Years ago when my husband first went into pastoral ministry (we’re talking 20 years ago, time really does fly!), I remember seeing a book on his shelf entitled, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.
At the time I thought, “What? Reading is reading. That is about the lamest book I’ve ever heard of.”
Needless to say, I never picked the book up, much less read it.
But then, earlier this year I started going through Howard Hendricks best selling guide on bible study, Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible. In that book he said,
“Our culture has made a radical shift in the last century from a word-based society of readers to an image -based society of viewers. The media of our time are movies, television, and the internet, not books. As a result, unlike our forebears of just a few generations ago, we don’t know how to read (to observe and understand). To a large extent, we have lost that art.”
Hendricks went on to demonstrate how to mine scriptures with good reading skills and I began to understand that “reading” wasn’t quite as easy as I’d assumed it to be all these years.
I discovered my reading skills needed a major upgrade… and I didn’t even know it!
Good reading starts with keen observation, much like detective work. To be a Bible detective, we must know how to look for clues given in the text and ask important questions while reading it.
The good news is, observation is something we can all learn. It’s something each one of us can get better at too, no matter how good (or bad!) we are at it.
The best news is that it’s easier than you might think! You just gotta know where to start.
The Easy Bible Reading Solution:
Having a simple set of questions and a few minutes of thinking is all it takes to start developing your observation skills. It doesn’t have to be complex!
Below are 10 simple questions you can ask while reading any passage of Scripture. I’ve learned it’s best to take the time to thoroughly answer them, even if you think you know it already. Simply taking the time to think (i.e. don’t rush!) has exponentially increased the wealth I’m able to discover in a text.
One other thing… depending on the passage or genre you’re reading, some questions may not apply. These aren’t set in stone, just a good guideline to use as you work through a passage.
For our easy (and FREE!) Bible study sheets incorporating all 10 questions, click below:
10 Questions to Ask When Reading the Bible:
AUTHOR: Who is the author? List everything you know about him. Where was he when he wrote this?
AUDIENCE: Who is the audience? What characteristics defined this particular audience?
THEME: What is the overall theme, topic, concept, or event of this passage?
KEYWORDS: What are the keywords in this passage? Be sure to clearly define any key terms.
Note: Just finding the keywords can be tough if you didn’t learn this in school. To help, look for repetition, comparison/contrast, cause-effect, transition words, emphasis, main idea terms, etc. Here is a list of common transition terms. It is very common for these to appear in Scripture! http://education.wichita.edu/caduceus/examples/essay_student/transitions.htm
VERBS: What verbs are used in this passage? What tenses are used?
PEOPLE: Who are the main characters or people groups in this passage?
PLACES: Where is this taking place? List everything you know about this location.
TIME: When is this taking place? What time of day? Year? Where does this take place on the historical timeline? What was the culture like when the author wrote this? How might culture have influenced this author and audience?
CHALLENGES: What questions do you have about this passage? Is there something you don’t understand?
APPLICATION: How does this passage apply to your life?
There you go… ten questions to help YOU read the Bible for all it’s worth. Try it and see what you think! Be sure to print off our handy-dandy study sheets below before you dive in :)