Thursday, November 2, 2023

5 - Biographical Bible Study Method


Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that trains us to explore Bible characters for ourselves observing both their strong points and weakenesses, learning from their example (both positive and negative).

Series note: We are taking 12 weeks to feature summaries of the 12 Bible Study Methods featured in the book by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

What Makes People Tick?

Queen Esther is my favorite Bible character. Introduced as a shy teenage Jewish girl she wins hearts and finds her voice to speak up for her people.

At the heart of the Biographical Bible Study Method is the study of a Bible character’s attributes in their unique life situation, watching their growth or groaning at their failures. 

The New Testament tends to have more instructive teaching and the Old Testament tends to teach by telling stories we can relate to.

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. I Corinthians 10:11 (NLT)

The people of the Bible are not all heroes. Even the heroes are complex human beings. Their stories are not sugar coated but rather, raw emotional stories of real human beings.  This supports that the Bible is an accurate source, not one that puffs up stories of key individuals.

God has created man and woman. We are important to Him and He wants to enter into our daily life.

This method helps us examine people, reflecting and comparing them to ourselves as we seek to discover what makes them tick. We can learn from them for our walk with God in our own life experiences.

The Biographical Bible Study Method

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4 (NLT)

Tools needed:

A study Bible                           (Scripture Spy blogpost:   Resources in your Study Bible)
An exhaustive concordance     (Scripture Spy blogpost: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)
Topical Bible
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia

Tips for a good biographical study

1. Start with a person on whom you can do a simple study. Don’t start with a major character like Abraham or Moses for your first study.

2. Imagine yourself in their shoes. As you study, imagine you are visiting their life in your mind.

3. Be careful not to confuse people who have the same name. There is an Old Testament Joseph and a New Testament Joseph. Totally different guys.

4. Some Bible characters have more than one name. Sometimes this is because their name is different in another language. Abram/Abraham. Peter/Simon/Cephas

5. Focus on what the Bible says about them and try to stay in the Bible first. After you’ve learned about them already you may look up biographical sketches of them in Bible Dictionaries, Commentaries and so on.

Ten Simple Steps for doing a Biographical Study

1. Select the Bible person you want to study. You may look for someone who struggles as you do, or with qualities you want to emulate.

2. Make a list of all the references regarding that person

3. Write down first impressions (first reading)

4. Make a chronological outline (second reading). Often people grow and change. Note that.

5. Get some insights into the person (third reading). Don’t forget location, family, career, period of history.

6. Identify some character qualities (fourth reading). Make a list of positives and negatives.

7. Show how other Bible truths are shown in the person’s life. It may be something like “You reap what you sow,” or a life reflecting prayer.

8. Summarize the main lesson(s) Try to explain the person’s life lessons in one or two short sentences. Is there an outstanding characteristic?

9. Write out a personal application. You may want to refer back to the devotional method. Ask here if you see yourself in that person, strengths and weaknesses that give you something to work on…

10. Make your study transferable. Are you able to jot an outline of what you have observed and learned that you could use to share a devotional or teach a class?

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page on Warren’s Biographical Method.
A form is also available at this webpage. HERE.

Start with a simpler Bible character for your first one. Examples: Ruth, Caleb, Andrew, Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha)

Something for everyone 

There are so many personalities in the Bible, just like we are all different with our quirks. We experience different stages of life. One character may be more meaningful to you now than when you were younger. We walk through different life situation from others. The Bible tells of many difficult life circumstances.

Even a Bible character completely different from you has something you can learn. It is all about how God reaches out to us as human beings and wants to work in and through us. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word

Previous: Thematic Method of Bible Study
Up next: Topical Method of Bible Study


1. How might you learn from a person who is a bad example in the Bible?

2. Do you have a favorite character in the Bible? Why might you gravitate to that person? At first thought, what might you learn from him or her?

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