Methods and tools for studying the Bible
Method initiates and precedes study in choosing a topic, approach, or
method. The understanding that only sound methods guarantee results is
vital to Biblical study approach. Thus it is impertive that sound methods
of Bible study be implemented in order to achieve advantage in
understanding and application of God's message.
Understanding of the intended outcome of study is also significant in
ultimately changing life for the better. Rersultingly applications may be
developed based on reading, observation and interpretation which will be
respectively personal, practical, possible and provable.
Acquaintance with Biblical history avails proper use of the tools of Bible
study including dictionaries, language tools and commentaries. Thereafter
applications will be considered and methods will be completed that aid the
systematic learning of the Bible.
Understanding requires one to transcend own culture in seeking to
comprehend the Bible within its own environment. Religion as truth
presents beliefs of a particular denomination or teaching of religious
topics from a sectarian point of view.
Per se beliefs of a single faith group cannot be taught as truth, but
rather as a form of comparative religion, including teaching beliefs of
various wings within Christianity and other significant religions in a
balanced manner, while not promoting religion over the secular.
Regarding sources of Biblical text, some religious groups believe the
Bible to be inerrant while others believe it contains errors. Some
individuals and groups believe the Bible to be inerrant, infallible and
God-inspired, while others believe the opposite.
The Bible may be taught as real history provided consensus has been
reached that these events really happened in teaching a balanced,
acceptable view since some believe that all of these earlier events
happened, while others believe these are fictional, mythical or symbolic.
Genesis may be taught as one of hundreds of creation stories found in
societies and religions all over the world with further description of
three main views about the origin of the universe, along with variations
encompassing creation science, theistic evolution and naturalistic
About the authorship of the Pentateuch being attributed to Moses, teaching
this as fact would be debatable, because there is no consensus that he was
the author. However, two main views of the authorship of the Pentateuch
may be taught: that conservative Christians believe the books were written
by Moses under the inspiration of God, while non-conservative Christian
theologians hold to the Documentary Hypothesis: that the Pentateuch were
edited by one or more redactors who worked with the writings of four
authors, who lived in various locations in Palestine, over a period of
many centuries with the goal of promoting their own religious views.
With regards to teaching the crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus
actually happened no consensus exists on these events, since there are
major deviations among faith groups about these matters. Whereas Jews
regard Jesus as a human, 1st century rabbi from Palestine, most
Christians view him as the Son of God - one component of the Trinity. Re.
life after death and salvation it cannot be summarily taught that heaven
and hell exist as locations for reward or punishment after death. Varying
beliefs are heralded regarding trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior as
opposed to reincarnation, as different faith groups have varying beliefs
in these areas.
While some believe that heaven and hell are actual locations others
interpret heaven and hell symbolically. Similarly, some believe that
everyone will be saved; others that only some will attain heaven while
some religions teach reincarnation and passing through many lifetimes
before merging with God. Religious liberals and humanists believe that
neither heaven, hell, reincarnation or an afterlife exist. Thus
instruction should include full range of beliefs.
Neutral stance towards religion would require covering major religious
texts, such the Bible and documents like the Humanist Manifesto.
The Origins and Development of the Bible
Origins and development of the Bible are primarily concerned with the
formation of the Hebrew Bible (oral & writing stage and canonization),
formation of the Christian Bible (oral & writing stage and canonization)
and process of translation, with some of the ideas being based on
assumptions, provided sufficient evidence exists to back these up.
Origin of English Bibles can be traced to when men, under God's divine
inspiration, first wrote Biblical books, transferred from generation to
generation by handwritten copies and word-of-mouth until men eventually
attempted to collate these teachings into a single comprehensive book.
Most of Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the New
Testament largely in common Greek with all the original compilations of
the Bible originally done by hand.
History and development of the English Bible can be divided into ancient
versions in other languages, early English versions, and the New English
versions (since 1901). Brief descriptions of the significant versions in
those time periods follow.
The Septuagint Version (285 BC) was a translation of the Old Testament
Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, probably done in Alexandria, with The
Samaritan Pentateuch, being a copy of the Hebrew text done in
The Peschito or Syriac (1st or 2nd Century AD) – A common language
translation of the entire Bible used in parts of Syria.
The Codex Sinia us(330 AD) – A manuscript that contained the Greek Bible.
The Codex Vatican us (340 AD) - It originally contained the whole Bible,
but parts have been lost.
