During the last several years I have been frequently asked to provide some personal perspectives and general comments regarding the studying and teaching of God's Word in a home Bible study setting. I have always been convinced that home Bible studies are where the “real action” is for committed Christians, so I have taken this opportunity to offer some personal comments and suggestions for such an endeavor.
It should be understood that these brief comments are merely suggestions for teaching the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher and He will teach you in ways that cannot be manipulated nor regulated. His diversity and style are very individual.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding how to prepare for or conduct a home Bible study, but there are some principles which may prove helpful. Because we are all special and unique in God's eyes, He chooses to instruct us and give each of us insight in different ways and at different times. Bible studies are no exception. Let the Spirit of God rule your life and give you His direction as you study (and teach) the Word. Remember that this only consists of basic personal perspectives and suggestions. They are intended to be brief and only suggestive.
A word of caution: Don't get overly focused on a specific method or teaching style; there is no one method that is the ideal. My good friend, mentor, and pastor, Chuck Smith, sums this fact up eloquently: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.”
My personal prayer is that Jesus would reveal and teach His Word to you in ways that you could never have imagined, and that you would take to heart the words of the apostle Paul:
“Let the Word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another...”
The Ultimate Adventure
My professional career has been uniquely blessed and has led me through almost every conceivable adventure imaginable. When my childhood friends were off to college, I received a congressional appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. The Academy experience unveiled an appetite for adventure which I have never lost.
After graduation, when my classmates were receiving their ship assignments, I was able to receive my commission in the Air Force, a coveted option at the time. During the “missile crisis” of the late 1950s, I found myself as a branch chief in the Department of Guided Missiles. As the reconnaissance satellites were creating their turmoil within the global intelligence community, I was in the middle of that program. (I was in the Pentagon, briefing a joint meeting with both the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Department of Defense and the State Department on computer simulations supporting the arms control negotiations in Geneva, when I was whisked back to the West Coast to witness my son being born.) Somehow I always seemed be in the “center of the action,” of whatever was the major issue at the time.
Having completed my graduate degrees in business and engineering, I was recruited into the senior levels of the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. This was in the mid-1960s, the glamorous “heyday” of the automobile industry. These were the days of the Mustang and Twin-I-Beam trucks. As a private salary roll executive, I had a blast. I had an opportunity to participate in the management of a Fortune-500 company, one of the great globe-girdling corporate empires of all time.
In the late 1960s, I had the opportunity to pioneer the development of the first international computer network–a forerunner of the Internet–over thirty years ago. It was fun.
They say it's better to be lucky than smart. Through the “fortuitous” conspiracy of circumstance, I found myself in the boardrooms of some of the most glamourous corporations, participating in some of the most exciting mergers, acquisitions, and projects one can imagine. Yes, it was all great fun.
Over the years I have served as a director of numerous public companies–and was Chairman and Chief Executive of six of them. Four of these were publicly traded defense contractors, serving the most highly classified agencies of our government. Mysterious, challenging, and also great fun.
It seemed that the Lord allowed me to be in the centroid of whatever was the wild adventures of the time. But I was yet to discover the greatest adventure of them all.
The Greatest Adventure
With a life driven by a lust for adventure, it may come as a surprise to discover that my greatest–most exciting–adventure of all came from my hobby! In a career characterized by truly unique opportunities, clearly my most exciting involvement emerged from the most unlikely corner imaginable.
Early in my childhood, I became fascinated by the Bible as the Word of God. Despite my pursuit of a math/science major in a leading high school, I still found time for serious study of the Scripture, and I began acquiring a personal library of commentaries and other resources. Even in my Academy days, I participated in pre-reveille Bible studies.
It was during my graduate work in the information sciences that I realized two profound discoveries that were to change my entire perspective about everything:
- That the Bible, although composed of 66 books, penned by 40 different authors, over thousands of years, is an integrated, pre- designed message system; and
- That the origin of this message system is from outside our time domain. It is truly extraterrestrial in its origin.
