noticed the first time around. Avoid quickly marking up the text itself, although you may find it helpful to make note of your major divisions and subdivisions and their titles in the margin. While you are studying a passage, it is best to study from a "clean" copy of the text. Then after you have completed your study of the passage, you may want to make a few, carefully selected, key notations in the text itself.

English Dictionary

You should also have a good English dictionary handy. Use it often, even when you think you understand a word. You may be surprised when you find that your usage of certain terms differs from standard usage.

Complete Concordance

A complete concordance is indispensable, especially for topical study of the Bible. Many "Study Bibles" include a concordance at the back, but such concordances list only some of the words in the Bible; and under the words they do include, only some of the references where those words occur are listed. Also, they typically do not identify the Hebrew or Greek words underlying the English words. Thus, a separate, complete concordance is needed.

There are concordances available for such modern translations as the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible. They are complete and identify the Hebrew and Greek words. (Even the older concordances based on the King James version, such as Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, can still be used profitably.)

Fortunately, many Bible versions are also available in electronic form for use on a computer. With the help of Bible study software these electronic versions can be quickly searched (including boolean searches) using English or the Hebrew and Greek root words -- a definite advantage over a printed concordance.

The following chart may help you decide what will work best for you.

Do you have a computer? Recommendation
No You should have a printed concordance. In the following two concordances, the main body is organized around English words from their respective translations. In the back there are Greek and Hebrew lexicons in which the original words can be found by number.
  • The Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd ed (1999), Goodrick & Kohlenberger.
  • The Zondervan NASB Exhaustive Concordance, (1988)
If you are somewhat familiar with Greek or Hebrew, you may prefer the following concordances in which the main body is organized around the words in the original language. Each has an index in the back which lists all the English words with the various words from the original language from which they are translated. This index can be used to find the Greek/Hebrew words in the main body by number.
  • The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament (with the NIV), Kohlenberger, et.al. (Zondervan)
  • The Hebrew-English Concordance to the Old Testament (with the NIV), Kohlenberger & Swanson (Zondervan)
Yes, but no Internet access You should have an electronic Bible such as The NIV Study Bible Complete Library (Zondervan). This software package includes a complete concordance (able to do searches for Greek and Hebrew words) plus many other resources.
Yes, with Internet access You can do your searches on line at various websites. Some sites allow searches in various English translations, in the Greek New Testament, or even in interlinear versions. Here are a few addresses to start with:

The Bible Gateway (http://bible.gospelcom.net)
Look up passages or search for words (English only) in any of ten different translations, including two very literal translations. Compare passages in all ten translations at once. Hear passages read.

Greek Bible (http://www.greekbible.com)
Look up passages in the Greek New Testament, or search for Greek words. Click on a word to see it parsed and defined.

Olive Tree (http://www.olivetree.com/bible)
Look up passages or search for words in any of twelve English versions (NIV not included) plus Greek New Testaments and a Greek-English "interlinear" (better: "interword") based on the Textus Receptus. Includes an "NASB with def window" search option with a convenient "mouse-over" feature for identifying the Greek/Hebrew source words.

HTML Bible (http://htmlbible.com)
Search in several old translations (including Jerome's Latin Vulgate), plus a parallel Greek New Testament which displays four Greek versions.

Maps

It is also important to have a set of Bible maps. Many of the study Bibles and Bible dictionaries include an set of Bible maps, which is sufficient in many cases. Or, a separate Bible atlas can be purchased. Keep your maps handy and use them often.

Interpretive Aids

All of the aids mentioned above are noninterpretive aids. It is also helpful to use interpretive aids, especially to compare your findings with the findings of others. The more common interpretive aids can be divided into two main types:

  • Study Bibles, Bible commentaries, and the like, which are organized around the books of the Bible in order.
  • Bible dictionaries, systematic theologies, and the like, which are organized mainly according to Bible topics.

