Showing posts with label Interpretation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interpretation. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

IBS-27 Timeless Truth Made Easier : T-R-U-T-H in five steps

The Big Idea: Five steps to timeless truths using the acronym TRUTH.

Peter and Paul Didn’t Carry Smart Phone

In Inductive Bible Study how can an ancient Middle Eastern text apply to the modern world? Peter and Paul didn’t carry smart phones! A Sci-fi time-portal would be nice but we don’t live on a Star Trek set. We need real advice from the real God who seeks real communication with us.

The Bible itself speaks of its relevancy to life, not just in its time, but for all time.

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

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8, quoted again by Peter in 1 Peter 1:25 NLT

Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Matthew 24:35 NLT stated by Jesus.

The challenge is about Bible stories with unfamiliar odd customs and storytelling styles so vastly different from our world of breaking news tweets, tabloids and Reality TV. The timeless truth process forces us to ask what the Bible is saying in a time/cultural neutral way. Then we can transition to application to our life.


Here are five easy-to-remember steps to lead you to understand the point of the Bible passage. Saturate the process with prayer. Realize this process may take some time and reflection.

T Track the text. Read it. Read it again. Read it in another Bible translation or two. Read it in context.

Review the background. Who is the author, audience, players in the story, time frame, location, situation, cultural backdrop, world power, etc. Consult a Study Bible introduction to the book.

Understand the main point. Reflect on the passage. Picture yourself there listening or watching. Ask why it’s in the Bible. Ask what it says and shows about God, about man and about life with or without God. Meditate, ruminate, and contemplate what it must be saying. Then think some more.

T Tweak it to a sentence. Try to write one sentence that explains the main point of the passage.

H Hone a timeless culture-free statement. You may have done this is #4, but you may have included cultural elements, such as “Abraham believed God which pleased Him.” This step would remove the cultural and time limited context to a statement such as, “Believing God will do what He says, pleases God.”

The next blog starts the final phase of Inductive Bible Study: Application.

This is the twenty-seventh in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Application. The So-What Factor
Previous post: The Timeless Truth of Matthew8:5-13

Also check out a post from about a year ago: Five steps to finding Biblical Timeless Truth


1. What is your opinion on the relevance of the Bible to your life today? What role does it play in your everyday life?

2. Reflect a little on this verse. Has this been your experience as it suggests? Ask God to work out this verse in your life giving you hope and encouragement.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

IBS-26 The Timeless Truth of Matthew 8:5-13

The Big Idea: Ten steps to Timeless Truth is a bit complex so here is an example from Matthew using the ten steps.

Last week I presented ten steps to find a timeless truth of a Bible passage. Let’s work through Matthew 8:5-13 using the ten step method.

Ten Steps using Matthew 8: 5-13

1. Pray.

2. Read the passage (including other Bible translations). ESV, NIV, NLT

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13 ESV

3. Discern the context:

Author – Matthew the tax collector a disciple of Jesus

Audience – Matthew wrote especially to Jewish Christians

Time period, location – About 30 AD, first century Israel, in Capernaum the ministry base for Jesus. Matthew probably wrote about 50 AD

Cultural Era – Roman power invaded every walk of life in Israel. Jews were treated poorly.

Book theme - Jesus was the long awaited Messiah to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. (From the ESV study Bible)

Chapter and surrounding chapters review (and section headings). The Sermon on the mount preceded this passage. Chapter 8 headings: Jesus cleanses a leper, the Faith of a Centurion, Jesus heals many, The cost of following Jesus, Jesus calms a story, Jesus heals two men with demons. A lot of headings are about healing.

4. Type of writing: Narrative story about a soldier who needs a servant healed.

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

Picture the time period and surroundings. A busy small town on the Sea of Galilee with shops, a synagogue, a lot of people bustling around.

Note who is present and the type of situation. Jesus has gathered followers listening to everything He says and does (v 10). He may have been at the countryside (Sermon on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee) as the story occurred when He entered town.

Note a Centurion is a soldier in command.

6. Author's Intent

Intentional audience – Jewish believers.

Tone of the passage – Amicable. Centurion asking Jesus for a favor, asking very humbly. Jesus amazed at his faith.

Passage purpose: a exemplary example of faith; the faith of a Roman soldier showing faith at work beyond Jewish people.