The degree of integration of design among the 66 books is astonishing. I don't simply mean that there is a theme in the Old Testament which is fulfilled in the New Testament. It goes far deeper than that. I believe that every number, every place name, even the hidden structures behind the text itself, bear evidence of precise, skillful engineering.
Furthermore, it becomes empirically demonstrable that the origin of this message transcends the dimension of time itself. The record unabashedly records history in advance! The message is thus authenticated by manifesting its extraterrestrial origin.
The implications of these two insights are absolutely staggering. They tower over every other discovery conceivable on the Planet Earth. The reality of this book–as a precisely designed message from the Creator Himself–totally eclipses any other priorities we might undertake.
The challenge for each of us is to blindfold our prejudices and discard our preconceptions, and then discover what the Bible really says, and begin to apprehend its implications for each of us–from the miracle of our origin, to the mystery of our destiny. We discover that there is a cosmic warfare going on, and we are the objects of this invisible conflict. Our own eternal destiny will result from our relationship with the protagonist who emerges victorious! This is wild! What could be more exciting?
This is far more fantastic than the wildest fantasy in literature– and far more intimately urgent than any other priorities on our personal horizons.
You have the opportunity, not only to discover more about all of this yourself, but to share it with those who are also anxious to learn all they can!
Each Bible study session is, in effect, an empirical experiment in the supernatural! Our real teacher is the Holy Spirit, and there is no event that is more staggering in its implications than to experience the moving of the Spirit in revealing some new truth hidden in His Word. And it will happen. It may be some unforeseen insight that emerges as you prepare in private. Often, it will emerge in a discussion within the intimacy of the group. But just watch: it will prove to be among the most exciting experiences possible–the palpable touch of God Himself, right there in the living room!
How I Got Started
Almost 30 years ago, I was asked to consult for the government of Algeria and, as an additional incentive, they paid for my wife and my two boys to accompany me. Having our transportation to North Africa paid, I used some of my consulting fees to extend our trip to include Israel before returning to the U.S. (Obviously, the Algerians didn't know they were financing our trip to Israel!) It was our first trip to the Holy Land, and it was an experience that we'll never forget.
(Everyone should pray about making this pilgrimage. It will turn your “black and white” Bible into living color. Chuck Smith has suggested that a trip to Israel is better than a year in seminary.)
Upon our return, I was asked to speak to the young-married group at our local church in Newport Beach. In reviewing our trip, I added some slides summarizing the prophetic aspects of what was–and soon will be–going on there. For many in the audience, the imminent return of Jesus Christ was a relatively new aspect to their personal horizons, and the vigorous “question and answer” period extended into the late hours. A number of enthusiastic couples asked if we could continue these discussions, so we invited them to come over to our home the following Monday night.
About 30 people showed up that Monday evening, and we reviewed the traditional Scriptures highlighting the return of our Lord. Hal Lindsey's bestselling book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was also a major topic of discussion in those days. Someone asked if we could meet again, perhaps on a weekly basis, to go through Hal's book together. I suggested that I would rather take a book of the Bible–say, the Book of Revelation–and go through that together. Which we did, and in the weeks that followed the group grew, and the rest, as they say, is now history.
After meeting in our home for some months, we shifted from time to time to other homes of those who volunteered to provide the hospitality. As we began to outgrow even the more extensive living rooms, we were eventually invited to move to the Fellowship Hall of Calvary Chapel, which can accommodate over 500. Thus, the weekly “Monday Night Bible Studies” began, and continued for over 25 years. We ultimately were shifted to the main sanctuary which seats over 2,000. (After our relocation to Idaho, we returned to our “home base” on a monthly basis for many years.)
For me, Monday nights proved to be ideal. I was deeply committed to a very active executive career which included frequent travel. Monday nights were, generally, in the “shadow” of the weekend, and I could usually arrange to keep them free of any out-of-town commitments.
Several tape ministries also followed our studies, most notably the tape ministry of the Fire Fighters for Christ. The Fire Fighters made the tapes available without charge, and soon were distributing them all over the world. I would later discover that our “following” from several decades of these studies would later provide the base for our own full time ministry.
