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Diving in the Deep End

Want to do a deep dive into a specific book of the Bible to better understand it?  Here are a few tips to help you along the way.  

Step 1: First Reading

Pray for illumination and read the book for your first impressions. I would suggest starting with a smaller book like one of Paul’s shorter letters or a minor prophet.  Answer some of the following questions:

  1. What is the general tone or atmosphere of the book?
  2. What are the author’s purposes for writing the book? Does he seem to have one over-riding purpose in writing?  This is key before moving on to the other questions.  It is important to understand the author’s purpose to the original audience. 
  3. What genre is the writing?  History, poetry, apocryphal, etc.
  4. What are your personal impressions of the book? Which parts or topics interest you the most?  Before getting to this question, make sure you have a good idea of the purpose to the original audience first. This will keep you from turning verses into your pet peeves.   
  5. What challenges or encourages you in the book?

Afterward, go to a reliable Study Bible or Bible Handbook to see how the author(s) view the purpose and tone of the book matches yours and what insight you may gain from them. 

Step 2: Second Reading

Read through and then assign a title to each section or paragraph.  This title is a summary in your own words of the central idea in the section and not what you read in your English Bible.  Please note that this may not follow your English paragraph, division or chapter breakdowns.

It may help here to even copy and print the book on paper with no titles or chapters listed so you can see the text more as it was written.

Step 3: Outline the Book

Go through the letter again (in comparison with your titles) and see if you can find any sections that are of similar content. Construct a master outline of the book based on your study thus far.

Step 5: Deeper Study!

Study those sections in detail.  Note any key words (some words you will find flow throughout the book and are themes), thought ideas, or things that jump out at you.  Consider memorizing key verses (with understanding the context) or meditation on verses or sections.  Don’t be afraid to markup things, draw lines to connected thoughts or ideas with various colors and symbols. 

If you are familiar with the original languages, dive in the text in the original language.  You will actually see more in terms of how words and thoughts are used.  Above all, enjoy the study of God’s Word!!