Why included in the Bible: To highlight faith, especially of some who were outside the Jewish people, from early in Jesus’ ministry.

7. Describe the passage in a sentence. Example: A Roman military leader humbly asks Jesus to heal his servant.

8. Pray over ambiguities or concerns. The role of a Roman Centurion is worth looking up.

9. The Point of the author in a sentence. Example: Jesus is amazed by a non- Jew’s faith and heals his servant from long distance.

10. A timeless culture-free statement. Example:  Bring Jesus your needs humbly acknowledging He is Lord of the universe.

Next week a simplified easy-to-remember five step list will be available for those with less experience in inductive Bible Study. I appreciate feedback that ten steps is too complex for those less experienced in Bible study and Bible background.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

IBS-25 Ten Steps to Timeless Truth

 The Big Idea: A check list to discover the timeless truth of a passage. Disclaimer - advanced Bible study method.

A timeless truth is the central basic idea of a Bible passage not bound by time or culture. It applies to any era or country. An example of a culture-stripped timeless truth: "God’s Word helps us fight temptation."

I know of no guide listing Biblical timeless truths. Discerning them is not impossible if one takes time for reflection and a little background research. The more you have studied the Word of God the easier this process will be. These are steps I would go through. 

The Ten Points in Detail

1. Start with prayer.

2. Read the passage a couple of times (including other Bible translations).

3. Discern the context. A lot of this can be found in a Study Bible or you may have covered if you have been studying this passage in a Bible study and already covered this information. 

a. Identify the author, audience, time period, location, cultural era (world power)

b. Identify the book theme. Thumb through section headings in chapters before and after your passage. 

c. Read the whole chapter of your passage, and skim surrounding chapters by examining section headings.

d. Look at cross references and footnotes in your Study Bible.   

Bible introductions include valuable information on the author, audience, time period, setting theme, and outline of the book.  Intros precede each book in Study Bibles.  Try this Study Bible online from English Standard Version Study Bible. 

4. Identify type of writing:

            a. Narrative (story style)

            b. Instruction (legal, teaching, guidelines)

            c. Example or figurative (parable, proverb, apocalyptic)

5. Read the passage again picturing yourself there.

            a. Picture the time period and surroundings.

            b. Note who is present and the type of situation.

6. Intention of the author

            a. Intentional audience

            b. Tone of the passage

  c. Passage purpose (encouragement, scolding/correction, teaching about God, sin, heaven, hell, how God’s people should live, prayer, a good or bad example?)

            d. Why might this passage or story be included in the Bible?

7. Discribe the passage in a sentence/statement.

8. Admit ambuiguities or concerns. At this point reviewing a trusted commentary or two may be useful. Ask a pastor or Bible study leader’s opinion. Press humbly in spite of fquestions. If you have chosen a difficult passage it has most likely been debated by others. Some passages won’t fully understood till we are with Jesus face to face.

9. Write the author's point in one sentence. Take time here to reflect and pray.

10. Write down the most basic message contained in the passage not bound by time or culture after reviewing your response to #7 and #9.

Congratulations: you have likely found a timeless truth!

God’s Word is both simple and complex. You may argue there is too much for one sentence. One sentence can later be developed adding sub points and applications but it is useful to find the big idea.

 Disclaimer: This could be frustrating for beginners. These ten steps are an activity for people seasoned in studying the Bible on their own.  Pastors do something similar to prepare a clear applicable sermon from a Biblical text. It takes some practice.  I would recommend starting with a fairly short passage that is familiar to you for practice.  To start with a difficult passage that churches have debated for centuries is not an appropriate test for a first effort. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IBS-24 What does "Timeless Truth" mean?

The Big Idea: What does Biblical timeless truth mean and why does it matter?

Today we return to the series A Practical Starter Guide to Inductive Bible Study which we paused from for Advent.

 The Big Idea

When interpreting a Bible passage look for the timeless truth, sometimes called the universal truth.  What does that mean? I propose it is the most basic big idea at the core as a simple statement stripped of culture or historical period. It should be as relevant for the Biblical Abraham as for Abraham Lincoln. Simply state it in a short sentence.

“God is always with us.”

“Lies are destructive to relationships.”

“When one prays to God He listens.” 