The pressure of facing an audience of several hundred people each week was just what I needed to counterbalance the pressures from a demanding executive schedule. I would typically carry a commentary or two in my travel bags, reading during my free moments during the week. On the weekend, I would pull together my notes for Monday night.
It was later that Chuck Smith demonstrated to me how the Lord always blesses situations where His Word is put ahead of all else. That clearly is the secret behind the remarkable growth of the Calvary Chapels, and has certainly been the dynamic behind the growth of Koinonia House. The Lord magnifies His Word even above His own name! (Psalm 138:2)
Some Simple Pragmatics
Our Central Focus
One of the key secrets to a successful home Bible study, in my experience, has been to focus on an expositional study, expounding upon the text. There is a simplicity–and a fruitfulness–to focusing on what God has said in His Word.
One of the alternatives is to take a particular topic, or some popular author's book, as the focus of a special study. This can be effective to address a specific need, or a crisis of some kind– in the marriage, inter-personal relationships, or raising children, etc.
However, without careful and experienced guidance, topical studies can frequently lead to doctrinal divisiveness, and can also impose extreme burdens on the leader if they are to be really fruitful. Furthermore, the appeal will be more narrow and exclusive of many who simply want to “feed on His Word.”
(Many have undertaken group study of my wife's books, The Way of Agape and Be Ye Transformed, and they have proven to significantly change lives and heal relationships. To complement the books, there are workbooks, CDs, and videos available to facilitate such group studies. A Leader's Guide is included in the books, as well.)
For the general interest, an expositional Bible study, addressing a specific book of the Bible at a time, has proven to be one of the most effective means to lay an in-depth foundation that will last a lifetime, and that will ultimately cover “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)
My personal method is simplicity itself. After serious prayer, and having selected a target book for study, I then collect a few selected commentaries on that particular book. I prefer to own my own so that I can mark them up and annotate the margins. Commentaries are not expensive, and they will quickly take their place among your most treasured investments.
A Word About Resources
Do you have a hobby? I suspect that you spend more time and money on your hobby than you are really willing to admit to yourself–or to your wife! You probably know more about that particular subject than you do your profession! It is a labor of love.
Why not make the Bible your principle hobby? Why not invest in it? It does not take much capital to accumulate a basic study library for your own home: a good concordance, a set of Bible encyclopedias (or dictionaries), a Bible atlas, and a growing collection of commentaries. Some of my personal favorites have been included at the end of this brief.
(I also own most of the better known “sets” and yet, while they can be useful, I find the most penetrating insights come from those who have specialized in a particular area or style.)
Another issue is the tempo, or pace, of the study. I have found that for most books of the Bible, a chapter each week is usually about the right pace. This allows some real in-depth exploration without getting too bogged down in too many details or tangents. There are, of course, portions of Scripture–especially in the epistles–that merit a more measured and penetrating pace, but you can lose your group's attention if you don't keep it moving.
To study, I engage in a careful, and repeated, reading of the chapter for the coming week; taking notes as I read. In addition, I simply glean the insights from each of several commentaries, underlining and annotating as I go. It is not difficult to stay a chapter or so ahead of your group. As the day of the study approaches, I prayerfully collect my notes from the annotations in each of my sources. It is not difficult or burdensome to gather enough material to contribute a valid understanding of the chapter to be discussed.
Along the way, some specific topics or issues will emerge which will lend themselves to more specific investigation. This is where some easily available supplemental resources–such as a Bible encyclopedia or dictionary–can be handy.
(As you accumulate extensive notes and clips, etc., some careful forethought in how to file them can prove essential. Some suggestions have been included later in this brief.)
Handling Controversial Passages
There will, of course, be passages encountered that are “problems.” These are generally well-known and well-documented. The easiest way to deal with them is “head on.” Your commentaries will usually outline the alternative views and their implications. You don't have to take sides on controversial material. Simply present the alternatives to your group and discuss them.
Start with a careful exegesis of the passage–determine what the original text really says. You don't need to be skilled in Hebrew or Greek; Most good commentaries will provide the critical insights necessary.
