TGOC Bible Class Cirricula - How To Study The Bible (1st Quarter) - Lesson # 6 - Methods of Bible Study


  1. There are many methods by which one can approach the same subject. If one were studying the history of the United States, he would have a choice of several different methods. For instance, a study of the presidents of this country could show much about the history of the United States. Or, it could be studied from the perspective of historical periods of the nation (for example, the Depression years). One can easily see that there are different approaches to studying the same subject. 

  2. Likewise, there are different approaches to the study of the Bible. One approach may be a favorite of one and another the favorite of others. However, like the example of the history of the United States, one can learn the most by not confining himself to just one method but by employing a combination of several methods.

Studying By Covenants

  1. Hebrews 1:1 reveals that God has dealt with man under different covenants (Hebrews 1:1,2). God has used different spokesmen and delivered different messages to different ages. 

  2. One may study how God spoke to the fathers and what demands He made out of the patriarchs; then he could notice how God dealt with those living under the law delivered by Moses. Finally, one could study the covenant which God made through His Son, Jesus. 

  3. By studying the covenants from the perspectives of who received it, when it was given and what were the terms of it, one can draw some very important conclusions relative to how one should live today, and some of the eternal principles of subject study: be careful not to make a hasty generalization. It is easy to be careless and draw a conclusion without having surveyed all of God's word on the subject. 

  4. Some have studied the subject of “faith” in God's word and noticed that one is saved by faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8,9), wrongly concluding that faith alone is all that is necessary to save them. The whole of God's word must be taken into account. And, when one studies further he finds that faith must have works of obedience to be a saving faith (James 2:14-26).

  5. Another example is the robber on the cross. Many denominations would point to the robber as their example of how a person can be saved from their sins, but they fail to realize that this man lived under the old covenant - before the terms of the new covenant were given (Luke 24:44-49).

Studying Biblical Characters

  1. Using our original illustration, if one wished to know the history of the United States, then a study of its principal characters could show much about the history of the nation. A study of the principal characters of the Bible can show much about the Bible itself and God's demands of them.

  2. A study of the life of Adam can reveal how man sins, what it does to him, and how God feels about the sins of man (Genesis 3:1-19). 

  3. A careful consideration of the life of Abraham would show what a genuine trusting faith can produce in the life of an individual; and how God used this good man to bring about the greatest blessing on mankind (Genesis 12:25).

Studying A Book of the Bible

  1. Many congregational studies engage in this method of Bible study. It has numerous benefits.

  2. First, the student has an organized presentation of God's word. 

  3. Second, one can study a certain set of circumstances and background to understand the context. 

  4. Third, one can see the value of the whole versus only a part. Those who originally received the message received it a book at a time.

Studying By Chapters

  1. Chapter divisions are the invention of man (modern divisions were the works of Stephen Langton, 1227 A.D.). In most places they break where a new subject is introduced; however, in some places, the chapter divisions are most unfortunate.

  2. When a person studies one chapter at a time, he is able to concentrate more on the context and is able to dig a little deeper into the meaning of a passage. Perhaps it should be suggested at this time that the student would be better served by attempting to determine the beginning and end of a thought in a passage of scripture (in other words, studying by paragraph) and then study that section, whether that passage is longer or shorter than a chapter. Studying by chapter is fine so long as the context is not ignored.


Studying By Words

  1. The study of words is a complicated and yet rewarding way to study.

  2. It has value in that it offers deeper meaning which would not otherwise be gained, but in other ways, it has its dangers.

  3. A word study can only reveal the meaning of a word in its generic usage, only the context can show its actual meaning. When one compares the word and its various shades of meaning with the context, then a more informed conclusion can be drawn. 

  4. One reason for the need to study words is that some languages have limitations, and when attempting to convert the thought of the original language into another, often “something is lost in translation.” 

  5. For instance, the Greeks had four different words for our one English word “love.” Just which word is used in a particular context may reveal an additional lesson. A future lesson will deal further with the point made here. 