The Vulgate (400 AD) – A Roman Catholic scholar in Bethlehem by the name
of Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin. This Bible became the
standard in the Catholic church for well over 1000 years.
The Codex Alexandrinus (425 AD) – This Bible is another Green translation.
All of the earliest attempts at translating the Bible into English were
fragmented. Bishop Aldhelm of Sherbourne translated the Psalm into Old
English around 709. Venerable Bede, a monk at Jarrow, translated a potion
of the Gospel of John. By 900 AD all the Gospels and most of the Old
Testament had been translated into Old English.
John Wycliffe (1380) – was the first to plan a complete English
translation of the Bible from the Latin, based on the Latin Vulgate. He
completed the New Testament prior to his death, and his friends completed
the work after his death.
William Tyndale (1525-30) – Driven from England by persecution, William
Tyndale shared Wycliffe’s desire to produce a Bible that the common
English speaking person could understand. Using the Latin Vulgate and
other ancient sources, Tyndale translated New Testament and Pentateuch
before he was martyred.
Miles Coverdale (1535) – A friend of Tyndale’s Coverdale published a
complete Bible. It is generally believed Coverdale used Tyndale’s work in
producing his New Testament.
Matthew’s Bible (1537) – It is widely accepted that a friend of Tyndale,
John Rogus, did most of the work on this Bible. Based largely on
Tyndale’s previous work, it also contains evidences of
Coverdale’s work as well, being considered an updated Tyndale’s Bible.
The Great Bible (1539) – This Bible takes its name from its great physical
size. Based on the Tyndale, Coverdale, and Matthew’s Bibles, it was used
mainly in churches.
The Geneva Bible (1560) – Produced in Geneva by scholars who had fled
persecution in England under Queen Mary, this Bible was based on the Great
Bible and on English translations of that day. Though very scholarly, it
was a popular Bible because of its small size.
The Bishop’s Bible (1568) – Revision of the Great Bible and Geneva Bible
done under direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of
Douay-Rheims Bible (1582-1610) – The New Testament was published in Rheims
in 1582 and the Old Testament in Douay in 1610. Revision of the Latin
Vulgate, this has become the generally accepted English Version for the
Roman Catholic Church.
King James Version, KJV (1611) – The most popular translation, this Bible
was done during the reign of King James the I of England. 47 scholars,
divided into 6 groups, worked on this translation. Based largely on the
Bishop’s Bible, many Hebrew and Greek texts were also studies as well as
all the other available English translations, to insure the best results.
Revised Version (1881-1884) – Designed to be a revision of the KJV, the
Revised Version had the advantage of being able to access some of the
New English Versions (1901 to Present)
American Standard Version, ASV (1901) – This revision of the Revised
Version incorporates many of the readings first suggested by the American
members of the Revision committee of 1881 – 1885.
Complete Bible: An American Translation (1939) – Often referred to as the
Goodspeed Version, this translation was done by Edgar J. Goodspeed and
J.M. Povis Smith. Using as many ancient texts as possible, Smith and
Goodspeed produced a very readable and yet accurate translation. Also
included in this translation was the Apocrypha.
Revised Standard Version, RSV (1952) – The National Council of Churches of
Christ procured the copyright to the 1901 ASV Bible in the 1920’s. Work
began on a revision to the ASV, but was abandoned in favor of an entirely
new translation. Since many more Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were
available to these scholars than were available in 1901, the RSV is
considered to be much more accurate.
New Testament in Modern English (1958) – First published in 1958 and
revised in 1973, this translation, done by British writer J.B. Phillips,
is one of the best readings of the New Testament.
Berkley Version (1959) – This modern English version was done under the
direction of Dr. Gerrit Verkuyl. Dr. Verkuyl translated the New Testament
from the Greek himself. The Old Testament was translated by a committee
of 20 scholars with Dr. Verkuyl overseeing the project.
Amplified Bible (1965) – this modern English Version was sponsored by the
non-profit Lockman Foundation of California. Committees of Hebrew and
Greek scholars tried to pay particular attention to the true translation
of key words in the ancient texts. By bracketing explanatory words or
phrases directly in the text, they eliminated the need to look elsewhere
on the page for the other helps.