Second, put the passage into perspective with the rest of Scripture as a whole. Be suspicious about any view that isn't confirmed “by two or three witnesses”–other passages which amplify or confirm the view. Always seek “the whole counsel of God.”
(I always listen to Chuck Smith's treatment of key areas–it's pretty hard to do better than this!)
Do some serious background study of basic doctrines, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Tim 2:15) In addition to the basic plan of salvation, the issue of Law and Grace, etc., you should also have a clear understanding of the distinctiveness of Israel and the Church, the basic eschatological scenario, and the spiritual gifts as foundational background.
We also have a “starter set” available which includes a briefing package, How to Study the Bible, in which I detail my own personal preferences and the pitfalls I have experienced. We also offer a Walk Thru the Bible briefing which attempts to provide a strategic overview of the entire Bible which may prove helpful.
As for teaching style, I think there always is a danger of following any rigid “formula.” Many would say that the pattern for a Bible Study should be:
- Exegesis–determining what the original language really said;
- Exposition–explaining what the text means in context;
- Application–applying the insights or principles to our lives.
This is straightforward enough, but be cautious about being shackled too tightly to any particular pattern. Exegesis can be important but can prove tedious unless there is a significant subtlety that needs to be brought out from the Hebrew or Greek, in contrast to the conventional rendering in the available translation.
Immediate Application, while very important, is not the only “end result” of the study. By gaining a strategic grasp of the entire Bible, one gains a context for one's own personal study that will yield a lifetime of insights and applications. Perhaps the most significant long term benefit from these studies is to instill a comprehensive awe and respect for the integrity of the whole, evidences of design of the entire package, and the discovery that Jesus Christ is on (and behind) every detail on every page.
Where to Start?
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “Which book should I start with?” There are many sound answers. Which book interests you the most?
I startle many with the suggestion of starting with the Book of Revelation! It is the only book in the Bible that declares a special blessing on the reader and hearer! No other book singles itself out in that respect. One of the reasons it is always such a special blessing is that a proper review will include supporting passages from virtually every other book of the Bible. (The 404 verses of Revelation include over 800 allusions from the Old Testament!) It puts God's entire plan of redemption into focus–from Genesis to Revelation.
Another sound suggestion is the Gospel of John. It has been said that it is shallow enough for a child to wade in, and deep enough for an elephant to immerse in! No matter how diverse your group–from the novice to the sophisticate–all will benefit from going through this book again. It deals with all of the basics. I have taught it many times–and each time results in new discoveries!
Another sound suggestion is the book of beginnings: the Book of Genesis. This is always a fabulous study. One can deal–or not deal–with the mysteries of creation, etc., but there is also much more. It will lend itself to your own interest profile. The really exciting discoveries aren't the scientific aspects–interesting as they may be–but the discovery that Jesus Christ is on every page! And every doctrine is based there; and every heresy is anticipated there. Great stuff.
Another favorite is the little book of Ruth. A small book, elegant literature, and yet one of the most important books of prophecy in the Old Testament! Many like to jump into the Book of Acts. Others, one of the epistles. You can really start anywhere. Let the Holy Spirit lead you. He always knows best, if you're listening.
But here's another incentive: there is no way to better learn a specific book than to teach it. It will also be like the ship captain who left his little harbor to sail around the world. When he returned, he knew that harbor like he never knew before.
There will, of course, be rough spots in the road ahead. Heresies can emerge if your homework isn't complete. Your group can suffer from a lack of balance if you're not diligent. You will need to manage disruptive discussion cliques, and the like. But prayerful diligence will see you through.
The Role of Prayer
Prayer is, of course, your most formidable weapon. You need to be in prayer continually in preparing for the study; you must always open in prayer; and you need to have a prayer team committed to continuing to hold up the study in prayer. It is a warfare, after all.
A Special Secret
I, frankly, must confess that I have always felt I enjoyed a unique personal advantage in teaching Bible studies. I felt that the three most influential and effective teachers in my own lifetime were Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Walter Martin. Each, in their own unique way, were without equal.
Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, has probably influenced more people regarding the reality of Jesus Christ–and His imminent return–than any other book in recent history. It resulted in Hal being picked as The Author of the Decade by the New York Times.
The late Chuck Smith, in addition to being one of the best loved Bible teachers in America, provided us with a contemporary philosophy of ministry that led to the Calvary Chapel movement, resulting in what is probably, de facto, one of the largest “denominations” in the world. He did this all by putting a primary focus on the verse-by-verse teaching of the entire Word of God, while allowing for the free moving of the Spirit.
Walter Martin, when he was alive, was clearly the most well-known expert in comparative religions in America. His apologetics and defense of doctrinal orthodoxy against the numerous cults and deviations were, and remain, without equal.
One reason I personally felt uniquely blessed is that I have enjoyed an intimate, personal relationship with each of these celebrities for a period exceeding several decades. Hal and I have been “partners” for over 25 years and it was his particular initiative that “recruited” me into the fulltime ministry. Chuck Smith was my personal pastor, served on our Board of Directors, and it was his tutoring, trust and sponsorship over the past several decades that also has led to our present ministry. It was my business partner and I who brought Walter Martin to the West Coast and we served on his board during those early adventurous years of the Christian Research Institute.
I, literally, was personally mentored by each of them. To some degree, my own audacity (or presumption) in leading home study groups derived from this enviable tutoring. However, it may come as a surprise to you to discover that you also can enjoy the same advantage I've had!
You, too, can be tutored by these same teachers–or whomever you personally hold in special regard–through audio and video recordings. By listening while driving, exercising, or cleaning up the workshop, or whatever, you can be personally tutored by the “greats” on your own horizon. Some have told me that they have learned more about the Bible in six months of audio teaching than they did in twelve years of Christian schooling plus seminary!
Here is a secret to personal growth that can truly change your life; a subtle technology which can help you conquer the tyranny of your demanding schedule. In a world of increasing demands on our various roles as parent, spouse, executive, etc., it seems that there is never enough time to accomplish all that we would like to. Even our attempt at prioritizing things seems to get overturned by the intrusions of the “urgent preempting the important.”
One of the most tragic casualties of our modern pace of living is reading and study. With the availability of less demanding media–movies, videos, television programs, video games, computer games, etc.–it is not surprising that time devoted to extracurricular reading is a major casualty in our current lifestyles. And our serious study of the Bible is no exception.
One of the solutions to our enslavement to routine is to harness technology to eclipse some of our habit patterns, and one of the most powerful tools is so deceptively humble that it is easily overlooked: audio recordings. They can be easily fitted into our normal routines: commuting to and from work, while jogging or on a treadmill, while cleaning up the workshop, or on other errands.
It seems that the teaching effectiveness of audio recording appears to bridge the gap between the formidable burden of reading on the one hand, and the passivity of videos on the other.
This can also be a key factor in improving our spiritual growth. In 1996, over 500 pastors responded to a survey: “What do you feel is the major reason Christians do not read their Bible?”
47% Lack of time/too busy
19% Laziness or lack of discipline
15% Not important or relevant
8% Not a priority
3% Don't understand what they are reading
3% Not readers/poor reading skills
Recent studies show that the average American spends 45 minutes a day in the car. If you listened to Bible reading during this time, you could hear the entire New Testament in 24 days and review the entire Bible in 14 weeks. You could also be personally tutored by your favorite teacher on whatever topics interest you.
The Scripture emphasizes, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17 ).” It also admonishes us to “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15, 16).”
The mission of Koinonia House is to create, develop, and distribute educational materials to stimulate, encourage, and facilitate serious study of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. One of the reasons that we have so emphasized audio cassette tapes in our study materials is that they have proven so effective at “redeeming the time” in the caldron of competing demands on our schedules. And you can do this with the convenience–and privacy–of your own routine.
This type of assisted study can prove to be a truly life-changing habit. And it can also help you make up for those “years the locusts have eaten” by helping you in getting “up to speed” quickly in whatever areas the Lord is leading you.
