Everything to Know About Bible Study

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How do you start studying the Bible? With so many tools, techniques, and resources, getting started can feel overwhelming.

We want to help. This overview will help you understand the why we should study the Bible. It will also introduce different tools and techniques to help you study well.

Why Should I Study the Bible?

The Bible is the most important book ever written. It has the answers to life’s big questions. The Bible offers instruction and guidance for life’s challenges. And it inspires when we need to find a new path forward.

But there are two more important reasons to study the Bible. We study the Bible to develop a closer relationship with God. And we study the Bible to know how to live in the world today.

Study the Bible to develop a closer relationship with God and Jesus Christ, our Savior

Christians talk about our faith as a relationship with God. Reading and studying the Bible is one way this relationship grows closer and deeper.

God gave us the Bible because he loves us, and wants us to know him. The Bible is where we learn what God is like. It is where we learn how he works in the world. And it is where we discover the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

So if you want to develop a relationship with God, you have to study the Bible.

Study the Bible to know how to live in the world as God’s people

The Bible includes commands for us to obey and principles help us to live wisely. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Bible’s laws and commandments. The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom for all kinds of situations.

God’s commands and wisdom shape our lives. Study the Bible and be equipped to live as his people.

How Do I Study the Bible?

There are several different methods and tools that you can use to get the most out of your experience.

Choose a Bible translation that works for you

There are many different translations intended for different purposes. (Read this article on why we have so many translations to understand some of the differences.) But when it comes to regular Bible reading and study, the most important criterion is to opt for one you will actually use. Consider your reading strengths and comfort levels and pick the translation that suits you best.

Page Options Menu

Try multiple translations

One way to help you select a translation that you can connect with is to read a passage in multiple translations. Let’s review the most popular verse on Bible Gateway, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV)

“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NET)

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)

You can see that each translation is similar, but not exactly. This is because some translations are focused on translating the words of Scripture into English as closely as possible, where others focus on the meaning of the passage.

There isn’t a right or wrong choice, so choose the one that connects with you.

How Bible Gateway Helps You Study the Bible on Your Own

Reading the Bible is an undertaking for anyone. From the size of the Bible alone to finding time to read it can be daunting. It requires dedication, and Bible Gateway helps you break it down.

Reading the Bible

You can read the Bible in bite-size pieces by taking advantage of the Verse of the Day, or we make it easy to read it straight through with a variety of reading plans that you can access on the site or via email.

When we’re reading the Bible, we need to be aware of the context of each passage. To better understand the context, ask:

  • Who is speaking or being spoken to?
  • What caused the event in the passage?
  • When did this event happen?
  • Where did this event happen?

We are very conscious of this, and no matter what single verse you are looking at, you will see a link to “Read Full Chapter” so that you can bring up the full chapter.

Comparing Bible translations

Have you heard of Parallel Bibles? If not, it is a simple concept. Similar to our example above of comparing the single verse, John 3:16 in all translations, you are instead comparing entire translations.

In a printed version of a Parallel Bible, there will be two columns. The column on the left would lay out text from one translation. The column on the right would show the same selection of verses from another version of the Bible.

On BibleGateway.com, you can compare up to 5 versions at once. You can compare multiple English translations, or add in other languages including the Ancient languages. Hit the “Add Parallel” button to the left above the passage area.

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Here you see Psalm 136:1-2 with the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible notes (available under the Resources tab with Bible Gateway Plus).

How to find a Bible reading plan

One of the main features on Bible Gateway are the reading plans. We have more than 15 options with time commitments varying from 10 days to one year. With daily dedication and these reading plans, you can read through the entire Bible within the time frame you’ve chosen.

Depending on the translation you are following, there may be options available to listen as well. Visit the Audio Bible page for all available options.

Memorize Bible verses

Challenging yourself to memorize verses is a way to make Bible study more fun. You can make yourself flash cards. You can use study tools that help you write it out from memory. (Sign up to Memorize 7 Bible Verses in 7 Days.)