Jerusalem Bible (1966) – Basically a Roman Catholic translation, this
Bible was originally a multi-volume translation done in French at the
Ecole Biblique et Archeologuque in Jerusalem. Using all available sources
including the Dead Sea Scrolls, this translation also included extensive
scholarly notes. In the English translation, the original documents were
again used with references made to the original French translation. The
Jerusalem Bible also includes the Apocrypha. Although the notes are
strongly Roman Catholic, the translation is relatively non-sectarian
New Testament: A New Translation (1968-69) – Translated by William
Barclay of England, this translation is neither technical nor difficult.
The problem with this Bible is the extensive intrusion of Mr. Barclay’s
own personal views in the text.
New English Bible, NEB (1970) – A committee of scholars from the leading
denominations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, cooperating with
the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, was to produce a new translation
from the Hebrew and Greek. This Bible was to be used as an authoritative
version along side the KJV. Due the NEB’s rather free use of the English
language, many verses of scripture became almost paraphrases rather than
translations. The Apocrypha is included in the NEB.
New American Bible, NAB (1970) – This Roman Catholic translation
originally came directly from the Latin Vulgate. The Catholic Biblical
Association of America compared this translation to the Hebrew and Greek
manuscripts then available. The three volumes Old Testament and single
volume New Testament were then combined into a single volume.
New American Standard, NAS (1971) – The Lockman Foundation f La Habra,
California (see Amplified Bible) set out to produce the most technically
accurate translation of the Bible possible. Partially because of their
dissatisfaction with the RSV’s revision of the 1901 American Standard
version, the Lockman foundation chose to use the best Greek and Hebrew
texts available to revise the ASV.
Living Bible, LNB (1974) - This is the work of one man, Kenneth N. Taylor.
Not a translation in the true sense, Mr. Taylor set out to produce a
paraphrase of the ASV Bible using the words and terms his children could
Today’s English Version, TEV (1976) – Often referred to as the Good News
Bible, this was a project sponsored by the American Bible Society to
produce a Bible in English for people whose primary language was not
English. Mr. Robert G. Bratcher did the work on the New Testament, and it
was published in 1966. The Society then continued the work to include the
New International Version, NIV (1978) – The New York Bible Society
sponsored this translation of the Bible. A committee was formed to search
worldwide for Bible scholars from colleges, universities and seminaries
that would represent varied backgrounds and denominations. Each book of
the Bible was assigned to a different team of scholars, who then used the
best available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts to do the actual
translation. Additional committees checked and re-checked the
translations for accuracy as well as comprehension.
New King James Version, NKJV (1982) – Thomas Nelson Bible Publishers and
the International Trust for Bible Studies co-sponsored this update of the
1611 KJV Bible. 119 scholars worked on this project to make the KJV
version more accurate and readable and yet maintain the grace and beauty
of the original KJV text.
Revised English Bible REB (1989) – Under the auspices of the Universities
of Oxford and Cambridge, a committee of leading Bible scholars revised and
updated the New English Bible. This was the first major revision of the
New English Bible since its release in 1970. Particular attention was
paid to archaic words, phrases, and sentence structure. This
re-examination was done by referring to the most current manuscripts,
commentaries and exegesis.
New Revised Standard Version NSRV (1990) – This Bible was released in late
1990 and culminated 15 years of work by special committee of scholars.
This committee was under the sponsorship of the division of Education and
Ministry of the National Council of Churches. This original Revised
Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version can trance their
roots to the King James Version.
The cultural & geographical location of the Bible
The cultural & geographical location of the Bible refers/relates not only
to archaelogical material, but also pertains to points of interest
concerning history, chronology, geography, literature, religion and social
The Bible can be considered a primary document basic to understanding of
the philosophical, literary, cultural and scientific tradition. Focus is
placed on ideas developed in Hebrew Bible and their respective impact.
As interest arises in these ancient places, the role played in history of
ancient Israel & life & thought of people is portrayed. Archaelogical
sites of ancient Israel reminds of importance of geographical situation of
Archaelogical investigation in Palestine & surrounding lands have
transformed attitude & understanding of ancient Israel & Old Testament,
studied together in rightful setting within ancient Near Eastern world.
Culture is formed by a combination of the ordered way in which a set of
human beings conduct their lives with many streams flowing into it such as
the customary ways of one's forebearers becoming accepted as the norm and
also new ideas that may arrive to reshape that norm; also rebeliousness
against culture due to new information and processing of old information
resulting in change as well as moral and spiritual revivals.