The Whole Armor of God
I think it is essential to recognize that you are in a warfare–a spiritual warfare–and to approach it as a warrior. I suggest an intensive study of Ephesians 6:10-18 is an essential prelude to any undertaking. Twice Paul warns us to “put on the whole armor of God”–not just our favorite pieces. He details seven pieces. What are they?
Realize also that this must be done before–not during–the battle. Study each element in the list and take them seriously.
What does he mean by being “girt about with truth? How do you certify the reality behind today's news? How do you validate the foundational presuppositions underlying your “world view?” How do you recognize–and deal with–disinformation that we are continually bombarded with?
Where do you get your breastplate of righteousness? Are we talking about personal integrity? Or theological justification? Or both?
Are your feet properly shod? What is the “preparation of the Gospel of Peace?” How do you go about it?
Does your shield of faith have holes in it? You must repair it before–not during–the battle! How do you practically go about this?
What shape is your helmet of salvation in? How secure is the believer? Can one lose his/her salvation?
Do you know how to use the sword of the Spirit–the Word of God?
A battle sword requires special training and lots of practice!
And don't forget your heavy artillery: prayer. You have a 24- hour hot line directly to the Throne Room of the entire universe. Learn to use it.
Undertake a serious study of Ephesians 6:10-18. It is an essential prerequisite to any/all spiritual warfare–not just the undertaking of a home Bible study.
Your Personal Library
During my years in the ministry I have often been asked to provide a listing of my personal reference favorites. I have to admit that it is a very difficult decision to provide such a listing since there are so many excellent reference materials available today, in written, audio, video or other electronic formats.
Furthermore, I have been rather self-indulgent in collecting both basic and rare editions over a period exceeding forty years. I have taken the liberty to list here some basic references which I believe are generally sound. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but only to suggest some starting points. Everyone will develop their own personal favorites as their interests develop.
I strongly encourage you to accumulate a substantial personal library. One way to “get serious” about the Bible is to invest in it: develop a personal set of resources that will be at your fingertips whenever you need them. Books are generally not expensive, and you'll be getting into the habit of “taking the Bible even more seriously” as you compile your personal library of reference materials.
Phase 1: Initial List
(Your choice: wear it out and then try another.)
Which version? All versions have their problems. The advantage of the classic King James is that they are well known and documented. I have tried them all, but have returned to my childhood favorite for an unusual reason: Scripture memory. I'm personally glad that I did not commit myself to the various modern versions as they each became the current fad. They all had their advantages (at the time) but soon get eclipsed by the next.
I prefer to do my memory work in a version which I know will be around in future decades–despite scholastic fads. For serious work, you will retreat exegetically–with suitable crutches and aids–to the original Hebrew and Greek anyway. Current computer software makes this a snap.
Strong, James, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, 1890.
Young, Robert, Analytical Concordance of the Bible, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1964.
Halley, Henry H., The Pocket Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Chicago, IL, 1944. Given to me when I was ten years old, it fostered an early serious interest in the Word.
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols), Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1980.
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (3 vols), Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1980.
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975. One of my favorite and most useful background references.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (5 vols), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.
A Good Bible Atlas
(Look them over and take your pick...)
Many good packages are available. Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree are probably the clear leaders for the serious student. Before spending the hefty price tags, however, you should explore The Blue Letter Bible on the Internet. (www.blueletterbible.org) It includes Hebrew, Greek, dozens of commentaries, and totally hypertexted and word searchable, and it is free! If you prefer a free desktop program, look into e-Sword at e-sword.net. It has a number of commentaries and features, along with the option to add other Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. to your collection.
A word of caution: I recommend that you keep your personal notes by exploiting the facilities of your word processing program, not with your Bible software. Bible tools have a way of continually improving and you may want to upgrade or change later without incurring the burden of “transferring” several years of note-taking from some proprietary format.
Phase 2: Commentaries
Complete Commentary Sets
Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; Brown, David; Critical and Experimental Commentary (6 vols), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1948. (My first and still a favorite).
