Hello my friend.
In this post I wanted to give you a short tutorial on studying a whole book of the Bible. This is an important part of your Bible study prep and it’s not something that most people do.
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I’ll begin with an illustration.
Imagine if you were to walk into the middle of a movie way after it started. After you tripped a few times finding your seat, you’d probably be confused since you would have no idea who was who or where in the story you came in.
We would never think of jumping into the middle of a movie (or a book) and yet this is precisely what happens in our modern Bible study.
Yes, sometimes God does speak to you from his word from an isolated Bible passage. But that should be the exception and not your approach to serious Bible study.
So in this post, let me stress an important point:
Bible study begins at the level of the book and not at the level of individual passages.
The antidote to reading the Bible in little bits is to do a study of the whole book as you begin your Bible study. This is what we’ll cover in the rest of the article.
There are three steps to implementing this technique –
Your first step in getting a feel for a whole book of the Bible is to read an introduction to that book in a good study Bible.
You can actually go much deeper with other Bible study tools (see here) but a good ole study Bible will do just fine.
If you read the introduction slowly and carefully, you will gather a ton of information. Make sure you capture the following:
All of these elements together will serve as the foundation for your study of individual passages later on. What you are looking for in this step is a bird’s eye view of the book as a whole and its contents.
Better yet, if you want to climb higher in your study, take out a notebook or your computer and jot down this information somewhere. This will cement the information into your mind.
After you have read an introduction to your book, simply sit down and read the book through in one sitting.
Most Christians have likely never done this before. I understand that. Again, we’re used to reading the Bible in quotes, small chunks or simply jumping in at random places.
But, as you may know, all of the epistles in the New Testament were likely read to a congregation all in one sitting. After all, they were letters and like any letter, the early church would never have thought to read them in a piecemeal fashion.
If you are dealing with a massive book like many of those in the Old Testament or a gospel, then simply read a large chunk, about 15-20 minutes worth, depending on your speed.
For example, if you are studying a passage on Joseph, try to read Genesis 37-50 in one sitting. This section relates all of Joseph’s adventures from slavery to triumph in Egypt.
If you are studying something in Acts 2, trying reading Acts 1-7, which deals with the church in Jerusalem.
This seemingly simple piece of advice is like gold for your Bible study. When you read a book through in one sitting you are more likely to spot the flow of an author’s thoughts, his structure and purpose and where an author repeats patterns, topics or major themes.
As a final step to understanding a whole book, be sure to study or review an outline.
An outline provides you with a structure of the book and its major divisions. Again, it gives you a big picture perspective and may help you to spot patterns as well.
Your study Bible or other Bible resources mentioned earlier will have simple to more complex outlines of every book of the Bible.
Take advantage of these resources and take advantage of giving a book’s outline a good once over.
Here is simplified 1 Thessalonians outline. Yours would have more detail:
After Paul’s thanksgiving (1:2-10), there is a large section where Paul defends his ministry when he was in Thessalonica (2:1-16).
There’s a large section about Paul’s worry for the church (2:1-16). What is that about? And then there are two large sections of teachings: on living a holy life (4:1-11) and on Jesus’ second coming in two different sections (4:13-5:11).
Notice how even this very high level outline gives you some context for what is happening in the letter.
Getting the big picture of a book forms the foundation for your Bible study.
Rule #2 – By the Book gives you a broad perspective of the motivations, occasion and major themes that preoccupied the author as he wrote.
These details, in turn, will enrich and illuminate the study and interpretation of individual passages. In addition, reading a book through in one sitting, or large sections, allows you to pick up details and patterns of an author you may have never seen before.
Finally, an outline will give you the basic structure of a book and help you to spot major themes and patterns.
If you want to take your study of the Bible to another level, consider taking our course: The 7 Rules of Bible Interpretation EVERY Christian Should Know.
We teach you 7 advanced Bible study techniques in great detail, including Rule #2 – By the Book. You’ll get:
Most of all, you’ll gain the confidence and the knowledge to be able to study and apply any part of the Bible.
You can check out the course details and curriculum here.