Wednesday, June 30, 2021

IBS-3 Book Overview: how to skim a book of the Bible


The Big Idea: How to overview a book of the Bible before studying it in depth.

How to skim a book of the Bible

When I recently prepared for a ten day trip to Utah, I got the map out to see what states it borders. I looked at where we hoped to go each day, and where it was located. Soon I got my bearings on the upcoming trip.


When you plan a Bible Study focused on a book of the Bible, make an overview of it. Notice where it is in relation to other books. How long it is. What the chapters look like and the writing style. The Biblical text is always our primary source. Study guides and commentaries are sometimes helpful but always go first to the original source and draw your own conclusions.


1. The Title. What might the title tell you? Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t. Take the book of Numbers. The book of Numbers has to do with counting the people. Consider the book of Matthew. That is a name. It has something to do with a man named Matthew (with Jesus and his friends). It's always a place to start.


2. Book Orientation. Where is it located? Old Testament or New Testament? What books surround it? Is it in a group of books, such as one of the four gospels? A minor prophet? Is it a first or last book of the Old or New Testament?


3. Total Chapters. Go to the end of the book and see how many chapters are contained therein.


4. Ten seconds per Chapter. Skim your way through the book looking at each chapter briefly. (You can write things down if you wish, but it is not necessary at this stage).

a. Chapter and Section Headings. Many Bibles, both paper and electronic, have emboldened headings at the start of a chapter. Sometimes it indicates a new subject in the middle. Look at these as you skim through the book.

 b. Repetitive Words. Take note at what you see. Does a word or phrase keep reoccurring? What contact hints do you notice as you glance through it?


4. First and Last Paragraphs. Go to chapter 1 to the first couple verses. Is the author named? Recipients noted? Purpose stated? Now go to last chapter of the book, last paragraph. Do you notice a summary or conclusion?


5. Read It Once. If it's a long book, you can spread it over a couple of days. Read more quickly than carefully. If it's a short book, read it entirely a couple days in a row, each time in a different translation.


6. Style. Do you notice from the style what kind of written genre it is? Is it story narration? Poetry? Prophecy or Rules? Historical?


7. Write observations. What has this exercise taught you? What do you think you might learn from this book?


This is the third in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: Best Translation for Inductive Study
Previous Post: Context is Key
Table of Contents 




1. When is a bird's eye view, an overview, useful in life?

2. Try this plan with a short book as an exercise. Did you learn anything from it? Was it useful?

3. Would this overview generate some questions? Might it make you more excited about the book you will be studying?  

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