Spence, H.D.M., and Exell, Joseph S., The Pulpit Commentary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1950.
Barnes, Albert, et al, Barnes Notes, Blackie and Sons, London, 1851. (Reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI.)
Keil, C.F. and Delitzsch, F., Commentary on the Old Testament (translated from the German), (10 vols), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978.
Meyer, Heinrich A.W., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (11 vols), T&T Clark, London, 1883.
Individual Commentaries (By Book) Personal Favorites:
- Barnhouse, Donald G.
- Bullinger, E.W.
- DeHaan, M.R.
- Feinberg, Charles L.
- Ironside, H.A.
- McGee, J. Vernon
- Morris, Henry
- Newell, Phillip R.
- Pink, Arthur W.
- Walvoord, John F.
Use all with caution. Remember Acts 17:11!
(Comprehensive bibliographies on each book of the Bible are included with the notes.)
Phase 3: Special and Advanced Interest
Word Studies and Language Helps
Green, J., The Interlinear Hebrew/Greek English Bible (4 vols), Associated Publishers and Authors, Lafayette, IN, 1979.
Wigram, G.V., The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament (Numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.
Wigram, G.V., The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980.
Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), Associated Publishers and Authors, Lafayette, IN, 1981.
Brenton, Sir Lancelot C.L., The Septuagint Version: Greek and English, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1970.
Tregelles, S.P., tr., Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Numerically coded to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.
Wilson, William, Old Testament Word Studies, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978
Vine, W.E., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (4 vols), Fleming H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, NJ, 1940.
Shafer, Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology (8 vols), Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, TX, 1947.
Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G., Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, Ariel Ministries Press, Tustin, CA, 1989.
Botterweck, G. J., & Ringgren, H., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (4 vols), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1980.
Kittel, G., and Friedrich, G., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1976.
Brown, C., Dictionary of New Testament Theology (vol 3), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978.
Couch, Mal, (gen. ed.), Dictionary of Pre-Millennial Theology, Kregel Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996. (Caution! Be careful: I have contributed elements to this one.)
I have found that resources which can yield background on the Jewishness of the Scripture proves invaluable, and is too frequently overlooked in traditional resources. The following have been especially helpful to me.
Santala, Risto, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem, 1992.
Encyclopedia Judaica, Deter Publishing House, Jerusalem, Israel. Stern, David H.,
Jewish New Testament, Jewish New Testament Publications, Jerusalem, Israel.
(I also have collected traditional materials such as the Talmud, and related rabbinical materials, but they have not proven particularly useful except for very specialized studies.)
Bullinger, E.W., The Companion Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI, 1964.
Larkin, Clarence, Dispensational Truth, Larkin Estate, Glendale, PA, 1918.
Edersheim, Alfred, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, William
B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1958.
File Management Tips
As you undertake a serious study of the Bible, it is a lifetime proposition. I like to call this “The Grand Adventure:” your journey of discovery between the miracle of your origin and the mystery of your destiny. Why an “Adventure?” Because it isn't a spectator sport: it's a participation!
As you continue your journey, you will tend to develop areas of special interest and personal discoveries from which you will accumulate notes, references, and the like. You will, of course, want to build your own personal collections of these things. It will prove to be a non-trivial problem to manage your accumulation of notes, favorite quotes, and the like. It will help to start on a sound footing so I have included a review of some filing suggestions.
One of the things that you will soon discover is that alphabetic filing doesn't work well. “A - Z” files are fine for proper names, like people you correspond to, and the like. There is no ambiguity as to where to file “John Jones” or “General Motors.”
But there will emerge a troublesome problem when you start dealing with topics. Suppose you have a special study that you want to save that deals with, say, Russian Nuclear Weapons. Where would you file this? Under “Nuclear Weapons,” or “Russia?” or “Magog,” “Ezekiel 38,” “End-time Prophecy,” the source of the information, or “Uncle Al's Visit last summer?”