Study Bibles include such helps as cross-references, footnotes, introductions, outlines for each book, a brief concordance, maps, etc. Helpful volumes include:

  • New International Version Study Bible
  • The New Scofield Reference Bible
  • Holman New American Standard Study Bible
One-volume commentaries are handy in that they cover all the books of the Bible. Helpful volumes include:
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
  • The New Bible Commentary: Revised
  • Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
Multi-volume commentaries usually devote one volume to each book of the Bible and are thus able to go into much greater depth than one-volume commentaries. Helpful sets include:
  • New International Commentary
  • The Layman's Bible Book Commentary
Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias cover a wide range of biblical and theological topics alphabetically arranged. Helpful volumes include:
  • The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary
  • New Bible Dictionary
  • Davis Dictionary of the Bible (the 4th edition is preferred over later editions)
  • Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts
  • The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible
  • Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia
Systematic theologies cover theological topics logically arranged. Helpful volumes include:
  • Thiessen's Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology (Thiessen's original is preferred over later revisions by others)
  • J. O. Buswell Jr.'s A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion
Dictionaries of theology cover theological words and topics alphabetically arranged. Helpful volumes include:
  • Baker's Dictionary of Theology
  • The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

Choosing a Translation

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and the Old Testament was originally written mostly in Hebrew. Our chief concern here, however, is the study of the English Bible. You do not need to know Greek and Hebrew to do meaningful and rewarding personal Bible study; but, of course, a knowledge of these languages is very helpful, especially for the professional who plans to teach or minister full-time.

Which translation of the Bible is best for personal Bible Study? No translation is perfect, but there are many good translations available. When you choose a translation you should keep the following four factors in mind.

First, the translation you choose should be an accurate translation -- one which faithfully conveys in good, readable English the same ideas and meanings that were conveyed in the original languages. Of all the factors discussed in this section, this matter of accuracy is by far the most important factor in choosing a translation.

Of course, it must be recognized that every translation of the Bible is interpretive to at least some degree. Translation from any language to any other language is not merely a mechanical process of substituting the words of the target language for the words of the source language. Various languages do not have the same structure, the same vocabulary, or the same idioms, so translation in a computer-like fashion, merely substituting word for word, is impossible. Instead, the translator must translate thought for thought, idea for idea, emphasis for emphasis, meaning for meaning, which mere mechanical word-for-word translation could never adequately accomplish. Because the translator must interpret the original before he can translate it, every translation of the Bible is, to at least a small degree, interpretive.

While it is true that even the more literal, or the more "strict," translations are somewhat interpretive, some versions go far beyond strict translations and purposely attempt to expand and clarify the wording for the reader. Such versions are more properly called "paraphrases" or "expanded translations." Because they include additional words and phrases in order to make better sense, they also require more interpretation than is required in strict translation. When there is ambiguity in the wording of the source language, the strict translator will retain that ambiguity rather than adding his own interpretations to his translation. On the other hand, the paraphraser will add his own interpretation in an attempt to clarify the ambiguity for the reader. As he does so he is guided more by his theological position than by the original text. This additional clarity may seem like an advantage to the person who is reading the passage for the first time. However, for careful inductive study of the Bible, a more literal translation is best. Paraphrased versions and expanded translations, being moderately interpretive aids, should be used later in your study procedure for comparison. But for your own careful scrutiny of a passage you should use a relatively literal translation.

A second factor to keep in mind when choosing a translation is that the translation should use current English. Unfortunately, many words in the King James Version of the Bible have changed their meanings since that translation was made in 1611 (approximately four centuries ago.) Examples of such word changes can be easily found by referring to What You Should Know About Bible Translations by G. Christian Weiss, and God's Word into English by Dewey M. Beegle. It is misleading in everyday communication to use one word when we mean something quite different. It is just as misleading to use a translation containing some words which, because of the gradual change in the English language over a long period of time, no longer accurately represent the ideas in the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament. This problem is largely overcome in The New Scofield Reference Bible and the New King James Bible which make such word changes as are necessary to bring the expressions of the King James Version in line with current English.

There are some who favor the King James Version because they feel that the textus receptus (the manuscript type from which the New Testament of the King James Version was translated) is either identical to the original manuscripts, or closer to the original manuscripts than any other manuscript type. Both of these viewpoints are rejected by the general consensus of conservative Bible scholars. Although this is a matter for the experts (the textual critics) to resolve, and is beyond the scope of this book, one observation is helpful here. The textus receptus and the other manuscript types are not vastly different from each other. In the New Testament, differences in wording are found roughly at a rate of only four words or phrases per chapter (plus two longer passages, Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53 to 8:11). Furthermore, the significant differences in wording -- differences that add to the meaning or change the basic meaning of a particular passage -- are far less frequent. These significant differences (not including the two longer passages mentioned above) could all be contained on one or two pages. No basic doctrine is altered in any way. For all practical Bible study purposes, the Greek text underlying the New Testament of the King James Version and the Greek text underlying most modern translations are nearly identical, and the same can be said for the Hebrew texts underlying the Old Testament.