Studying By The Synthetic Method

1. This method of studying the Scriptures is a method in which a student will draw from different passages on the same subject (or theme) and put together everything the Bible states on that subject. This is very important because “the entirety (or sum) of God's word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). 

2. We understand the importance of the synthetic method when we attempt to put together the pieces of a puzzle contained in a picture box. We know that just putting the edges of the puzzle together does not give us the full picture. We must continue to put together more pieces in order to reveal more of the picture until we attach the final piece which gives us the complete picture.

3. Let us now consider the importance of the synthetic method of study as it pertains to the essential topic of the plan of salvation (what the Bible calls “obeying the gospel”, Romans 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:17). Because the denominational world does not put together all the data on this subject, a person's soul remains condemned because the denominations are teaching error on how a person needs to be saved from their sins. 

4. For example, many people in the denominational world subscribe to the doctrine that a person is saved by faith alone. They will go to such passages as John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8,9 and falsely conclude that a person is saved by faith alone (notice the word “alone” does not appear in either of these passages). This is not in accordance with biblical truth and reason. It would be equally wrong for a person to cite Acts 11:18 and conclude that a person is saved by repentance alone or to cite 1 Peter 3:21 and conclude that a person is saved by water immersion alone. The fact of the matter is that we are saved by all of them (Acts 2:38; 16:30; Romans 5:1,2; 6:3,4; 10:9,10) because these are the terms (or conditions) that God set forth in order for one to receive the forgiveness of sins. The reason a Biblical writer will state “faith” or “repentance” or “confession” or “baptism” is that he is summarizing the whole process of salvation that an individual must undergo in order to be saved. This common figure of speech is known as a synecdoche (“part is put for the whole”, common examples: “head of cattle” stands for the whole cattle; “breaking of bread” stands for the whole of the Lord's supper, that is, unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, Acts 2:42; 20:7)

  1. Another example of the synthetic method is the Lord's Supper. We are commanded to partake of the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Is the Supper only composed of bread (in light of Acts 2:42; 20:7 mentioning bread alone)? No. Gathering further data from Matthew 26:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26indicates that the Lord’s Supper involves two elements: unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. When are we to partake of it? We learn that the church continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and frequently partook of the “breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42; frequency is implied by the imperfect Greek tense). We learn under apostolic sanction that the church gathered together on the first day of the week for the purpose of partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; “every-first-day-of-the-week gathering” is further emphasized in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). This would mean that they partook of Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (further data that adds significance of Sunday worship is the Lord’s resurrection from the grave on Sunday, Mark 16:1,2).

  2. Another example that can be used with the synthetic method is the organization of the church. How is it to be organized? Is it to be headed by a single man or woman who calls himself/herself pastor? What does God desire and what did He design? Read the following verses to gather information as we use the synthetic method on this important topic: Acts 14:23; 15:6; 20:17,28; Ephesians 4:11-13; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17,18; Titus 1:5-7; Hebrews 13:17; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-4.

  3. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and Hebrews 13:17, we learn that Christians are to follow and obey those who rule over them. Who are these leaders? We must turn to the other Scriptures for the God-given answer (there is one clue though that there is a plurality - “them”, not a singularity). 

  4. In Acts 14:23, On Paul's first missionary journey, he and Barnabas helped to appoint elders in every church. Were these elders to be males, females or both (the word “elder” should give us the hint that these Christians were older)? We have to turn to further passages of Scripture to determine gender.

  5. In Acts 15:6, the apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem to discuss an issue that was raised in the church. The elders play a very important role in the church of decision-making.

  6. In Acts 20:17-38, Paul called for a meeting with the elders from Ephesus. Notice that Paul commands them “to shepherd (pastor)” the flock of God (the church). They are also called overseers or bishops in Acts 20:28 which is related to the same work – elder, pastor (shepherd), and bishop (overseer).

  7. Consider Ephesians 4:11-13. In order to help grow and edify the church, God set forth pastors to shepherd the church. In light of Acts 20, Paul is equating elders to pastors (this is the letter that Paul sends to the congregation to whom he spoke in Acts 20; the word “elders” is not mentioned in Ephesians).