Our own cultural era is known for relativism, which touts that truth is relative to each individual’s own perception and experiences. Experience based, it tends to be subjective. We know that even our culture must admit there are some absolutes. In science, the law of gravity for instance. Regarding moral truth, we know that there is a collective conscience among human beings that deplores a brutally heinous crime.


Standard of Truth

The Bible sets itself as a standard of truth. Look at Psalm 19:7 about the Word of God, the Bible.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 ESV

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “The Spirit of truth” in John 16:13. He calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life in John 14:6.

Distilling a Bible story or passage down to the timeless truth is important because it leads us to appropriate application to our own everyday life. It bridges the journey from the cultural of the Middle Eastern ancient Bible times to our modern world.


The Picture, the Window and the Mirror

A pastor heard a well known pastor, Warren Wiersbe, illustrate finding timeless truths for writing sermons. He described it using the components of a picture, a window and a mirror A good explanation of this analogy for timeless truth would be like this.

The picture is the story or narrative in the Bible, beautifully written in its cultural context. We can look at it and admire it like a Rembrandt painting. But is it not our world.

Consider the window as the process from the Biblical world to our own. Someone referred to it like a time portal. Do it in prayer, study, and reflection on the key thought and driving principles that shed insight like a window opened, to cross over to our time. In writing magazine articles and Bible messages on world missions I found time spent thinking and praying on the big idea of the passage was time well spent.

The mirror represents reflection and introspection. We look at the passage for it to illuminate our current life. Could one apply the point of the passage on our life like putting on a shirt or a hat? Could we use the passage to examine our life similar to looking at a mirror before heading out the door?

God’s Word was written and is presented to us in multiple ancient Middle Eastern contexts. To best apply it to our lives it is useful to distill the big idea, that is, the timeless truth separated from culture, to move to relevancy of Scripture to our own world. Many of us do this without realizing it. 

Next week we will explore how ten steps can help us find the timeless truth of a passage.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

IBS-23 Unraveling Figures of Speech: when not to take the Bible literally

The Big Idea: We believe the Bible is to be the literal word of God but what about figures of speech?

When not to take the Bible literally

I studied French for a year conversing, listening to television, reading the paper, etc. I heard a phrase about a moon of honey on the news. I was stupefied till I realized the story was about newlyweds. That idiom is also used in English!

As serious students of Scripture, we take the Bible at its word. It is not a fairy tale. Interpret it literally most of the time believing it is God’s Word to you. The Holy Spirit inspired writers (2 Peter 1:21) who wrote beautiful ancient literature, but no language is sterile. Figures of speech give it beauty and emphasis. Realize figures of speech paint a picture. Sometimes figurative words of another culture sound odd to us. Bible translators apply modern phrases to express the idea for us which explains the difference in comparing translations. Remember that the cohesiveness of the Bible remains in sync with the rest of it. No strange doctrine emerges from a sentence or verse that is counter to the rest of the Holy Word of God.

Figures of Speech

Figures of speech are words and phrases that express meaning that is not meant to be literal but rather descriptive. It is not intended to be misleading but rather to illustrate like a word picture. Examine this chart to see the more common figures of speech found in the Bible followed by an explanation and an example.

Figures of Speech in the Bible

Understanding these language variables help us interpret the Word of God better. It is not intended to be mysterious and hard to understand. The Bible is intended for us to learn how to live abundant life in Christ (John 10:10, Ephesians 3:20).


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

Up next in the series: What Does Timeless Truth Mean?
Previous post: Strange Bible Verses



1. Do you enjoy idioms in your language? Does one make you laugh when you hear it? Do you have a story of a funny misunderstanding talking with someone who was foreign to your language?

2. What is a phrase in the Bible that sounds odd? What do you think it is really trying to say?

3. Does this blog on figurative speech give you comfort of more confusion to trust what the Bible says? Why or why not?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

IBS-22 Strange Bible Verses: writing styles in the Bible

The Big Idea:  Knowing the style of literature you are reading is useful to interpreting what the Bible says.

Writing Styles in the Bible

Thanks Cuyler Black!
Playing the popular game, Jeopardy, one chooses a category for a question. Players typically know some categories better than others.

