Discipleship Journal’s Best Bible Study Methods, edited by Sue Kline
Sometimes when one is reviewing a book it is just as important to know what the book does not include as it does to know what it does. For example, this particular book on Bible Study methods was compiled from a relatively diverse group of mainstream Hellenistic Christian writers, some pastors of large megachurches like Rick Warren, and others obscure but capable freelance writers, and is perhaps most notable for what it does not talk about concerning Bible Study methods: the need for understanding a grasp of tota scriptura, what the entire Bible says about a given topic, a focus on the continuing validity of God’s laws, or an understanding of the overarching purposes of life and our destiny as the children of God. That is not to say that the book is worthless, or even bad, but rather that even for its modest length of less than 150 pages, its 32 short topics fail to cover some pretty seriously important material, and it would have not have made the book that much longer to cover these topics in at least some fashion. Even so, this book has practical advice on the subject of studying the Bible that would likely be of use to many readers and so it is a worthwhile book despite its limitations.
The contents of this book are very condensed, and this is clearly a sample rather than a full meal when it comes to studying the Bible. Nevertheless, for what it is, it does a good job at introducing the reader to many types of basic study aids and tips on how to profitably study that are most suitable for a beginning student of scripture. The 32 studies are divided into several parts. The first part contains three articles on preparing your attitude as well as Bibles and reference materials to study. The second part looks at the basics of outlining, uncovering, summarizing, analyzing, understanding, and marking scripture. The third part seeks to keep it interesting by adding variety by looking at biblical history, the proverbs, looking at old stories from new angels, role playing, examining references to Creation, viewing the Bible as literature, reviewing the life of Christ, the questions Jesus Christ asked and answered, as well as Christ’s commandments. The fourth and final part of the book looks at application with articles on personal application, the nature of the Holy Spirit, personal paraphrases, learning from biblical personages, engaging in reflective writing and personal meditation, memorizing chapters, and praying the Psalms. Overall, it demonstrates what mainstream Hellenistic Christianity thinks about when they go to scriptures, and what their focus is on–personal application and appropriation first and foremost, with an understanding of historical and biblical context less important or noteworthy and more dependent on outside aids.
Despite the fact that the book has a clear approach to what it includes, and plenty of aspects that are missing, like the need to become better familiar with the Greek and especially the Hebrew, as well as the layers of biblical interpretation that are involved with a Hebrew perspective , this is a book that will help many readers. The articles are small, the list of authors is diverse, from Rick Warren to far more obscure freelance writers, and the authors manage to include some personal details despite the brevity of their contributions. If you are looking for a basic introduction to the Bible that has undemanding tips for how to get more out of personal Bible study, this is a good place to go, as it is a fast read and will give people techniques they can actually use. One can do a lot worse.
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