There are three common ways of reading the Bible. All three approaches to reading the Bible are important and have benefits that the others don’t have.
The three ways of reading the Bible that we are going to discuss are:
- Word Study
- Topical Study
1. Systematic Reading of the Bible
Reading the Bible systematically is simply reading the Bible cover to cover. Reading the Bible this way has a lot of benefits. There are things in the Bible you would never discover without actually reading it for yourself. It’s amazing to me how many Christians haven’t actually read the whole Bible!
There are so many Bible accounts we think we know because we heard about it in Sunday school or watched a movie about it. But unfortunately, many times what we’ve seen or heard isn’t actually the true account as recorded in the Bible.
For example, have you ever heard or seen in a movie where Moses’s mother put him into the river in a basket when he was a baby? I remember seeing cartoons of a baby in a basket floating down the river. When you read the actual account of this story in Exodus 2, it says that she put the baby in a basket and set the basket in the reeds by the river’s bank, and this is where Pharaoh’s daughter found him. No baby Moses floating down the river!
There are so many other examples of this. Did you know that the wise men were not actually at the manger scene? And the Bible never records that there were three wise men? (Matthew 2:11) Sometimes wrong teaching becomes a tradition and unless you actually read the Bible, you wouldn’t know any different.
Some helpful ways of reading the Bible systematically are by following a Bible reading plan, or by reading the Bible chronologically, or reading a book of the Bible at a time. However you decide to read the Bible systematically, it will be a huge blessing to you.
2. Word Study of the Bible
Doing a word study is a type of Bible reading where you study the meaning and origin of a particular word. This kind of reading is a valuable tool in that it allows you to dive deeper into the meaning of a word and see how it was used throughout the Bible and in other literature of the same time.
When doing a word study, you might look up the word in the original language of Hebrew or Greek that it was translated from. This allows you to understand with more depth what the writer was communicating.
Many times, the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew words have layers of meaning that are missed in the translation into English. This doesn’t mean that it is translated incorrectly. It just means that one Greek word could take four or five English words to fully translate the meaning, and the translators had to pick just one word.
For example, the word “gospel” is translated from a word that means “nearly too good to be true news”. It described such extravagant good news that it was seldom used in other writings of the time period.
The word that was translated “saved” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “sozo” which is means to save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, do well, make whole. This is a great word to do a word study on. Maybe you were taught that being saved means being saved from hell, and it does mean that, but by doing a word study you will learn that it means so much more!
A word study might include looking up every time a particular word occurs in the Bible or the first time it was mentioned. It is important to take note of anytime something in the Bible is mentioned for the first time.
A word study is helpful in determining as precisely as possible what the Biblical writer meant when using a particular word or phrase.
Concordances and other word study resources are helpful for this type of Bible reading. One of my favorite free online resources is BlueLetterBible.org. This website makes it easy to dig further into certain words or phrases. They also have an app version that you can put right on your phone!
3. Topical Study of the Bible
A topical study is a way of reading the Bible where you research everything the Bible has to say about a particular topic.
This is one of my favorite ways to read the Bible. When you need wisdom in any area of your life, a topical study is a great way to find out the knowledge of God in that area.
For example, if you want to know what the Bible has to say about healing, you might look up every verse or account of healing in the Bible. As you put your focus on this one topic, revelation will come. As you receive revelation in this area, faith will come.
When I wrote Every Instance of Jesus Healing in the Bible: What They All Had In Common, I did a topical study. I studied every instance of Jesus healing in the Bible to see what they all had in common.
As you meditate on everything the Bible has to say about one topic, you will gain an understanding of God’s will in that area. Once you know God’s will, you can pray in faith and know for sure that you have received what you prayed for.
Need help with finances? Study everything the Bible has to say about finances. Ask the Lord to teach you His ways concerning finances. Need wisdom concerning your relationships? A topical study is an incredible way to receive the revelation you need for your breakthrough.