Every Christian knows the importance of consistently studying the Bible. It is the Word of God, and we need to become familiar with it to grow our relationship with God and live in a way that pleases Him.
Here are the 25 best ways you can begin or boost your study of the Bible.
1. Highlight Keywords and Verses
A great way to record valuable concepts during your Bible study is to highlight keywords, key verses, or passages. You can use specific colors of highlighters or crayons to call attention to certain subjects.
For example, you can use one color to highlight Bible passages that teach something about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. You can use another color to highlight God’s commands (including Jesus’s imperatives in the New Testament), and so on. Next time you look at that page, a simple glance will indicate the important parts of that text.
2. Take Notes
Another good way to register what caught your attention in the biblical text is to write notes on the margins of your Bible. These notes will help you recall what you learned from that specific passage of the Scripture when you get back to it later.
You can use a journaling Bible with wider margins if you want more space to write. If you don’t like the idea of writing in your print Bible, you can use an app on your smartphone to record both your highlights and notes.
3. Study the Entire Bible
The purpose of reading the entire Bible is to get the big picture of God’s Word. Having this big picture in your mind gives you a deeper understanding of the specific passages and how they fit in the grand scheme of God’s revelation. It’s like having the puzzle picture in your mind while you connect the pieces.
You can follow a Bible reading plan, where you check off each day’s readings. Or read three chapters a day, and you will finish the whole Bible in about one year. As you read, highlight verses and sentences that get your attention. You can get back to them later when you do some more biblical studies on chapters or passages.
4. Study Entire Books
Before you focus your Bible study on specific chapters or passages of Scripture, start with an overall reflection on that entire book of the Bible. First, look for an introduction to that book in a Study Bible. It will give you information about the author (if known), the book’s purpose, a summary of its contents, etc.
Then, read the whole book a few times, highlighting and taking notes as you go. Pay close attention to key characters and places. Highlight words or expressions that show up frequently. For example, if you’re studying the book of Philippians, the words “joy” and “rejoice” will get your attention and point to the main message of that letter.
If you decide to go deeper into that book, you can then study it chapter-by-chapter, and then passages, verses, and word studies of key texts. You can start with a small book, like Jonah or Philemon, before moving on to bigger and more complex books.
5. Study Chapters
Use the chapter study as a complement of the book study. After you get the overall message of a book, you can follow up with a chapter-by-chapter deep-dive. It will give you a deeper understanding of that book.
When you focus on a chapter, look for words and ideas that seem more prominent in that piece of the biblical text. You can also use other methods, like summarizing the chapter content, highlighting, taking notes, and so on.
Keep in mind that chapters and verses divisions were not present in the original biblical text. Their purpose is to help us navigate through the biblical text.
6. Study Specific Bible Passages
Most Bibles nowadays divide the chapters into smaller sections. Those sections usually have a title, and they present an episode or a theme within that chapter. For example, the section titled “The Magi Visit the Messiah” in the NIV (New International Version) is found in Matthew 2:1-12 (it is a section within chapter 2 of the book of Matthew).
Even though the original biblical text doesn’t include those divisions, you can use them to organize your Bible study. If you want to focus on sections smaller than chapters for each study session, you may prefer this Bible study method. Make sure to use the same Bible when selecting the specific topics because they may vary according to the Bible version and edition.
7. Study Verses
You can use verse studies to go deeper into the more intricate or complex verses. It will help you pay attention to every word in that biblical text. You don’t need to do a word study at this point, but you can select words and study them afterward.
Start by highlighting verbs, then checking their subject and object(s). Note that the subject and object(s) may be in another verse. Compare different translations to get alternative wordings of that text. This study will help you get a better understanding of that verse and its message.
8. Study Specific Words
A word study may require more study tools than the other methods. The idea is to study a specific word, preferably using the original Greek words (New Testament) and the Aramaic or Hebrew words (Old Testament). Your study will be richer if you explore the text in the original languages.
If you can’t, you can still do a word study with only an English dictionary, a Bible dictionary, and a cross-reference. First, look up that word in the dictionaries. Then, check other translations to see if they use alternate words in the same verse. If they do, it will help you identify the correct meaning among the various meanings you will find in the dictionaries.
