Stop, Look, Listen

How to be not only to a Bible student, but also a careful Bible student? What is a careful student? Which qualities does such a student possess?

1. A Personal Relationship with the Author

A personal relationship with the One whose words are recorded in the Bible, the God of Israel is the first and most important quality. The Scriptures themselves point us to such a reality (See 1 Corinthians 2:11-14). Moreover, it only makes sense that a person may truly understand the Word of God in its fullest if he/she knows, in a very intimate sense, the Author of the Scriptures.

2. The Ability to Observe Details

A second quality one must possess in order to be a careful Bible student is the ability to observe details. The more one is able to observe what is written in the text, the more accurate one will become at interpreting and understanding the text. Contrary to what one might think, careful observation is a skill anyone can learn. All it requires is patience and practice.

Patience.  We all are tempted to draw quick conclusions from the Scriptures as soon as possible without adequately noticing exactly what is actually recorded. We would be amazed at how many words we overlook, the amount of reading-into the text we do, and the plethora of assumptions we make about any given passage we attempt to study. If we would but read and re-read the same passage 10-20 times, we will begin to see the text in a completely different light than ever before.

One can also become a better observer simply by practice. For example, the next time a passage is studied, take out a piece of paper and a pen and begin to list as many details about the text as possible – before making any personal application. In order to do such an exercise, ask the questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? frequently, and look for the answers in the text – and in the text only. If this is done with every passage that is studied, it will provide the adequate practice one needs in order to become a good observer of the biblical text.

3. The Proper Use of the Biblical Languages

One of the best ways to more accurately interpret the Bible is to know and understand the original biblical languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. But one is not always in a position to learn these beautiful languages.

In the past that was sometimes a huge problem. However, we live in an age that is continually producing user-friendly biblical language helps, aids, and tools for the laymen who is not able to know these languages. The earnest Bible student will do his best to acquire such tools and to become acquainted with the use of them.

Just knowing these biblical languages, however, will not solve all of the interpretive problems. For one, some problems are not the result of poor translations. There are simply some passages of the Bible that are very difficult to correctly understand. For these passages, a proper study method will need to include the consistent application of all of the standard hermeneutical methods and tools – not to mention a complete dependency on the Spirit of God. Even then, we must realize that we still are not able to understand completely every passage in the Bible. The study of the Scriptures is a life-long undertaking; it will last for eternity, for it is the Eternal Word!

Sometimes the adage is true that “a little knowledge is dangerous.” Merely knowing the meaning of some Greek or Hebrew is not entirely sufficient to accurately translate biblical passages. On occasion, sincere Bible teachers, while attempting to use the original languages, make sincere, but unfortunate, interpretive mistakes, simply because they were not familiar with the grammatical nuances of the languages. There is much more to know in handling the biblical languages than the average language student realizes. (For a contemporary example of this point, please see the article entitled,”The Truth about Alef-Tav” in the Checking It Out section of our website.)

4. The Use of Biblical Backgrounds

For better understanding of the Bible study the historical, geographical, religious, and cultural background of a given passage of the Bible. This may sound like an enormous amount of work. In truth, it can be! But how else can we bridge the vast gap of time, cultures, and geography that exists between us who live today and the times in which the Bible was written? Build up a personal biblical backgrounds library. Please consult TRI’s annotated bibliography section of this website for some helpful and up-to-date suggestions.

Or join a study tour of Israel and the other Mediterranean biblical sites. Even a short, 10 day introductory tour of Israel will go a long way to helping a student gain essential background information.

5. Integrity

Integrity can be defined as “honesty,” “sincerity,” or “uprightness.” How does one practice integrity in studying the Bible?

  • Let the Bible speak for itself, rather than imposing a preconceived interpretation upon the Scriptures.
  • Be always willing to change one’s beliefs or practices to adjust to what the Scripture teaches.
  • Be gracious to others of different persuasions when a biblical passage or verse is unclear or difficult to interpret. When the Bible is clear,  stand firm on its teaching. When a passage is not clear and subject to differing interpretations treat those who hold to a different view with grace and love.

These are just some of the ways that a careful Bible student can practice integrity when studying or handing the Scriptures. Integrity goes hand in hand with humility. Humility goes hand in hand with letting Yeshua in us live His life in us and through us. When a believer yields his members to righteousness, such a one will always be a careful Bible student with unmistakable integrity.

6. Checking the Sources

There is one final characteristic of a careful Bible student about which we will comment. One who is prudent in his study of the Scriptures will always be careful to document his findings.

One of the fruits of Bible study is the joy of sharing those discoveries with others. However, a careful student of God’s Word will do one’s best to support his findings with the appropriate biblical passages. In addition, if the student is using outside sources for help in studying a passage, an honest and trustworthy student will always be careful to supply the appropriate documentation from those sources for his points. Hearsay is an enemy of careful Bible students. Documentation is their friend!

In summary, a diligent Bible student:

  • is serious about his personal relationship with the Author of the Scriptures, the God of Israel, the God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.
  • continually increases in his ability to observe details of the text he is studying, taking careful note to see what is or is not in the text.
  • will practice the proper use of the biblical languages. If he does not know these languages, he will make every effort to consult those who do before he draws his conclusions from the biblical text.
  • will be diligent to choose to be one who approaches the biblical text with complete integrity.
  • will be careful to check all the sources of information he uses for his study, as well as to provide for his students the documentation he makes for his conclusions.

By practicing the suggestions above, His Voice will become clearer and clearer each time God’s Word is studied.