Established patterns of behavior may also be perpetuated or the boundaries
pushed in order to obtain degree of divergence in an effort to improve or
destroy society in opting for standard or alternative approcached.
Via reference to culture & geographical context of the Bible, the Bible
may be studied from the outside inwards, in consideration of contribution
to study of content of the Bible.
Western culture is indebted to the Judeo- Christian tradition which
created these writings . Knowledge of the Bible, then, is important for
religious commitment to Judaism or Christianity and any person requiring
information and education.
Difference in culture & geographical locations/context may also contribute
to difference of opinion. Character, value of evidence, rel. to other
material, purpose & date are thus all taken into consideration.
Thus it cannot categorically be stated "The Bible says" unless respective
views of writers are examined within the cultural & geographical context
of the Bible.
Thus the Bible itself must be interpreted & re-interpreted on the basis of
cultural & geographical content which often lead to different views re.
Problems contained in Bible study. As example different views have been
proposed regarding date of Exodus from Egypt & settlement & Palestine.
Western culture differs significantly from that of ancient Near East.
Understanding requires transcending culture in seeking comprehension of
the Bible. Biblical authority refers to acquired power, respect and
esteem. Bible also has authority, due to canonizing books while rejecting
other books as noncanonical, although the Bible's authority derives from
God, as source of inspiration. Converesely interpretation refers to ways
of understanding the Bible, evident in a variety of approaches. World
views also affect we interpretation of the Bible.
As such interpretation of events and scriptural meaning should ideally be
studied with cultural & geographical context of the Bible. In order to
obtain a deeper understanding & insight into Biblical scriptures a greater
acquaintance with Biblical history, culture & geography is absolutely
imperative. Although the same events are recorded, accounts of it may
Cultural & geographical context (& content) can be regarded as not only
complementary, but mutually explanatory. Thus information studied within
cultural & geographical context of the Bible becomes more striking &
However, impact of cultural & geographical context (& content) of the
Bible is mostly indirect, yet this indirect contribution is immense and
abundantly evident. Cultural & geographical context, although too immense
to elaborate on specific examples, in essence renders more credibility to
Biblical tradition. Interpretation with reference to cultural &
geographical context can be pursued too far in contributing to historical
truth & spiritual truth.
Then again culture & geography can & does confirm truth of individual
assertions in the Bible as undeniable & offers confirmation of truth, but
reference to truth implies something more than conformity with known facts
of culture & geography. Different patterns & levels of spiritual life are
established & distinguished. Also the type of religion against which the
prophets so strongly inveighed cultural & geographical context bears
Mankind's view of God differs considerably, as is evident from differing
perceptions of God with the pagan world having a vastly differnt concet
compared to Israel's God, Yahweh that stood against so-called gods of
pagan world. Resultingly Israel struggled between faith in Yahweh and
delusion of traditional power.
Biblical text has a relationship to ancient history in connection with
ancient civilizations and affinity of literary forma with ancient
The Bible as authoritative for Christian faith and practice allows for
comprehension of its message, resulting in a stronger sense of identity,
and hope in learning more about our spiritual heritage.
Cultural & geographical context reflects a profounder truth in Bible &
distinctive contribution of the Biblical characters is evident in
archealogical research, confirming the truth of the Bible & reaffirming
better understanding & just interpretation.
Biblical interpretation and authority has been used, to promote
particular religious, moral, social and political values in culture and so
have visual images such as painting and sculpture been linked to biblical
Culture & geography provides confirmation of the truth of the Bible in
understanding & rightful interpretation thereof.
The most probable interpretation of the Bible can thus be obtained through
careful comparison of context relating to cultural & geographical
location. Interpretation of Biblical matter depends on literature in a
geniune desire to seek meaning.
Various interpretation as a cultural activity range beyond the province of
biblical images in functional reading and visualization of the Bible.
Yet, functionality of culture & geographical context is not per se proving
or disproving Biblical contents, but although limited function is
indispensible, it provided context. Conversely, without the Bible, many
cultures & geographical locations would go unexplored.
Despite geographical location,
May God provide navigation
Symbolically speaking re. Culture
In flight of turtle dove and vulture.
I pray today
God grant me: Peace, understanding & forgiveness as it may
Understanding of culture: through knowledge of geographical locations And
for those in heaven: well-deserved vacations.