  8. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 contains a list of qualifications of elders/bishops before they can be set forth in the office. This includes the detail that they are to be mature, Christian males who are/have ruled their family well (Paul is writing to the young evangelist, Timothy, who was in Ephesus at the time, 1 Timothy 1:3).

  9. In 1 Timothy 5:17,18, we are instructed not to accuse an elder, except by two or three witnesses.

  10. In Titus 1:5-7, we learn that a congregation is lacking if it does not have an eldership. Paul states in Titus 1:7 that a bishop must have these qualifications. He is equating the same work of an elder to the work of a bishop.

  11. Philippians 1:1 outlines the scripturally organized church of bishops and deacons.

  12. In James 5:14,15, the sick are to call upon the elders of the church.

  13. In 1 Peter 5:1-4, the elders are to shepherd (or pastor) the church of God and to serve as overseers (or bishops).

  14. From all the data gathered together, we learn that a plurality of faithful, male Christians meeting certain God-ordained qualifications were appointed in every local church to be the overseers of their local congregations, enforcing matters of faith and making decisions in matters of opinion. We learn that Christians are to obey those who rule over them (other Scriptures imply the eldership is referenced here in Hebrews 13:17). We put together all of these Scriptures on the organization of the church and we come to recognize that there are many denominational groups that do not follow the pattern of the organization that God desired His people to practice. We learn that the following terms elder, bishop, overseer, pastor, and Shepherd are all referring to the same function. We also ascertained that a plurality of older Christian adult males who have ruled their households well must be mature and wise in the faith and be willing to oversee and watch out for the church and to take care of the church.

  15. In this section of the study, we want to apply the synthetic method to the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is a lot of confusion in the denominational world and tragically in the Lord's church over this subject. 

  16. When we turn to Matthew 3:7-11, Mark 1:6-8, Luke 3:7-17, Luke 24:46-49, John 1:32-34, John 16:5-18, and John 20:19-23, we learn that Jesus is the sole administrator of baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is no other person who will baptize in the Holy Spirit, except Jesus Christ Himself. Why is this important?

  17. First, the Great Commission passages (such as Matthew 28:18-20) indicate that disciples of Christ (not Jesus) were to administer this type of baptism (which means that the Great Commission baptism is not the same as the baptism in the Holy Spirit). 

  18. Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:1-8, 26, 2:1-4, and Acts 11:15-17 indicates that baptism in the Holy Spirit would be given in Jerusalem. Peter reflects back upon this matter (Acts 11:15-17) in seeing that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” was poured out on the Gentiles in a “direct-from-heaven” approach and it reminded him of when he (and the other apostles) were baptized in the Holy Spirit at the beginning (which was in Jerusalem). Notice that this experience was not an ongoing experience.

  19. Luke 24:46-49, John 15:26,27, 16:5-18, 20:19-23, and Acts 1:1-8 specifies that “witnesses” (not all Christians) would receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The witnesses were the apostles since they were eyewitnesses of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (follow the pronouns in Acts 1 and 2).

  20. Luke 24:46-49, John 14:15-18, 15:26,27, 20:19-23 indicates that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is “the promise” of the Father. There is a major difference between water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a promise while water baptism is a commandment (Acts 10:48). Can a person obey a promise? No. This shows a distinction between these two baptisms. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is called by the inspired doctor “power from on high”, which the apostles received in Acts 2:1-4. 

  21. Jesus reveals to His chosen disciples in John 14:15-18, 25-26, 15:26,27, 16:5-18 that another Helper comes to them (they would later become known as the apostles – John 13:1,5). Jesus had already been their personal Helper and now the Holy Spirit would come to their aid. We learn that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth, teach them, and bring everything to their remembrance (John 14:25,26; 16:5-18).

