Bible Nerd: Methodical Study and Tools

I’m totally nerding out right now.

So one of my Bible study quirks has always been that I’m a note-taker. Writing is how I learn; putting pen to paper commits things to my memory in ways that simply listening or watching do not. With that said, I’ve also never cared much for study bibles. They’re helpful tools, but I find that they often make me lazy in actually digging into Scripture and I tend to just take commentary study notes at face value and stay content with just scratching the surface. Instead, I started using large print reference bibles instead, so that passages are cross referenced, but the insights, notes, or what have you come from actual depth of study and prayer and not just allowing some theological scholar to do the leg work for me.

I typically fill a Bible full of notes, underlines, cross references, word studies, etc. in about a year and a half to 2 years’ time. I go through a lot of Bibles.

Let me clarify something- do you need 10 bibles, special pens, highlighters, or notebooks to study the Bible? No! Of course not! Do you need anything other than God’s word? No. But there are useful tools for study and praise God I’ve been blessed to have them.

(I will link to the tools I use below)

So when I was asked to teach a small group Bible study this spring, I immediately thought, I’m gonna need a cleaner Bible.

For me, teaching is learning. The best teachers have always been the ones who are willing to admit gaps in their knowledge, but then dive in to the content to find the answers and lead me to them. So bearing that in mind, I wanted to have space to organize study notes, ask questions, and make observations and cross references. And my current Bible is just about filled. So, I ordered a note taking Bible, and specialty pens.

With the holiday sales and the fact that LifeWay is closing all their brick and mortar stores, that whole purchase was EXTREMELY budget friendly. So, yay for that! And aside from the lesson in grace and patience learned by a really delayed and ultimately failed delivery, it was really exciting anticipating its arrival.

With all of that, I needed some form of organization for all my notes and insights so I adopted Jonathan Edwards’ Miscellanies system. Each thought or insight or Scriptural connection is assigned a number. That corresponding number is written in the margin next to the passage which prompted it. So instead of cluttering the margins with fragmented thoughts, there’s just a bunch of number references to the notebook.

I also employed the inductive study method and developed a key using icons and colors.

This may seem too intense for some people…or most people… But for me, it takes scattered thoughts and brings them into order so that I can process them and meditate in depth on God’s word.

I will read a passage through about 5-7 times. The first time I’m reading for comprehension, just familiarizing myself with the text. The 2nd time, I read it and underline in pencil anything that stands out. This is usually the point where I list broader topics or applications as a miscellany. The 3rd-7th times, I ask the archaeological questions- who, what, when, where, why? And I use colored inks to signify the answers to each of those questions. Finally, I go back to the notebook and address each of the broader miscellanies as meditative subjects and cross reference them with other passages and note my insights.

For my scatterbrained mind, it is a way for me to start broad on the surface level and to get narrower and deeper with each step of study.

The beauty of this is that it can be done incrementally as I have the time and because of the organization, it is easy to just pick up where I left off and I don’t have to chase down lost thoughts or struggle to remember something I had thought was previously important.

So far, this is working well for me and I’ve now read the book of James 7 times in 3 days. Which is pretty impressive considering my lack of time. God is good! And He is faithful in blessing the time I dedicte to studying His word.

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