Using the Bible Cross-reference, you can also look up other occurrences of that word in the same chapter or book and see how the biblical author uses it. In the end, you will have a better idea of the meaning that a specific word conveys in that verse.
9. Study the Characters
The Bible has many fascinating characters, and it shows the good and the bad about them. We read about their most amazing acts of faith, as well as their most shameful failures. Their biographies are relevant to every child of God.
A biographical Bible study is a great way to get new insights and examples from the lives of our heroes of faith. So, the first step is to choose a character and search for all references that mention them. You can use a Bible app or website that has a search tool. Then, you can use other study techniques to compile a biography and get lessons that you can apply to your own life.
10. Study Themes
Theme or topical studies are more challenging, but they are also very rewarding in giving you a better understanding of specific subjects. You will learn what the Bible teaches about that theme.
You can start by choosing one key verse that presents that topic. Then, you look for related verses in a Bible Cross-Reference. You can also look up the subject in the Bible Dictionary. A Bible Concordance will give you a list of verses that deal with that same theme. Then, you can compare those verses and see what they all teach about that topic.
11. Study the Stories
The Bible contains many narratives that tell us about God interacting with humankind. We have known stories like the creation, the flood, the escape from Egypt, and many more accounts from the Old Testament. The Bible also tells us the story of Jesus’s life in the four gospels. And we have the apostles’ stories (especially the apostle Paul’s) in Acts.
You can study those narratives and put them together, like pieces in a puzzle, to make up the grand story of redemption. These are precious stories that teach us lessons about God, His people, and ourselves. Learning the individual stories and connecting them helps us get a better understanding of the whole Scripture.
12. Use Dictionaries
Never underestimate the importance of understanding the meaning of a word. One single word, if misunderstood, can change the whole meaning of a verse. In practical terms, it can affect how you apply that truth to your life. That’s why dictionaries are essential tools for your Bible study.
You will need at least an English dictionary. You can add a Bible dictionary to your library as well or use one of many free or paid options available online.
Dictionaries will give you a list of possible meanings a word may have. The context will help you identify which one is correct for each occurrence of that word. If you’re not sure, you can also compare the text to other Bible translations and see if a different wording helps you understand it better.
13. Use Cross-References
Cross-references refer to other verses from the Scripture that contains the same or similar information to the verse you’re reading.
They may point to the source of a reference. For example, a verse in the New Testament that quotes from the Old Testament has a cross-reference that points to where the original quoted text is.
They may also refer to similar versions of the same text. For example, a verse in the gospel of John may have cross-references to verses in Matthew, Mark, or Luke if they narrate the same episode.
Using cross-references is especially useful if you’re studying a specific theme or if you want to find other biblical references that are related to a specific verse. Some Bibles contain cross-references in their footnotes. You can also find them in Study Bibles or online resources.
14. Use Study Bibles or Bible Commentaries
The authors of the Bible lived in radically different contexts than most of us do. Their cultural context was very distinct from ours. Their historical context is at least two millennia apart from us. That’s why it is hard to understand some of what they wrote.
But don’t let those difficulties discourage you. Good Study Bibles, Bible Commentaries, and other books can help you narrow that gap. But make sure you first study the text on your own before you use those resources. Also, before you choose a Bible Commentary, check if it is compatible with the doctrines of your denomination.
15. Compare Different Translations
There are many excellent English translations available. And, nowadays, you don’t even have to spend money on them. Just install a good Bible app on your smartphone, and there you have them. If you are familiar with biblical Greek or Hebrew, that’s even better.
Use different versions to compare how each group of translators chose to translate the verses you’re studying. Keep in mind that each translation has a different purpose and uses different techniques. Some versions aim to keep the wording similar to the original languages, which makes the final text more difficult to understand by ordinary people. Other versions use more contemporary vocabulary, so the translated text is easier to understand. Comparing versions allows you to read alternative translations of the same verse. That will help you, especially with the biblical interpretation of long and complex sentences.
16. Ask Questions and Seek Answers
A powerful way to study the Bible and getting more from your reading is to ask questions about the text and seek the answers. For example, you can ask:
- What does this Bible passage teach me about God?
- Is there any command here that I need to obey?
- Is there any sin that I need to avoid?
- Is there any promise from God that applies to me?
- What can I learn from this episode that I can apply to my daily life?
These questions will help you find the key lessons from each text. You can come up with your own questions to get more information from the biblical texts.