You may favor a genre of books of Bible. Many spend more time in the New Testament reflecting on Jesus. I love the comfort of Poetry books (i.e. Psalms, Proverbs). Our son gravitates to Apocalyptic books (i.e. Daniel, Revelation). I asked him recently if that is because he enjoys Sci-fi. He says “I like to remember God wins in the end.”

Types of Biblical Literature

The Bible has sixty six books altogether, written between 1400-2000 years of time. Some are easier to read than others. It helps to understand what genre of literature you are reading. Reading a cookbook is different from reading a murder mystery novel or a textbook on history.

How are the books of the Bible categorized? They are categorized by their main writing style, though one book can have multiple styles in it.

History – Often written in a descriptive narrative style telling a story of what happened and what God did. Example: Acts of the Apostles.

Law – This writing sounds like a legal document, about worship procedures or a covenant relationship between God and man. Genealogies are in this category. Example: Leviticus.

Poetry and Wisdom – Descriptive creative writing. Ancient Middle Eastern poetry and wisdom literature doesn’t rhyme but it shows emotion and action more than a description. It gives advice comfort and/or warning. Example: Psalms.

Prophecy – Prophetic writing is a persuasive style. Prophets are the mouthpiece of God saying what God wants people to know. They remind or warn us of God’s guidelines. Sometimes comforting. Sometimes frightening. Example: Isaiah.

Gospel – The word Gospel means “good news.” The Gospels contain historical narrative to introduce and show Jesus’ life and ministry as good news to man. Example: Matthew

Letters – The New Testament letters written from spiritual leaders of the early church write to encourage those following Jesus. Their writings are expository. They are referred to as Epistles. Example: Philippians.

Apocalyptic – Similar to prophecy as it is a message from God to man with a future urgency regarding the last days on earth. It is marked by a lot of symbolism much like poetry. Example: Revelation.

Why Genre Matters

  • · Knowing the communication style of a confusing passage can bring clarity and peace. We don’t have to understand everything, but we can work with it.
  • · It helps us understand the original Biblical world and culture in which it was written as we seek its core timeless truths.
  • · We understand how two books different from each other may have similar themes.
  • · We appreciate the creativity and brilliance of God communicating through so many different authors and styles.
  • · We look at poetry and figurative apocalyptic literature to see beyond the imagery to the message.

I posted a blog last year on literary styles of the Old Testament. Check it out!
You might also find this video from The BibleProject helpful.


This is the twenty second in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents



1. Can you think of a saying or section of the Bible that seems odd to you? What is it? Does it help to know it might be poetic or an ancient storytelling style?

2. How might you seek to find out of which style a book of the Bible is written?

3. Have you considered praying to ask God for wisdom to find clarity to a confusing passage? Could you also talk it over with someone else who studies the Bible a lot? It is useful for us to talk together about His Word.

As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. Luke 24:14-15 NLT

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

IBS-21 Age to Age: Twelve Biblical Eras

 The Big Idea: Understanding the period of time and world situation helps us interpret the Bible

Know the Biblical Eras

There are seasons in life. College days. Newly married. Death of someone in a household. Senior living. There are seasons of a nation as well. A Hebrew word talks about time. עֵת It is often translated “time” or “times” but sometimes translated “seasons” and other words for time periods.

“My times are in Your hand.” Psalm 31:15a

History is often studied by periods of events/world leaders. The era of a Biblical book is effected by the period of time in history, which is important to Bible interpretation. For instance, the knowledge of Roman world domination is revealing to understanding the Gospels.


Twelve Biblical Eras

The Bible can be summarized by twelve general periods. Note geographic focus, world events/powers and Biblical focus during each period. Click and save this chart to photos or right click and download to save to examine and use later in your studies.

Right click and download to use this for your studies.
Copyright @ScriptureSpy

The Apostle Paul, in Athens, Greece addressed a group of Athenians (~55-60 A.D.) referencing an alter to an unknown God.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

"God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 NLT

God is at work

God is at work through the entire time frame. Sometimes astonishing is how our Sovereign God uses world powers and world events to work to accomplish His ultimate plan for His people. Enduring world powers, influences and difficulties through the ages of the Bible, God clearly works among His people for His purpose. In our world today take heart. God is not surprised at what is happening, nor is He wondering what to do. He is Lord!


