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I will start by describing some methods (and what I dislike about them) for studying the Bible.

Then, I will describe the method I would like to use to study the Bible.

Lastly, I will ask for supporting material for my idealized Bible study method.

What I have tried:

  • reading a fixed # of pages per day:

    This worked well for a while (and read through the Bible a few times) based on this method -- but I ran into the problem of:

    • Old Testament was too slow
    • New Testament was too fast
    • did not get as much "theology" out of it
  • reading books / articles by reformed theologists

    • got a lot of theology out of it (yay)
    • did not like the fact that I was constantly jumping through verses in the Bible
    • feels "digested"

What I would like to try:

  • read a variable # of the pages of the Bible per day, and have supporting commentary that explains the main interesting theological points I should get out of the book/chapter/verse

  • this is something that is "like a concordance" but at a higher level. What I mean is as follows:

    • from a concordance, I get things likes: in this particular verse, the world foo means abc in the context ; in this particular verse, in the time/culture of when it was written, bar means def in the context

    • what I want is something like: this book contributes to developing the doctrine of predestination, verses XYZ relate to this, chapter ABC makes this point, etc ...

  • so I'm looking for something that is "systematic theology"-ish -- but I don't want to jump through verses of the Bible, I want something that develops systematic theology based on the order of the Bible

  • so I want something that is like:

    • in the Book of Genesis, we develop the following theological points

      • point 1 is developed in chapters A, B, C
      • point 2 is developed in chapters D, E, F
    • then, I go off and read the book of Genesis, and reference this supplementary material for the theological points

What is the closest thing that exists?

EDIT: This may be what I want :-)

  • This is a comic of the OT you may or may not like (I made it) Pixton.com/ics:5f8qh5m9#1 – user Sep 6 '14 at 13:43
  • What does OT stand for? – user10620 Sep 6 '14 at 13:44
  • Presumably he means Old Testament, but in this case his use of the term is somewhat misleading. FYI, unless your comment is directed to the author of the question or answer of the post you're commenting on, they won't be notified of your comment without the inlcusion of an @< user name >. – bruised reed Sep 6 '14 at 14:14
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From an Evangelical perspective, I suggest googling "inductive bible study" and having a browse. The reality is that any tool you choose will be 'digested' in some way. The book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart looks at this issue at a meta level - there's a fair bit of useful stuff in there, but it basically in a nutshell, boils the process down to reading whole books multiple times until you can understand the micro (each verse/passage) in terms of the macro (the whole book) bearing in mind that each book itself should be considered in the light of the whole of scripture.

Some study bibles have extensive introductions and section plans for each book that outline the structure, themes, key terms and salient background details that are very helpful in coming to terms with the meaning of the book. A further step is using bible commentaries to help you understand the text at deeper level, but the theological perspective of the author will almost always come into play in a commentary. It wouldn't be my cup of tea personally, but according to your 'yay' for Reformed Theology, I draw your attention to the Reformation Study Bible ESV Version (there is also a a NKJV version and NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible).

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Perhaps you can get a couple of books to grab the major themes of the Bible, a survey of the OT, and a survey of the NT. Jot down the themes you want to study. Also jot down any other themes you want to see developed, especially about Christ and His roles.

Then go through the bible from Genesis on and see how verses relate to the themes. As you do so, write a verse-by-verse breakdown of each chapter to make sure you are reading in context (Gen v1: God created, not nature. v2: the Spirit moves. v3-5: first day - light. Etc; your notes for each verse may be longer or more detailed.) After doing these breakdowns, then write your own commentary on how you see the themes develop. At any rate, make verse breakdowns of every chapter even if you don't see the themes develop.

Jot down the continuity from chapter to chapter and not only within a chapter. You don't want chapter headings and verses to tell you how the story section begins or ends. This will help you in continuity of your themes. What Jesus says in chapter 5 may have started when someone asked a question in chapter 3 or 4, for example. So asking yourself what is the inciting incident for the passage may be helpful.

You should have access to the Greek and Hebrew (many sources online). If you do any word studies, you need to start with the meaning in its context and not derived from a modern English dictionary.

To keep your studies organized, you might make a text or Word file with headings for the themes and put your notes under their heading. (If you have Microsoft 2010 or later, you can highlight the heading and use the ribbon toolbar to set it to Heading1 or Heading2, then it will appear as a clickable link in Navigation at left - View > Navigation Pane - and keep your notes in order.)

This is how I would do it.

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Having been down that road myself, and really looking for something to help me really understand the Bible. I can tell you what I have settled on.

I have on my computer two Bible study programs, both are free downloads, and are excellent study aids.

The one I use the most is 'the Word' downloaded from http://www.theword.net/ it is free and you can also download many Bible translations, Commentaries, dictionaries, books, and other valuable study aids.

The other is 'e-sword' downloaded from http://www.e-sword.net/index.html +It is also free and has many of the same types of additions that the Word has.

I have developed the following process for studying.

  1. you need to determine who is talking, who they are talking to, and what were the circumstances at the time. All of these help to understand the Scripture.

  2. Then you need to read the commentaries on the whole book. I use e-Sword for this since it is easier to navigate, however I Like the Word for choices of commentaries, since there are more available on that site.

  3. Then you need to read the entire book through, before you start to break the book down into chapters.

  4. Next what I do is read each chapter by itself, then read the chapter commentaries, and when reading commentaries it is best to read several different commentaries, since it will give you a far better idea of what others get from the same Bible passages.

  5. After you have a good understanding of the Chapters you may even decide to read the verse comments, and this will sometimes clear up some misunderstandings you have about exactly what is meant.

This may be a little out of what you are looking for since this is a multi year undertaking. I have been using it for over a decade now and am still studying, and learning something new each day.

Hope this helps.

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