  22. We learn from John 13:1,5, 20:19-23, Acts 1:1-8, 26, 2:1-4, 14, 11:15-17, that this promise of the Father and what John the Baptist prophesied was pointing to the apostles.

  23. We see that baptism in the Holy Spirit was temporary while water baptism is permanent. How do we know this? Paul states in Ephesians 4:4-6 that there is one baptism. What is this one baptism? The Ephesian letter was written around the early 60s A.D. Paul, later on, points out in Ephesians 5:26, “that He (Jesus) might sanctify and cleanse her [the church] with the washing of water by the word” (a clear allusion to water baptism). 

  24. Peter would later write his inspired epistle just a few years after the Ephesian letter. He wrote in 1 Peter 3:21 that “water baptism now saves us.” The baptism in the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of revelation while water baptism is for the purpose of salvation. We are thankful to God the Holy Spirit that the apostles received the “power from on high” so that they would be guided into all revealed truth. As a result, any accountable person can come to know Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior, by obeying the gospel, which includes being baptized in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3,4; Revelation 1:5) 


Studying By The Use of The Old Testament In The New Testament

Recognizing Old Testament Quotations In The New Testament

[Most of the material below is derived from G.K. Beale, Handbook On The New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation]

1.Beale has given a good definition to an Old Testament quotation: “A quotation is a direct citation of an OT passage that is easily recognizable by its clear and unique verbal parallelism.” (Beale, Loc. 737)

2. There are formulas in the New Testament that show them to be Old Testament quotations – Matthew 2:15 and Romans 3:4. It will say something such as: “it is written.”

3. There are approximately 295 quotations of the Old Testament found in the New Testament. That covers 4.5% of the New Testament. That is around 352 verses (Beale, Loc. 754).


Recognizing Old Testament Allusions In The New Testament

1. There are varying views on the precise definition of allusions. However, many are recognizable.

2. A number of allusions found in the New Testament range from 600 to 4,100.

3. One definition that has been given is: “A brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage” (Beale, Loc. 758).

4. The criteria that have been given to show whether a statement is an Old Testament allusion are: (a) availability – source text; (b) volume – degree of verbatim repetition; (c) recurrence – reference in the immediate context to the same OT context; (d) the thematic coherence – illumination; (e) historical plausibility; (f) history of interpretation; and (g) satisfaction.


An Approach To Interpreting The Old Testament in the New Testament

1. Step 1: Identify the Old Testament reference. Ask yourself: “Is it a quotation or an allusion?” by looking back at the definitions and criteria of the quotation and allusion.

2. Step 2: Analyze the broad New Testament context where the Old Testament reference occurs. It is important to view the broad NT context and also look at the immediate New Testament context.

3. Step 3: Analyze the OT context both broadly and immediately, especially the paragraph in which it occurs. Look at the overview of the broad Old Testament context and the immediate Old Testament context. We are to relate the Old Testament quotation to what comes earlier and later in the Scriptures.

4. Step 4: Analyze the New Testament author's use of the Old Testament.

5. Step 5: Analyze the author's hermeneutical use of the Old Testament.

6. Focus on looking at the overview of immediate context.

7. Relate the quotation to other quotations from or allusions to the same OT passage elsewhere in the New Testament.

8. Step 8: Survey possible categorical uses of the Old Testament in the New Testament (see below).

9. Step 9: Analyze the author's thematic use of the Old Testament

(Beale, Loc. 963-971, for all steps)


Categorical Uses of The Old Testament In The New Testament (Beale, Loc. 1,198-2,031)

The New Testament writers used the Old Testament in a variety of ways:

1. To indicate direct fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4). There were prophets who prophesied of a certain event that would occur in the far distant future and it came to pass. In this case, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy.

2. To indicate an indirect fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy (Exodus 12:46; John 19:37). One interesting detail: The Passover lamb's legs were not to be broken. Jesus, who is the true fulfillment of the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 1:29), fulfills this prophecy indirectly when He was crucified. The Roman soldiers did not break his legs because He was already dead.