This is the twenty-first in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Strange Bible Verses
Previous post: Maps, Timelines and Charts


1. Think about a distinct season of your life. Was it a difficult one? Tedious? One of great happiness? How long did it last?

2. In the passage from Acts 7:24-21 what do you learn about God? Make a list. How do you see God works in the world with a plan?

3. Reread Acts 7:30-31. What about your life? Have you turned to Him?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

IBS-20 Books with Pictures! Maps, timelines and charts


The Big Idea: Bible maps, timelines and charts reveal temporal and cultural information to aid interpretation of the Bible.

I like books with pictures!

I like books with pictures! I am a visual learner. Visual guides to the Bible have maps, timelines, charts and photos about Bible times. Understanding the land and era helps the interpretation process. Here are some resources available and how they can help.


1. Rivers, lakes, mountains. Shows why they went a certain route, why towns were in a certain location (water, trade route, etc). Ex. Route of the Exodus. Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee.

2. Country borders and territories in a given period. Illustrates shifting of territories in war, allocations to tribes of Israel, countries hostile to Israel, etc. Ex. The allocation of land to the twelve tribes. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Herod’s territories in Jesus’ day.

3. Common highways, trade routes on land and sea. Reveal nomadic routes, travel to the temple, how the Gospel spread after persecution of early Christians, etc. Ex. Abraham’s journey from Ur to Canaan. Paul’s three missionary journeys.

4. Topographical maps show elevations with terrain. Numerous Bible references say Jesus went “up to Jerusalem” because Jerusalem is a high elevation (Mt 20:18, Mk 10:33, Luke 2:22, John 5:1, etc.)

Where to find: Study Bibles, back or throughout (maps index). Online at Bible Hub. Blue Letter Bible. NET Bible. Bible Handbooks and Atlases. Search engine images.


1. See the whole story. The Bible story covers nearly 2000 years. Get the big picture and break it down from there.

2. Identify major players. Who came first? Abraham or Moses? Isaiah or Elijah? How did Israel’s twelve tribes happen? Ex. Line of Abraham. Period of the Prophets. The book of Acts.

3. Chronology. Some of the Bible overlaps (the kings of the Old Testament, the Gospels, etc). Note the events in chronological order. Ex. Life of David. Life of Christ.

4. Context. Context is key. Who was king then? What country was in power? Was an event early in Jesus’ ministry or right before the cross?

Where to find: Blue Letter Bible. Hendrickson RosePublishing. Amazing Facts has a useful online timeline.


Concisely organize information.

1. Lists. Ex. Books of the Bible. Plagues of Egypt. Major and Minor prophets. Miracles of Jesus. Twelve Disciples. Prophecies of Jesus.

2. Comparisons and contrasts. Ex. Feasts of Israel. The four Gospels. Levitical High Priests vs. Jesus the High Priest.

3. Relationships. Ex. Days of Creation. Sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. List of OT Kings and Prophets. Paul’s ministry partners. Names of God.

4. Spatial perspective. The tabernacle layout. Herod’s temple. Via Dolorosa.

Where to find online: Blue Letter Bible, Search Engine Images

An excellent publisher for maps, charts and timelines is Hendrickson Rose Publishing. Also Baker Books and Zondervan Books.


This is the twentieth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents

Up next: Age to Age
Previous post: Scripture Interprets Scripture



1. Check your Bible and find lists of maps, timelines and charts. Is it in the front or back of the Bible in an index or appendix? Does one catch your eye as interesting? Check it out!

2. How might a map or timeline give insight to God at work?

3. Use your search engine. Put in Names of God. Look for images. Look over all the names and meditate on it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

IBS-19 In Sync: Scripture interprets Scripture


The Big Idea: Practical ideas suggested so you can explore how to use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

In Sync

Acapella bands blend voices together with precision. Likewise Biblical themes harmonize together remarkably. The Bible, written over 1200+ years by diverse writers retains solidarity and cohesiveness. The Holy Spirit is the true author, moving the writers (2 Peter 1:21). No wonder common themes emerge in other parts of the Bible that agree.

These concepts for the interpretation phase of Bible study should sound familiar:

Context is key.