The third factor to keep in mind is that the Bible you choose should be a committee translation rather than a translation made by one person. The wealth of scholarship in a balanced committee should obviously produce a better translation, all other factors being equal. You can quickly tell by reading the introduction in most translations whether it was made by an individual or by a committee.

Fourth, the Bible you choose should not be an annotated Bible. In other words, it should not be a "study Bible" or a "reverence Bible." It should be printed without cross-references, outlines, headings, or interpretive notes added to the text. (Such interpretive notes are not to be confused with alternate translations and variations in manuscript readings which are noted in the margins or at the foot of the page in most Bibles, and which are non-interpretive.) Interpretive additions are not inspired. It is important to avoid dependence on such interpretive additions, especially in the earlier phases of your Bible study procedure, as explained in chapter 4. One of the ways to do this is to avoid the use of an annotated Bible as your main study Bible.

There are a number of excellent versions which could be used as your basic study Bible. However, two are especially recommended:

  • New American Standard Bible (A. J. Holman Company)
  • New International Version (Zondervan).
Of these two, the NASB is the more literal, but also slightly less readable. Thus, an excellent combination would be to use the NIV as your basic Bible for survey reading and first readings of a particular passage, and then to use the NASB as your basic Bible for close study of the passages.

Having a few other translations will also prove helpful for survey reading and for making comparisons, passage by passage. Other translations which are good for this purpose include the following:

  • New Revised Standard Version (various publishers)
  • Contemporary English Version (American Bible Society)
  • The Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version (Zondervan)
Since no single translation is perfect, you should regularly compare the wording of the passage you are studying in a few different translations. At the same time, however, avoid the extreme of spending the majority of your study time jumping from one translation to another.

In order to become more familiar with the different versions, be sure to read the prefaces, introductions, and other front matter in your various Bibles.

DBD and Other Common Practices

Many Christians are involved in three common practices which provide Bible input:

  • A daily quiet time, or private devotional period
  • A weekly discussion of the Bible at Sunday school class, or a home Bible study group
  • Bible memorization
Each of these practices is very beneficial in furthering one's knowledge of the Bible and thus laying a foundation for growth in one's Christian life. A question naturally arises regarding the relationship between DBD and these three practices.

Your daily quiet time should include at least the following two basic elements: Bible study and prayer. DBD does not replace the Bible study which you do as part of your quiet time; nor does the Bible study which you do as part of your quiet time replace DBD. DBD is a particular way of studying the Bible, and thus it is not in competition with your quite time at all. Rather, DBD should be the way you study your Bible during your quiet time. This requires, of course, that ample time be set aside for your quiet time. DBD is the basic approach you should use in studying the Bible both during your quiet time and at other times as well.

You should also take advantage of a small Bible study group or Sunday School class. Again, DBD does not replace Bible study groups or Sunday school classes; nor do they replace DBD. The best pattern is to maintain both individual and group study on a regular basis. You will be able to share your findings and applications with others, and they will be able to stimulate your mind with topics, questions, possible interpretations, and their own applications that will enhance your own Christian life and your personal Bible study. The Bible says that we are to "stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together . . . but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24-25), and small Bible study groups and Sunday School classes are ideal places to do this. Whatever the group, encourage those who are studying the Bible with you to discover the teachings of the Bible directly. In fact, a good pattern would be to plan each week's Bible discussion around the steps in the DBD procedures explained in the next two chapters. Each individual would be expected to use DBD on his own, and then he would be prepared each week to contribute "intelligently" to the discussion. Group discussions of a Bible passage are most helpful when they follow, rather than precede, each individual's private study of that passage.

The third common practice is Bible memorization. Many Christians recommend Bible memorization for children, but it is just as valuable for adults. Again, DBD does not replace Bible memorization; nor does Bible memorization replace DBD. The most meaningful pattern would be to memorize Bible passages after you have studied the passage according to the principles and procedures of DBD. A passage which is memorized merely for the sake of memorizing one more passage, and which is isolated from its immediate context, is often memorized in a mechanical, meaningless, rote fashion. The danger is that such passages are often misunderstood, and then misapplied. It is much better to memorize passages which have already become meaningful through the use of DBD on a Bible book or Bible topic. When a passage comes to your attention through some other means, and you want to memorize it, it is important to thoroughly study that passage in context in order to guard against misinterpreting or misapplying it.

Back to Index | Next Chapter