There are numerous potential categories that might be appropriate to any specific article, study, or series of notes. That is why most filing systems fail. You can only put one label on any particular file folder. What category will be the likely one you will want to use when you want to retrieve it? And will this label retain its usefulness as your own intellectual horizon matures and builds?
Information retrieval technology has made great strides over the recent decades, and can be an essential aid to the serious researcher. There are many sophisticated systems that could be applied to this type of application. There are relational data base systems, and other advanced techniques that could be applied to problems of this kind.
Fortunately, these need not encumber the average person. Like so many things, you can get 90% of the value with 10% of the effort. In fact, it has been my experience that, given a few fundamentals, the simpler the better.
The primary insight that will result in a workable topical file system is the principle of separating the logical addresses from their physical location. The link between them is known as an index.
When you encounter any item that you want to save, give it an arbitrary file number: “A001” for instance. This is often called an “accession number,” and is usually the next unassigned number in a series. This can be a file folder, 001, under “A” in a drawer; and it can also be a file name under a computer directory.
You now can create a log listing your file item under multiple headings. In our example, your item could be listed under Nuclear Warfare, Russia, Soviet Union, Magog, Ezekiel 38, Biblical Battles, End-time Prophecy, or whatever suits you.
Associated with each entry is the file number, A001.
Biblical Battles A001
End-Time Prophecy A001
Ezekiel 38 A001
Nuclear Warfare A001
Soviet Union A001
This list can provide the “link” between the physical location, A001, and the various potential labels, and is called an index. You can keep such a list manually in an tabbed notebook, card file, or better yet, you will find this easy to organize on any word processing program on your computer. You can simply add references as you go and then re-alphabetize your index at any time.
Be sure to keep multiple copies of your index in more than one place to protect against its loss. It is the essential link to your “data base.”
This use of accession numbers–file references–will yield many advantages. There is no real limit to how many different labels you can put on your “file folder.” Each one increases the likelihood of retrieving it when you need it.
Also, as the occasions arise, you can reorganize your indexes as you and your files mature, and grow in different directions. Your index can be as elaborate as you care to make it.
The file references are also easy ways to reference your special studies within your notes themselves. I have adopted the personal convention of using square brackets, [ ], to identify accession numbers within my own documents. Any time I encounter [F307], I know that it is a reference to one of my special files, either within my word processor, or in a nearby cabinet. (You can physically store your notes by simply assigning their accession numbers as their file names.)
There are many more elaborate ways to build your files on a computer using one of the database systems. There are also “personal note” features that are often built into Bible programs that allow you to link your notes associated with specific chapter and verse references. (This makes it difficult, however, to change, later, to a different Bible program. And they, like everything else in the industry, are always improving.)
However, while I occasionally use these types of aids, I have found it far more practical to stay within my word processor. Most word processing packages have all the features you need to develop your own system, and that way you never have to leave what you are doing. You simply index and file as you go. And you can retrieve what you want, as you go.
[ed. note: If you keep your index on a computer, explore the metadata recording you can do with documents. Both Windows and iOS allow you to record things such as Category, Tag, Subject, etc. as part of the document. For instructions search the internet for “how to add metadata in windows or apple documents”.]
I have also found it useful to develop two special directories within my computer: topical references, and Biblical references. I file topical notes, etc., under a directory “TREF” and Biblical studies under“BREF.” I have found it much easier to simply put specific Biblical annotations and study notes under the book and chapter, such as...
... rather than bothering to link it with my Bible program (which I may want to change from time to time.)
I have collected notes, charts, insights, etc., over a span of 40 years.
I wish I had started with this approach. And you don't need a computer:
a tabbed notebook, or a 3 x 5 card file, will work just fine for your “index.”
As you collect your own favorite items, developing a topical reference indexing system of your own–which can grow with you over the years–can spare you the frustrations inherent in insurmountable collections of scraps and clips stuffed into file boxes littering your garage, inaccessible when you need them.
And you don't have to depend on your memory as to where you put that item you now are so desperately looking for. Browsing your index will highlight it quickly. (There are three things that happen when you get older: the first is you begin to lose your memory. I forget the other two.)
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