  • Examine different genres (literary styles) of writing.
  • Historical background and culture of the Bible aid interpretation.
  • Always check the Bible first, then check exterior resources and commentaries.
  • Scripture interprets Scripture

What “Scripture Interprets Scripture” Means

Because all the Bible is in sync with the rest of Scripture, other Biblical passages shed new light on a passage. This is the most reliable way to verify Biblical truths.


Topical Bible
– These resources list Bible references by topic. Naves Topical Bible online has its own webpage and app. It is also available at The Blue Letter Bible uses Hitchcock Topical Bible and others.

Concordance – A concordance is useful to look up where a key word occurs. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has its own app. and help and and other electronic Bibles contain a powerful search engine.

Google and many search engines are useful to see what the Bible says about a subject. You can write, for instance, “Hope in the Bible.” Remember the references you seek are scripture only, not external sources. always presents top verses in a given category.

Cross-reference – Many Bibles have little letters next to key words in a verse, with parallel passages listed. Look each of them up for insight. Thompson Chain Bible and online resources are invaluable.

Practical Suggestions

1. Look up key words in a topical resource, a concordance, or online (see above). Examples of a key word: Hope. Redemption. Faithful. Godly.

2. Use online resources to look up a phrase in the Bible. Examples: Fruit of the Spirit. Fear of the Lord. Passover lamb.

3. Character search. Use a topical Bible, a concordance and online resources to look up passages and verses that mention a character in the Bible. Many main characters are mentioned in several places, many mentioned by Jesus or Paul. Trace what other Biblical references say about this person.

4. Make lists. What do these various verses tell you about a key word, a subject, a person? Do you have some questions? Write those down. Pray about it. Consider synonyms to explore in the Bible or words used in other translations, especially if little is found on your quest. Example – Redemption/deliverance/rescue.

Always pray over your study asking the Author (the Holy Spirit) to help you connect the dots! God’s Word is powerful!

For a little more explanation and ideas see a longer previous post of mine about how Scripture Interprets Scripture.


This is nineteenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents 

Up next: Maps,Timelines and Charts
Previous post: Word Study Using the Blue Letter Bible

1. Have you connected the Holy Spirit as the inspired common denominator throughout the entire Bible? Reflect on that and meditate with gratitude to God for His communication through the whole Bible.

2. Is there a subject of the Bible you have always wanted to explore? Try it today!

3. If you struggle with doubts about the cohesiveness in the Bible, take time to tell God, asking for His Holy Spirit to help you.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26 NLT

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 1 Corinthians 2: 10-13 NLT

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

IBS-18 Word Study Using the Blue Letter Bible


The Big Idea: How to use the Blue Letter Bible online for a Word Study 

There are several Bible Resources online. Some are free and some become expensive as you add features. For the average Christian, Blue Letter Bible is a free powerful tool that you can use both on and offline. It is also available as an app through Apple and Google Play.

Review what a Word Study is and how to do it in the previous post, IBS-16. Understand that the goal is not to review every word in your passage, but choose repetitive words and significant words in the passage.

Blue Letter Bible

1. From the opening page of the Blue Letter Bible online, put in the Bible reference. It is important to note these guidelines do not apply to the app.  Hit the Green search. If you are studying in the NASB or ESV choose that in the dropdown menu.

2. The verse opens. Hover over the tools icon and a menu will give you options. Choose interlinear;  it will give you each word with Strong’s Numbers.

3. Words and phrases of the verse go line by line with the Strong’s number. You can see the tense or grammatical position of it, and even find a sound icon for pronunciation.  Click now on the Strong’s number.

 4. There are a few useful things on this new view. You have the number of times it is used in the Bible, an outline how it is used, the Strong’s Definition and other Biblical resources that help define and understand it. 

5. Jump down on this page to the section called Concordance Results. There you will see each occurrence of this Hebrew or Greek Word with entire verses listed.

6. Here you have the opportunity to see how many times your word occurs in the book or chapter you are studying. You can see how it may be translated into another English word in some passages. All of these clues areuseful to understanding the word used here. 

If the author of the book has written more books, such as the Apostle Paul, you can compare how Paul uses the word in his other writings. The same goes for the Apostle John, Moses of the Old Testament, etc.

 Sometimes a word occurs in only one place in the Bible. One can check their use outside the Bible which can prove useful. Understand this unique word cannot be the key to a new theology or doctrinal understanding. Always go back to the context and where this concept occurs in other parts of Scripture. 


