Studying the Bible: Reading
This is the second post in a series of articles that outline some basic steps to practice in studying the Bible. For a list of all the posts, click here.
Step 2: Read the Whole Book
In our previous post we outlined that prayer is not only the starting point but also the environment for studying the Scriptures. Once we are rightly oriented, we should first immerse ourselves in the content of the entire book before attempting to understand the meaning of one part of it. So, the next thing I do in my study is read the entire book three times before proceeding.
Since we are studying 1 Peter 1:3-9 for this series, I will sit down and read the entire book of 1 Peter in one sitting as my first session in the word. If I have more time I will read it through a second and then a third time.
Tips for reading through the book:
1. Obviously this step is only practical if you are reading a relatively shorter book. If I were studying a passage out of a longer book like Genesis, I would likely skim the entire book one time and then read carefully the major section that the passage I’m studying comes from instead.
2. I prefer to read printed out copies of the book. This way I can remove chapter and paragraph markings as well as make notations of things I notice as I read. (Here is a .pdf of the 1 Peter Text – NIV ’84)
3. As you read the entire book three times over, use the following list of questions to help guide you:
• How does the book seem to be organized? Are there clear shifts in thought/subject?
• Is there an explicit statement of purpose or a sentence that seems to summarize the entire book?
• What are the prominent themes and topics of the book as a whole?
There can be no more simple step than to read a book all the way through three times. And, yet, most of us will struggle to be able to read the book all the way through without being tempted to move on in the process.
As you read, you will notice that it will take you some time. It will be slow. The temptation to read faster will be great. The temptation to stop reading and start studying something you find interesting will always be there. The temptation to read the entire book just to get an “answer” for the passage you’re wanting to study may be the hardest one to resist.
Just read the Text. Pay attention to the major themes and elements of the book. Take your time. Go slow.