17. Handwrite Verses
Handwriting verses is not just about simply jotting down the text. So, don’t substitute it for a digital alternative, like copying and pasting the text in a note-taking app on your smartphone. The idea here is to use paper and a pen and handwrite the biblical verse.
Make sure you pay attention to every word you’re writing. Pay attention to the word choice and the structure of the sentence. If you like creative Bible study methods, you can use lettering or other artistic ways of working with the text. You may get new insights from this exercise, even if you’ve already studied that verse.
18. Paraphrase Verses
A great way to get you to organize the information you learned from a verse and test if you understood it is to paraphrase the text. That means you will rewrite the text with your own words. You can do that with groups of verses or passages.
Make sure that you don’t use a single verse that contains only part of a sentence because sometimes long sentences span across multiple verses. Use the whole sentence, even if it takes many verses. Also, do your best to avoid just replacing the original words with synonyms. Rephrase it completely.
19. Summarize What You’ve Read
Summarizing a text is an exercise that can help you have a clear picture of what you’ve learned. As with paraphrasing, it also helps you identify parts of the text that you didn’t understand quite well. It also helps you organize the information in your mind.
When you summarize, you have to find the main points of the text. You need to be objective because the summary must be much shorter than the original. You can summarize a topic, a chapter or a group of chapters, or an entire book. Then you can get into details in a verse or word study.
20. Journal What You’ve Learned
Even if you’re not a fan of journaling, you can still have a journal to record your Bible study sessions and what you learned from them.
You can handwrite Bible verses and write down your summaries or paraphrases. You can also record the information you found in your research from dictionaries, Study Bibles, and Bible Commentaries.
Then, after you meditate on everything you studied about that Bible passage, you can jot down your own insights about the biblical text and the lessons you learned. You will find it valuable when you decide to go back and review that information later.
21. Memorize Verses
Committing Bible verses to memory is a great way to approach God’s Word. It will make it easier to recall important Bible passages when you need them, and it helps to get them to our hearts. When you pray, when you talk to someone, or when you need a word of assurance, those memorized verses will prove especially helpful.
Memorization is an exercise of repetition. So, when you choose a verse or a group of verses to memorize, you need to keep them in your mind. Write them down repeatedly, use them as your smartphone lock screen image, and repeat them to yourself throughout the day.
22. Focus on Life Application Lessons
You can use different Bible study methods, as we’ve seen so far, and you can also use different approaches. You can focus your Bible study not only on learning about God, the stories of the Bible, its doctrines, etc. You can also focus on getting practical lessons that you can apply to your daily life.
You can learn what to do or what not to do from many examples in the Scripture. You can also learn good habits. For example, you can learn to pray by praying the Psalms. That way, your Bible study will not only be about acquiring knowledge, but it will also transform your life.
After you finish the more technical study of God’s Word and you understood the text, you need to meditate on what it taught you. That’s when you internalize those lessons and take them into your heart. You ponder what you need to change in your life to follow the will of God. You think about what you learned about the Lord, how that strengthens your faith and trust in Him. You reflect on how you can serve Jesus Christ and His Church better. And so on.
24. Pray the Scripture
There are many different ways you can pray the Scripture. You can use it as inspiration to learn how to pray, how to talk to God. For example, you can use the Psalms as the basis for your prayers. You will find the psalmists in many different situations, from feelings of extreme joy to deep sadness. Those Psalms will help you talk to God whenever you’re going through similar occasions.
You can also pray that God will help you accomplish what the text is teaching you. Or you can ask Him to help you change something in your life. For example, if you read the text that teaches that we must forgive others, you can pray and ask the Lord to help you forgive those specific people that hurt you.
25. Study with a Group
Individual Bible study time is essential for our Christian life. We need daily alone time with God and His word. However, studying the Bible with other people is also a valuable way to help each other grow in the Word of God and in fellowship.
You can use various methods of Bible study in a group setting. Exchanging ideas and experiences will enrich everyone’s understanding of Scripture.
Every Christian needs quality time with God’s Word every day. No matter if you’re a seasoned or a new believer, you need to study the Scripture. So, try the suggestions in this article and choose your favorite Bible study methods. Remember to ask God’s help, through the Holy Spirit, so you can understand and apply the biblical text to your life.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.