Thursday, November 30, 2023

8 - Book Background Bible Study Method

Big Idea: Introduction to a Bible study method that guides you to research the background of a book of the Bible, taking into consideration the geography, culture, world events and key characters regarding that particular book of the Bible.

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.

Getting to know a place

I love to travel, learning about different cultures and lifestyles. Half the fun is preparing. I check travel books from the library, look at maps online, learn about the customs and politics of the area, and check out local foods.

In the same way, when we want to understand a book of the Bible we should get to know the place a little. 

Where did the book take place? 
What time period was it? 
Who were the political powers and what were the customs of the day.

Check out a book at the local library or borrow one from your pastor. Look at maps online. Research any archeological findings on the time period. Find out what you can about how they lived, worked and ate.

To understand the Bible better, it helps to understand the context. Try to put yourself in their place and ask yourself how God revealed Himself to them and worked in their midst.

This is invaluable to applying God’s message to our setting today. 

Tools needed:

Usually the Bible is our primary source. This study is dependent on Bible tools. Your study Bible will have some notes and maps.

A Bible Dictionary
A Bible Handbook
A Bible Atlas

Other books about the Bible times are also valuable. Scripture Spy notes that there are a lot more tools online regarding our needs to do this study also.


Steps for doing a Book Background Study

1. Choose the subject or book of the Bible.

2. List your reference tools.

3. Obtain insights from geography. Check out Biblical lands topography, water sources, cities, borders. Ask about neighboring countries that had an influence.

4. Get insights from history. Find a good timeline of Bible times. Familiarize yourself with who was in power, and what kind of hold they had. What was going on in the world then? Where was the Jewish nation in history? In the New Testament what was happening to the emerging church?

5. Discover some insights from culture.

Types of clothing people wore • Professions and trades in biblical times • Music in the Bible • Architectural styles in the Near East • Manners and customs in Scripture • Recreation in ancient times • Family life in the Middle East • Art in the Bible • Languages and literature of surrounding nations • Religious ceremonies in Israel and among pagan neighbors • False religions of the area • Weapons and tools used by the people

6. Research insights from the political environment. As you discover political powers that had an influence, look up their leaders. King Nebuchadnezzar. Caesar. etc.

7. Summarize your research. Review what you’ve studied as answer these 2 questions.
  • How does this background information help me understand better what I am studying?
  • What influence did any of these factors have on the subject (or book) that I am studying?
8. Write out a personal application. This may feel awkward, but reflect on what you know so far of the book of the Bible in question, and ask how this information sheds more appreciate for what the author wrote. Is there something you can relate to?

Books or Subjects to consider:

The book of Philippians, Colossians, Ruth.
You could make a sub-group your study, such as Pharisees and Sadducees, or the Romans in Palestine.

Helpful resources

The webpage has a page for Book Background on Warren’s Biographical Method. A form is also there. 

Here is an online PDF of the book by Rick Warren, Bible Study Methods: 12 ways you can unlock God's Word
Previous: Nine Strange Thanksgiving Moments in the Bible
Up next: Book Survey Bible Study Method


1. Where might I find some tools to use for my research? Who might I ask? How might an internet search help?

2. What background information do I think might be helpful for understanding the Bible better?