You Need to Know How to Study the Bible Like a Textbook
Some people don’t think you can study the Bible like a textbook. “It’s not meant for that”, they say.
As Christians, we have a promise that is given in 2 Peter 1:2-3
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
God has given us EVERYTHING that has to do with life AND godliness.
So – why do we struggle to be confident about what to do as parents?
Why do we buy books to teach us how to have a better marriage?
Why do we buy book after book to learn what the best types of foods are?
If you search Google for “self-help books” you get page after page after page of links to lists like “The Best Self-Help Books to Read During Downtime” and “Here are 11 of the Best Self-Help Books of All Time”.
When it comes to simplifying life, maybe we need to start by narrowing our list of experts down to One. God.
What is a Textbook?
Here is a definition I compiled from a couple of different sources.
Textbook. N. a comprehensive compilation of content in a branch of study, a book used as a standard work for the study of a particular subject (sources Wikipedia, Google Dictionary)
“A comprehensive compilation of content” doesn’t that describe the Bible?
Is there a more comprehensive collection of material that covers God’s plan for the salvation of mankind (Eph. 1:3-14)?
“A book used as a standard work for the study of a particular subject” – doesn’t this also describe the Bible?
What other standard do we have to go by that is BETTER than God’s own inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Tim. 1:13)?
The Bible is a Textbook
So, the Bible is a Textbook.
Not a cold, dry book filled with boring facts that are only good for being memorized and forgotten later. (Or I am the only one who remembers my textbooks in school this way?)
It is a textbook for LIVING LIFE here so as to live in eternity with God.
It is a compilation of material written by at least 40 men covering a span of 4000 years.
It covers history, but that is not its focus. So it is not comprehensive in that way. It IS comprehensive in how it covers what we need to know about God and His plan for us (Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 1:9; Eph. 3:3-4).
As we noted earlier, Peter says that God has given us everything we need for life (either living this life on earth or finding life in Christ) and godliness (living a life for Christ).
How do you study the Bible like a Textbook?
Since the Bible is a textbook, you need to know how to study the Bible like a textbook.
Studying a book like a textbook, at least to me, is to read the book, take notes, and possibly highlight in the text itself in order to help you to remember the material you have covered.
On a deeper level, it means reading it through once, reading it again and noting the players in the situation or the focus of the topic, making note of time and geographical information, listening for information about the author, reading to understand who the audience is, marking keywords, and looking to understand the full context. Comparing passages that are on similar topics to get a full understanding of God’s teaching on the matter. Keep a notebook or journal for longer note-taking.
There is so much that you can do to delve into scripture – and it is like an onion – you will find new layers every time you read it and as your own education progresses. Enjoy the journey and share what you learn with others!
But before you can do that, you need to evaluate how you USE your Bible.
Which type of Bible user are you?
Are you the never-write-in-my-Bible-ever type?
If this is you, you can use all of the methods below in your notes or by doing Scripture Writing and applying marking to the context you have written out.
What about the drawing-beautiful-artwork-to-highlight-scriptures in your Bible type?
Then you may want to check out Lillian’s site, Hey Creative Sister for lots of ways to express your faith through art.
Maybe you are like me and fall somewhere in the middle.
I do not have much artistic ability, but I do like using color to highlight things, underline, and color-code in my Bible.
I own several Bibles. One that I use for taking to worship and Bible study, and currently two others that I use for my studies when at home: a NASB wide margin Bible and an ESV interleaved journaling Bible
(If I am addicted to Bibles and studying them, well, I guess there are worse things!)
Just a Note: When it comes to marking your Bible like a textbook, you do need to balance the need to make references with keeping the Word still readable (Rom. 10:17; Eph. 3:4)!
Decide how you’d like your Bible to be marked. Have an idea of what would be most beneficial to you when you come back to a passage again at a later time.
For a visual guide to how to mark your Bible – sign up to receive our Intro to Bible Marking Video
Ways to Mark in Your Bible
The Bible is so rich with information you can spend a lifetime studying it (which, really is the point).
- You can read it from front to back.
- Study through it one book at a time.
- Study verse by verse.
- Explore themes
- Learn more about each of the men and women in the book.
- Read it to memorize it
- Read it again to apply it to your life
- Explore how many ways it lines up with secular history and science
- The list goes on and on.
There are lots of ways to input what you’ve learned in your Bible.
- Chain common threads: things that connect the blood of Christ from Genesis through Revelation, for example, could be written in red. Begin at a reference in Genesis then write the next connecting reference next to it. Things that connect God’s plan to bring about our salvation chain in blue or black.
- Use symbols to indicate things like time (a picture of a clock) or locations (double underline place names).
- Use one color to note when the author of the book is speaking and another for references to the audience. Another version of this would be like in the book of Acts, mark references to the apostles vs references to other brethren. This helps to know what was given only the apostles and what was given to all Christians.
- Use a color-coding system, like The Diligent Woman’s Bible Marking Guide, to indicate the themes or type of content that is given in a particular passage.
As highlighters go – these Bible Hi-Gliders are far and away my favorites.
For pens – there are two sets I love – the 10 piece Inductive Bible Study set, and the pens all match the colors of the six Hi-gliders – OR the Pigma Micron Inductive Bible Study set, this also has pens that match the Hi-gliders, although the orange color pen is more of a light brown. I like the way the Micron pens write much better. I can make clear writing and neat lines. If you prefer gel pens, Papermate InkJoy Gel Pens offer colors that match the Hi-gliders and our Bible Marking Guide.
For underlining, Papermate Flair Felt Tips Pens work really well. They write a little heavy for making notes – and can bleed through if the pages of your Bible are thin. If you can find the Ultra Fine version – those work great – but they are hard to come by and can be pricey – if you find a set 12 or 16 for $20 or less, grab them up!
The Diligent Woman’s Bible Marking Guide
If you don’t have a plan for how you want to mark in your Bible, it can become a real mess.
This is where the Bible Marking Guide comes in.
The Bible Marking Guide (BMG for short) groups similar themes into groups that are indicated by a color.
For example; Blue to me makes me think of truth (you know the saying, something is “true blue”) and loyalty. On the BMG themes of Doctrine, Teaching, Truth, Wisdom, etc are indicated by the color blue.
Green makes me think of growth and health. So the themes that go along being a right relationship with God are marked with green. Things like Faith, Grace, Obedience, Spiritual Fruit, Salvation, etc.
To make your textbook a living study of your growing relationship with the Lord, take the time to read and consider passages before you mark them.
Then mark them as simply as possible.
The most simple method is to highlight the main theme in one color. This can make using other markings difficult though. So if you know you’re more likely to want to write in cross-references, circle keywords, or put in other symbols – you may want to limit the highlighting and use underlining instead.
My preferred method, right now 😉 , is to underline the main theme of the context in one color, then make notes, symbols, and cross-references in additional colors as needed.
No matter where you fall on the “marking in your Bible” spectrum, the real key is to be IN your Bible. But I cannot suggest strongly enough that you use your highlighters and pens as much as possible. The Bible is the textbook for your life. Each one of us can only pass the “test” to become joint-heirs with Christ and to live eternally in Heaven by knowing what is in the book (Rom. 1:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:. Revere the Word as the true words of God (Jn 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and then delve into them with gusto!
Get more inspiration and see how these methods look in your Bible.
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More resources on this topic that you might find interesting…