This is eighteenth in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.
Table of Contents 

Up next: Scripture Interprets Scripture
Previous post: How to Use the Strong’s ExhaustiveConcordance



1. Do you prefer to use online tools or hard copy books? What is the advantage/disadvantage of each?

2. Practice with a word to use for a word study, such as 2 Peter 3:9, looking for the word patient. What do you learn about the patience of God through this? 


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

IBS-17 How to Use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

The Big Idea: How to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, a hardbound massive book and also an online resource. 

Around 130 years ago Theologian James Strong created a massive resource to find any Bible Verse in the King James Bible. It was indexed according to every word in a verse. 

Why it is useful for Christians:

  • Find the reference for any verse using a word in the alphabetical index.
  • Check the root word in original Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) languages.
  • Each word indexed by number. This index number is still used today in original language tools and in online references. 
  • Find basic information about that word.

Let’s illustrate

We can examine the word “beginning” from the Old and the New Testament.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Strong’s index of English words is alphabetical. In the “Bs” look under “beginnings.” We can sample the verse in both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1.

Notice the highlighted number at the end of the reference line. This is the Strong’s index number for Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek for John’s reference in the New Testament. 

The appendix of Strong’s Concordance lists all the Hebrew words and Greek words by number. See number 7225 used in the Hebrew for Genesis 1:1. 

Following the Hebrew dictionary is a Greek dictionary with word number 746 from the root used in John 1:1

Occasionally an old Strong’s Concordance is at a Thrift Shop or on a give-away book table.  Even the oldest versions are useful, though some are quite musty and threadbare! Grab it! Several modern versions have an identical model (NIV, NASB, and the ESV). 

Additionally electronic Bible resources use Strong’s.

Apple and Google Play have a Strong’s Concordance App.

The Blue Letter Bible

From the opening page of the Blue Letter Bible, put in the Bible Reference. Hit the Green search.

The verse opens. Hover over the tools icon and a menu will give you options. Choose interlinear;  it will give you each word with Strong’s Numbers.

Bible Hub

The opening page of Bible Hub top line allows you to enter the Bible Reference.  Notice one of the lower listed resources is Strong’s (highlighted in orange by me). That will guide you to the root words of Genesis 1:1.

These are basic examples for online use. Choose one as a favorite and learn how to use it. There are great tutorials on YouTube and blogs on how to use them to full advantage. 

Deeper Christian Blog: A Simple Guide for How to do a Word Study 

Video: How to do a Blue Letter Bible Word Study by Pam Gillaspie

For pastors and theologians, these tools are only a starting point, and some argue they are less than accurate, with the Dead Sea Scroll findings more recently.  Still for a starting point, for a serious student of the Bible, this is very useful.


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

Up next: Using Blue Letter Bible for a Word Study
Previous post: What is a Word Study?

Table of Contents


1. Have you ever quoted a verse and wondered where it is found in the Bible? What does this tool do for you now?

2. If you notice a word used many times in a book of the Bible, such as light or money, what might that tell you about the book or the passage?

Monday, September 27, 2021

IBS-16 What is a Word Study?


Big Idea: What is a word study and why it is important to conduct one.

Why do a Word Study?

Books have words and words have meaning. Many have a spectrum of meaning often with several usages. The context assits to discover any shades of meaning.

The Bible was written in predominately Hebrew and Greek. Bible versions vary depending on whether the translators choose to be more literal (word for word), or portray the idea (thought for thought).

A word study is valuable to the interpreting phase of Inductive Bible Study. Look at the word usage in your passage, other parts of the Bible, and in the original language. There are helpful tools available so you don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek for a word study.

Steps to a useful word study

To get to the bottom of the word meaning try these steps.

1. Look at the context and theme  

Each word is used in a sentence, belonging to a paragraph, a chapter, and a book of the Bible. What is the book about? What is the author discussing in a particular chapter?

2. Examine the word meaning in your language

Some Biblical words aren’t used every day. Start with its dictionary definition in your language. You cannot assume this definition is its sure meaning. Some English words have multiple meanings and nuance. Context is key.

3. Look at other English versions of the same verse

At Bible Gateway the verse can be viewed how it’s expressed in other English translations. It may be translated the same or it might vary. Those other variations give insight.