There are even apps that make it easy. The Bible Audio App, for example, allows you to listen to the Bible and has features that will repeat a verse or chapter to assist you as you memorize your favorite Scripture passages.

Additional reading:

Follow the footnotes and cross-references in your Bible

You may notice a letter or number next to a word in your Bible that points to another verse or an explanatory note at the bottom of the page. These are essential features that help bring clarity to a passage.

Footnotes give you additional insight into the passage. These footnotes usually explain how translation decisions were made or explain specific words. Sometimes they give alternate translations. They are helpful to review when you are unsure what a passage means.

Cross-references refer you to Bible passages related to the one you’re reading. That relationship might be a quotation or allusion to another passage. it could also show a thematic or theological connection between passages. It might also indicate a parallel passage (one describing the same event) in another book.

Page Options Menu. Check box to open cross-references and footnotes.

To turn on cross-references or footnotes on Bible Gateway, find the Page Options menu above the Bible text and make sure to check the appropriate boxes.

Choose your essential study resources

You should have three resources available to study the Bible most effectively. These are a Study Bible, a Bible Commentary, and a Bible Dictionary.

What is a Study Bible?

A Study Bible is a core tool that helps bring key insights on integral Scripture to the forefront. The notes in a Study Bible contain insights into how to interpret and apply a passage.

There are many different Study Bibles available. Some are thematic in nature. Others include notes from a well-known Bible teacher.

Study Bibles do not usually explain something on every single verse. They provide a broad overview of the themes and topics they were built around. Bible Gateway Plus includes over 25 premium study Bibles to enhance your studies.

What is a Bible Commentary?

A Bible commentary, in comparison to Study Bibles, tends to be comprehensive. Unless you are reading a single volume or an abridged edition, you’ll find detailed exposition for nearly every verse in the Bible. Commentaries tend to be thorough narratives that detail everything you should and could know about a particular passage. In Bible Gateway Plus, you can find 10+ commentaries.

What is a Bible Dictionary?

Bible Dictionaries come in all shapes and sizes. Which one to buy depends on how far along you are in studying the Bible.

Starting with a dictionary that defines key words used in the Bible is the most helpful to start with. It may also include the names of people, themes and definitions of doctrines. Once familiar, you can find dictionaries focusing on more specific themes or the original ancient languages.

What other tools can I use?

There are many other tools available to you. Try using EncyclopediasInterlinear Bibles, and even exploring the original languages.

Bible Gateway has free commentaries, dictionaries and encyclopedias for you to consult as well.

What Other Resources Exist to Help You Study the Bible?

There are several other physical and digital resources available to help you study the Bible most effectively. These include Bible study books, group studies, daily devotionals, Bible study guides, and online resources.

Bible Study books

We recommend two books written by the late Gordon Fee:

Three additional books worth reading are:

What else can I do to learn about Bible study and how to study the Bible?

There are several different kinds of Bible study methods that emphasize different aspects of Bible study. However, all share a focus on observation, application, interpretation, and personal reflection.

  • Inductive Bible Study Method
  • The SOAP Method
  • The TEXT Method
  • The Verse Mapping Method
  • The Topical Bible Study Method
  • The Character Study method

Learn more about all of these 6 Bible study methods you need to know and try.

Find additional Bible study books or topics

Where Do We Go From Here?

Now that you know why studying the Bible matters and have a starting point for how to do it, it’s time to get started for yourself. Read, take notes, journal and find ways that you can regularly engage with the Bible.

Start with the free tools available in Bible Gateway. Sign-up to receive the Verse of the Day or try out a Reading Plan. And when you’re ready to dig deeper, create a free account or join Bible Gateway Plus for access to 50+ resources and features!

Note: The products linked above are published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

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Bible Gateway is the internet's premier Bible reading and research tool. With more than 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages freely available to read, research, and reference anywhere — plus a library of audio Bibles, mobile apps, devotionals, email newsletters, and more — Bible Gateway equips you not only to read the Bible, but to understand it.

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