Tips on Understanding the Bible


Adapted from, “Living by the Book,” by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1991).

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Step #1: Observation (What do I see?)

  1. 5 Ws & How
  2. Terms
  3. Structure
  4. Literary form
  5. Atmosphere
    The more time you spend in Observation, the less time you will need to spend in Interpretation, and the more accurate will be your results

Step #2: Interpretation (What does it mean?)

  1. Bombard the Text with Questions
  2. Look for Answers in the Text
  3. Put it Together

Step #3: Application (How does it work?)

  1. How Does it Work for Me?
    If it isn’t working in my life, I don’t have authority to share it with someone else?
  2. How Does it Work for Others?

Five Things to Look For

1. Things That Are Emphasized

  • Amount of Space
  • Stated Purpose
  • Order
  • Movement Between Lesser and Greater

2. Things That Are Repeated

  •  Terms, Phrases, & Clauses
  • Characters
  • Incidents & Circumstances
  • Patterns
  • New Testament & Old Testament Passages

3. Things That Are Related

  • Movement Between General and Specific
  • Questions and Answers
  • Cause and Effect

4. Things That Are Alike & Unalike

  • Similes (“as,” “like”)
  • Metaphors (comparison without using “as” or “like”)
  • Contrast (“but”; irony)

5. Things That Are True to Life

  •   What does this passage tell you about reality?
  •   What aspects of this text resonate with your experience?
  •   How am I like this person? How would I react here?
  •   Plug it into real life!

Tips for Studying a Section

1. Read the Entire Selection a Couple Times

2. Identify and Label the Paragraphs
The paragraph is the basic unit of study. State the main idea of each paragraph in a word or two.

3. Evaluate Each Paragraph in Light of the Other Paragraphs
Five Things to Look For

4. Evaluate How the Section Relates to the Rest of the Book
Five Things to Look For

5. State the Main Point of the Section in a Short Phrase

6. Keep a List of Observations on the Section

7. Study the Persons and Places Mentioned

8. Keep a List of Unanswered Questions and Unresolved Problems

9. Ask, “So What?”

  •  What change do I need to consider in light of this study?
  •  What practical issues does this passage address?
  •  What prayer do I need to pray as a result of what I’ve seen?

10. Share the Results of the Study with Someone Else

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