What is the best way to study the Bible? Here are some tips on how to study the Bible and gain deeper insights and understanding.
The Bible provides answers to life’s deepest questions and practical tips for making everyday life work better. But it is a massive book written long ago, so it can be daunting for a new reader.
How can we find the answers we need and better understand God and His purpose for our lives? How can we best use this instruction manual for humanity given to us by our loving Creator?
(Our bimonthly Discern magazine covers topics like this regularly. We’d be happy to give you a free subscription to Discern. Digital subscriptions are available worldwide; print subscriptions are currently available in the United States, Canada and much of Europe.)
Pray for God’s guidance
God is the ultimate Author of the Bible. He tells us that He inspired men to write it for our benefit:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Who could better help us gain these benefits than the Author Himself? God tells us He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He wants us to grow in the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that come from studying His Holy Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Timothy 2:15).
Pray for understanding. Ask for God’s help to search the Scriptures daily to find the answers you need, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). This requires a commitment to regular prayer and Bible study.
Learn and do
How does God want us to approach the Bible? It contains God’s thoughts—it allows us, in a sense, to read God’s mind! So we should approach it humbly, with a teachable attitude.
How does God want us to approach the Bible? It contains God’s thoughts—it allows us, in a sense, to read God’s mind! So we should approach it humbly, with a teachable attitude.Being teachable doesn’t just mean learning academic knowledge; it also means acting on what we learn. We must do what God says and obey His commands.
Tips about how to study the Bible
- Carefully examine the context of the passage you are reading. Don’t read meanings into a passage that don’t fit the context.
- Study all the passages about the subject, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, to gain a fuller picture.
- Use clear scriptures to help you understand less clear scriptures. Recognize that the Bible interprets its own symbols.
- Remember that the Bible, as it was originally written, does not contradict itself. This can be helpful to keep in mind when studying apparent contradictions. Some can be easily cleared up by studying the context. Others can be resolved by studying relevant Bible resources that point out translation errors and ambiguities. For more on this, see the article “Contradictions in the Bible?”
Bible study helps
Your Bible can be your most important study tool. (See the article “Bible Study Tools: Where to Start.”)
Translation is not an exact science, though, so comparing different Bible translations and other Bible study aids can help modern readers better understand the original meaning.
Which English translations are best for different uses? We use the New King James Version as our standard Bible, but other translations can provide insights when used carefully. See our helpful article “What Is the Most Accurate Bible Translation?”
It’s also important to understand the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. Some Bibles (such as the Living Bible) aren’t translations from the original languages, but are attempts to reword an English translation to simplify the language. While paraphrases can be helpful when reading some sections of Scripture, they are not reliable sources for careful doctrinal study.
There are other Bible study helps you might find useful:
- Concordances are reference books that allow you to search for a specific English word throughout the Bible. They also allow you to identify the original Hebrew or Greek words that were translated into that English word. (The search functions of electronic and online Bibles allow you to do the same things you can do with a printed concordance.)
Concordances like Strong’s can give you a basic idea of the meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word; but for more complete definitions, it is better to use a specialized resource (such as the following resources).
- Bible dictionaries, lexicons and word study reference books can help in clarifying the definitions of the original words.
- Bible commentaries can provide historical, archaeological and textual background information, as well as various perspectives on a Bible passage. Compare commentaries with each other to see the range of opinions; but most of all, compare everything with the Scriptures.
Using these basic principles of how to study the Bible can help us more clearly understand what God wants to teach us about how to live, both now and forever.
If you have questions about what you are studying in the Bible, we are happy to help in any way we can. You can type the subject into the search box on this website or explore all of the articles on our “All Topics” page.
If you don’t find a related article, you are welcome to ask a question for our Personal Correspondence team to answer by email. Or, if you prefer to contact a minister in your area directly, see our “Congregations” page for a list of our trained, caring, Bible-believing ministers around the world. We are here to help.
For more tips on Bible study, read the articles in this section: “The Practical and Priceless Benefits of Bible Study.”