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Monday, July 12, 2010

Study Your Bible

Daily devotions. Quiet time. Spending time in God's Word.

Something we're supposed to do, right?


I read a chapter out loud every morning to Brittany--who is still mostly asleep. If the chapter is long, I stop halfway through. If I miss a morning, I don't sweat it. I tend to start in Genesis and go straight through to Revelation. Then, start again. It's a simple reading program and I'm surprised how quickly we get through the Bible this way.

Sure, it's no "read the Bible in a year because then you're really holy" plan, but I've been consistent. And it's been good.


A few years ago, however, I shrugged off the uneasy feeling that I wasn't getting much out of this spiritual discipline. 'I want to know more about the Bible,' I complained to myself. 'I wonder what tools I should be using?'

I spent about four days regularly reading a few columns in my Bible Background Commentary. It was interesting, but it wasn't quite working. Reading the dictionary is interesting too, but it's so disjointed that the stuff just falls out of my head.

So I stopped before all my brains fell out. <smile>

Then yesterday, over lunch, I got talking with my dad about Scripture. He mentioned that there are--at least--two ways to read the Bible: Devotionally and critically. Growing up in church, I was told it was important to read the Bible devotionally. Read and meditate. Let it permeate my soul and change me. Cool. Mystical. Good. But... lacking something.

That "something" is criticism, scholarship, study. I loved my Bible classes in college which tore open well-known passages to show even more depth and information and ideas. Concepts I didn't even know were in question opened into an incredibly wide world of fascinating truths and uncertainties. The Bible was alive again! And looking closer, it really was incredibly sharp.

And then I went back to reading a chapter a day, like a good boy, and that fire dissipated. Devotionals are good, and I'll keep with my reading plan, but I want more.

So here's my question:

Where can I find daily study tools? Do you know of a "365 day introduction to Biblical literary criticism" resource? Something that keeps it short, to the point, because if it's too much work I'm likely to stop doing it. I'm just sayin'.

A blog, perhaps?

Because, while I firmly believe in the importance of "being in the Word"--Sonlight schedules Bible reading every day in our programs--I'm at a place in life where I'd like to get back to where I was in Bible classes: Learning more about the depth of Scripture.

What tools do you use for Bible study?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


Melody said...

I'm interested in this too. Most bible studies are too emotionally based or rather elementary it seems. Funny enough, something that has been good for me is The Story of Christianity from Core 200.

Melody said...

Whoops. I misspoke. I'm currently reading The Story of Christianity by Gonzalez...different book. I would love to do Core 200 someday!

Kate said... is a GREAT website for Bible study. We waver back and forth between devotional and study reading, too.

Katie said...

Melody, that is an excellent Church History book. So well written.

Luke, I don't know of any blogs, but one of the books that changed the way I read scripture, for the better, was Plowshares and Pruning Hooks by Brent Sandy. Really an eyeopener on Prophetic and Apocalyptic books, which, to me, are the most elusive.

Thanks for posting this, I'm hoping to get some good suggestions myself.

Catherine said...

Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but 2 books that are easy to use are How to Study the Bible for All It's Worth and How to Study the Bible Book by Book by Fee and Stuart. The first one is about how to study and the second walks you through each book of the Bible.

Otherwise, I just read commentaries along with the scripture that I'm reading. That can get a little cumbersome, but is pretty in-depth.

Annemarie said...

I use

It has very cools tools for picking scripture apart. And it is FREE. There are some add-ons that you can purchase, but they are not neccesary at all. My husband uses it in sermon prep and loves it, too.

I also have a set of New Testament commentaries by John MacArthur, who is acknowledged by most biblical scholars to be one of the best at compiling original language, historical context and such. His sermons are free for download @


Doug Hibbard said...

I'd second the recommend on "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth" by Fee and Stuart. It's a good intro to critical study done by people who respect the Bible as the Word of God.

Another, and this one is more textbook-like, is "Grasping God's Word" by Hays and Duvall. It's in 2nd Edition (proof it's textbook-like) but has some great guidelines on digging out truth for yourself. Might be too much for self-study work.

A lot of my books are in boxes, so I can't pull them off and check. Let me check the list....There's "Telling God's Story" by Preben Vang that's a good read, but I'm not sure it's what you're after.

Another, yet more expensive, thought would be to slowly purchase a commentary series that includes the text. That would give you a text reading, scholarly issues related to it to read critically, and some deeper thoughts. The catch there is to get one that's neither too technical nor too expensive. There's a series from Zondervan that is the NIV Application Commentary that's pretty good in this direction. But you're talking buying about 40 books @$19-29 each before you're done.

Just a few of my thoughts. Perhaps your pastor might know something better than those suggestions.

I haven't found a blog that's consistent enough, neither is my attention span good enough when I'm staring at a screen.


Unknown said...

Luke, "How to Read the Bible for all it's Worth" is definitely worth a look. It was a book we had to use at Trinity. A few others I recommend are: "Living by the Book" by Howard Hendricks, "The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study" by Oletta Wald, and "Studying, Interpreting and Applying the Bible" by Walter Henrichsen. Check them out, or bring Brittany over for dinner sometime soon and check them out here before you buy them :)

Katie said...

Kathleen, I second the vote for Living by the Book, it was my favorite of the three you mentioned. But I read all three at the beginning of my Christian life, and they all changed the way I read scripture.

The Reader said...

I third? fourth? the suggestion for How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth -- used that in one of my survey courses in college.

Also, my Old Testament prof writes commentaries, which he has for sale (and for free to pastors &/or missionaries) at

I just looked and he offers digital copies free as well, at

something worth looking into. His stuff is very, very good.

Luke Holzmann said...

Ooohhh! Good stuff, friends! Please keep it coming if you've got more ideas <smile>. Thanks for jumping in here.


Julie said...

i liked "grasping God's word" we used it in my college exegesis class as a text. Also, I like the "Expositors" commentaries. They used to have black cool looking covers? think they've changed. but they are known as the Expositor's. Ummm, they have lots of original language stuff but not overwhelming for those of us not able to read Grk/Hebrew/Aramaic....I AM a commentary junky, but mainly bec. im in seminary. As far as Bible studies, there are some wonderful ones out there that are both academic AND meaningful, not just all devotion or all emotion. Just go in a Christian bkstore (here its' Lifeway) and thumb thru some or go on and you can find a lot w/descriptions. Many are topical. Many are on one bk of the bible. I usually have one or two going at a time. I finished on this past spring I loved. "Seeking Him". it was for personal revival. awesome. Good luck. :)

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks, Julie!


JaneH said...

On a completely different tack, I've found memorizing passages to be a really good way to force myself to think deeply about what a passage is saying - and it can go on all day long, because it's there in my mind. I bought "Memorize His Word", which is software that provides regular reminders to review what you've memorized, and memorized Ephesians last year. I never would have thought I could do it, but the regular review helps a lot. Now I'm working on the Sermon on the Mount. Many passages, I understand way better after memorizing than after looking them up in a commentary, though commentaries are helpful sometimes.

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks for the reminder, Planetarymom! I haven't done much memorization since Awana and I should get back into that.



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