Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ephesus: Study methods Part 2

Reading about the books, people and places.

Reading and studying the Bible one chapter after another can seem a bit intimidating. In fact, if you studied half an hour 4 times a week using the method I outlined in study methods, part 1, you would find two things. First it would take you more than 10 years to go through the entire Bible, and second, you would run into passages for which this method of study makes no sense.

Some variety is needed, both to help keep perspective, and to gain the most learning in the least amount of time. It also helps psychologically, by keeping the learning more interesting. Remembering our goal is to understand the Bible, and get as much learning and understanding accomplished as possible in the first months and years of study.

There are two things a beginner student of the Bible needs, to make learning easier in the future. One is learn the order of the Books, so that when a teach (or pastor, or preacher) refers to a chapter and verse, it only takes half the work to find it. This will let you concentrate on what is being taught, and less on just "keeping up."

I have found that writing out the names of the books - five at a time - helps. I am always having trouble with the books in the last half of the Old Testament, so from time to time I will sit down with a pen and pad of paper and write out the names of five or so of them in the correct order. When I started this, I used the same technique to learn names of the books in the New Testament. About five at a time. I say five at a time because it has been shown that most people do best with a short list of five or so items, rather than a long list.

The other thing that will help immensely is to learn about the books in the Bible. There are several really good tools for this. Fist the Study Bibles I discussed earlier are a great tool. Many of these Study Bibles, in addition to having notes at the bottom of each page, will preface each book (or sometimes, section) with a couple pages of notes about that book.

A second tool for this is Zondervans Pictorial Dictionary that I have mentioned before - or some other Bible Dictionary might work. Look up the name of a book and read what it has to say about it, its author, and the times and places written in it. Sometimes you will need to look up stuff you find in one article (these dictionaries are more like encyclopedias than regular dictionaries) by looking in other articles. For instance, Ecclesiastes will lead you to Solomon, who wrote much of three other books of the Bible.

A third tool for this kind of study is a Bible Handbook. I haven't gone over these, but will soon. Also, as a note, someone with whom I discuss scripture regularly pointed out to me, another obvious study method using a Study Bible, so I hope to post an article on that method soon.

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