Confession: I am a recovering Bible skimmer. You know how Bible skimming works right?
Reach a long list of names in the Bible—quickly skim the list and move on.
Come across a familiar story—skim over.
Hard to understand prophecies? Yep, skim those too. (Sorry Zechariah, I’m just not sure what you are talking about).
My skimming habits went unchecked until I listened to a “drive through the Bible” study series. As the pastor discussed the long lists of names, familiar stories, and hard to understand sections, I gained many new insights and realized even with years of reading my Bible and attending church, I still had a lot to learn.
Determined to stop skimming and dig in deep, I implemented different study methods and tools for Bible study. Not only has my learning significantly increased since applying these techniques, but my love for God’s word continues to grow every day.
1. Ask Questions
There are two different approaches for asking questions.
1. Write down any questions you think of while reading a passage of scripture. Next, read the passage again, asking God to reveal answers. Then use your Bible’s index and other resources (see tip #4) for additional insights on your questions.
2. Create a standard list of questions you answer every time you read a passage of scripture. Here are some examples:
- What is the context (think who, what, where, when)?
- What does the passage say?
- How does this passage relate to the rest of the Bible?
- How can I apply this passage to my life?
- What principles does it illustrate or teach?
- What does it teach me about God? About Jesus?
- How is the Gospel revealed?
Choose whichever questions help you dive deeper into scripture. Then follow the same method as above: read passage once, ask for revelation then read again, and finally, seek out additional insights.
*Tip: Writing down your answers will help you retain what you learn. Plus, it creates a good reference guide for future use.
2. Read in Multiple Translations
Compare 2-3 different translations, varying from a more literal translation, to a paraphrase. I use the New King James Version (NKJV), the New International Version (NIV), and either the New Living Translation (NLT) or The Message.
The different word choices in each version can give you a fresh perspective on a passage. For example, many Christians are familiar with the NIV version of 1 Corinthians 13: 4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” But the NKJV says “long suffering” instead of patient. I don’t know about you, but my mind conjures up a whole different image for long suffering than it does for patient.
3. Annotate the Passage.
Annotate is just a fancy word for mark up. After reading the passage once, go back through and underline repeated words and phrases; circle words you want to look up in a lexicon (for original Hebrew or Greek words) or a Bible dictionary, and highlight verses that jump out as meaningful to you.
Next, ask God to reveal significance in your markings. Write down notes about words and phrases and record definitions of your circled words (Blue Letter Bible provides free access to a lexicon and multiple Bible dictionaries).
There is no right or wrong way to annotate a passage, so feel free to play with it until you find what works for you.
*Tip: Prefer not to write in your Bible? Or don’t have room to write in your Bible? Copy and paste the passage from an online Bible resource to a word document. Either annotate on the computer or print out and annotate by hand.
4. Read Notes and Commentaries
Notes and Commentaries provide additional insights into scripture, and can help answer some of your questions from tip #1.
5. Study with a Friend
Having a study partner not only holds you accountable, but creates opportunity for valuable dialogue. You can ask each other hard questions, discuss how different life experiences lead to different interpretations of scripture, and share unique insights with each other. Use some of the tools listed here to guide your study time together.
In my renewed dedication to Bible study, I discovered the truth of Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active.”
Every time we read the Bible, God can teach us something new.
Want more? Check out our Bible Study Methods: 7 Ways in 7 Days course! You’ll learn 7 different methods for studying and diving deep into God’s word, including verse mapping, topical study, word study, chapter analysis and more!
Kira Bridges is pursuing joy by seeking the life God intended for us. She blogs at Joy Pursued, sharing lessons learned and resources to help women draw close to God and experience His joy. Living in the sunny part of Oregon with her husband, daughter, and two dogs; Kira believes living with joy is a lifelong journey and would love for you to join her. You can hang out with her on Facebook, and Instagram.