4. Discover word frequency and location

a. In your English Bible. You can search word frequency through your Bible app or in a concordance. The back of some Study Bibles have a limited concordance. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance covers every word occurrence in English in KJV including “the.”

b. In the original language. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance indicates the original language word used with an index in back. Future posts present using Strong’s Concordance and online searching.

5. Analysis

  • How is the word used in the book you are studying, and books by the same author (like Paul). Word studies are often done because of frequent occurrence.
  • Do other passages use that word?
  • Some different passages translate it differently so ask yourself why translators may put it the way they did.
  • What impact does this word have on your passage and your understanding of the verse?

6. Pray and apply 

Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Try to rewrite the verse in your own words. Ask yourself why this word matters to the Christian life.


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

Up next: Using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Previous post: Resources in your Study Bible
Table of Contents 


1. Have you told a story finding you kept repeating a word? Was it intentional or natural? Why do you think a word is used a lot by an author in a Bible passage?

2. Has a pastor or Bible teacher ever given you word insight that has unlocked the meaning of a verse for you?

3. What might be a word you’d like to examine? Is it from your recent study of the Word or is it a verse that has troubled you for years?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

IBS-15 Resources in your Study Bible


Big Idea: How and where to easily find background information notably in your Study Bible.

Where can I find that?

The joke is that Inductive Bible Study is getting “in da Bible. ” Commentaries are off limits till you have simply read the Bible and pondered over it. In the interpretation phase one starts looking at resources. Commentaries should be your last search.

Where would one find background information?  In a good study Bible and resource books. Some of these are found online too.

Pray for God’s guidance as you choose resources. They are useful, but Study Bibles and commentaries are man’s reflection, not inspired by God. Serious study and prayer has gone into them but there will be doctrinal bias because they are the work of human beings. 

The ABC's of Interpretation suggest verifying the author, audience written to, date written, themes, genre of writing and more. All these and much more can often be found in a Study Bible in the book introduction. YouVersion NIV also offers book introductions.  

Valuable Resources for Interpretation

1. Book introduction.  Often includes author, audience, date, outline, themes, genre. Found in study Bibles, Bible handbooks,  Bible websites such as,  Youversion at also have introductions with the NIV Bible.

Finding YouVersion chapter introductions

2. Timelines and period maps. In order to understand time period, location of the story, movement of people groups the timelines and period maps are useful (such as Exodus desert wandering, Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, etc). Found in study Bibles,  Bible handbooks,  Bible websites such as,

3. Cross references. Many Bibles, including some regular Bibles, have cross references. These indicate other places with a similar references or backstory. Marked by a small letter usually in margin or at the  bottom of page. 

4. Concordance. Many study Bibles have a concordance which is an alphabetical index of key words in the Bible, with their reference. It is very useful. For instance, you want find the reference for the verse about the pearl of great price. Look under P in the concordance.  There are a lot of applications for using a concordance, especially Strong’s exhaustive concordance. 

5. Charts, Lists and Illustrations. Many study Bibles and Bible handbooks have a lot of charts and illustrations. They provide invaluable information giving  perspective.


  • Prophesies of Jesus’ birth
  • The Tabernacle and the Temple with placement of sacred objects
  • Kings of Israel and Judah
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Names of God
  • Timeline of the life of the Apostle Paul

6. Notes and commentaries. The bottom of a Study Bible page usually has historical notes and commentary to shed light on a passage. It might note the modern equivalent of money or time of day. It could explain a cultural habit or an archeological find that sheds light. Commentary notes give additional understanding to a verse. It is good to check out a couple of study Bibles or commentaries and compare them.

More information is ahead on how to use various resources.


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

Up next: What is a Word Study?
Previous post: That's Really What it Said!



1. Do you own a Study Bible? Do you use any of the feature? What have you used most and why do you find it helpful?

2. If you have a Study Bible take a look at the table of contents and look in the back of it too. Is there something in it you never looked at before? When or how might it be useful to your study?

If you have never looked at a Study Bible or don’t have one, take a look inside the first few pages of an electronic Bible on Amazon kindle. It is NIV Version but it is only $14.99 as I write this which is an excellent sale. It is an interesting Bible and easy to look around on Amazon.