3. To indicate a typological prophecy (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14,15,17; 13:35; 27:9; John 13:18; 15:25). Sometimes there is a prophecy given where the Holy Spirit ultimately refers to something greater. The context of Hosea 11 refers to the nation of Israel, God's son, coming out of Egypt. The Holy Spirit through Matthew showed that this was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the true Israel, God's Son!

4. To indicate affirmation that a not-yet fulfilled Old Testament prophecy will assuredly be fulfilled in the future (2 Peter 3:11-14; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). God's word is trustworthy and reliable (Titus 1:2). We can trust the word of God because He has not failed in bringing about what He said He would accomplish. Sometimes there are prophecies that have not been totally consummated - because they are reserved for the end of the age. Paul views these prophecies as having already started to be fulfilled (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15); whereas, Peter looks at these prophecies from the standpoint of their future consummation.

5. To indicate an analogical or illustrative use of the Old Testament. Sometimes a New Testament writer wants to use an analogy or illustration to make his point from the Old Testament. Some examples will help to make this clear. 

6. First, there is the ox that should not be muzzled while he is treading out the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4 1 Corinthians 9:9,10). Paul is using this argument to support the work of gospel preachers. Paul is using a “lesser to greater” argument: since animals get paid for the work they do (by being fed and cared for), how much more should those made in the image of God get paid for the work they do! Interestingly, the original context of Deuteronomy 25 refers to justice between human beings. Could it not be the case that this is a proper application then? Yes! 

7. Second, there is an Old Testament figure of “Jezebel” in Revelation 2:20. John wants the readers to recall that wicked woman, the wife of Ahab, who introduced Baal worship to the northern kingdom of Israel. The comparison is that this female false teacher in the church at Thyatira wants the brethren to commit the same sin of idolatry. 

8. Third, there is the comparison of Israel to the church in Revelation 3:17,18 and Hosea 12:1-9. There is a parallel because Israel was haughty and rich during the time of Hosea while they were serving idols. The church of Laodicea was facing the same moral problem that needed to be rectified.

6. To indicate the symbolic use of the Old Testament. Revelation 13 is drawing heavily from the book of Daniel. The animals in the dreams of Daniel are described as the power-hungry evil world kingdoms that arrive on the scene of history one after the other (Daniel 7).

7. To indicate an abiding principle carried over from the Old Testament. In Romans 3:2-4, Paul records certain principles carried over from the old covenant into the new covenant. For example, Romans 3:2-4 is derived from Psalm 51:4, which is in the historical context of David's repentance about his sins toward Bathsheba and Uriah. Paul emphasizes that God's words are true and cannot be overturned. Therefore, a man is judged by God if he tries to attack the trustworthiness and faithfulness of God because God's word can never be changed. Let God be true and every man be a liar!

8. To indicate a proverbial use of the Old Testament. A proverb is a pithy, short saying that is full of wisdom. An example is found in 2 Samuel 8:12; Psalm 60:8-9; 83:6-8; 108:9; Jeremiah 9:26; 25:21; 27:3 with regards to “Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon”. 

9. To indicate a rhetorical use of Old Testament. Some New Testament writers used the Old Testament in this way to ask rhetorical questions(Romans 10:6-8; Deuteronomy 30:12-14).

10. To indicate the use of an Old Testament segment as a blueprint or prototype for a New Testament segment. Sometimes a New Testament writer will draw from a huge portion of an Old Testament passage in order to “model” it in his writing. For example, John draws from Daniel 7 in Revelation 4 & 5. John draws from Isaiah 13 and 14, Ezekiel 26-28, and others in Revelation 17 and 18. He draws from Zechariah 1 in Revelation 6 in regards to the four horses.

11. To indicate an ironic or inverted use of the Old Testament (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). Irony is a figure of speech where what you say is actually quite the opposite. In Deuteronomy 21:23, the criminal who did what was wrong was hanged on a tree. Paul uses this opportunity to tell us that Jesus, who never sinned (Hebrews 4:15), became a curse on our behalf (because hanging on a tree was perceived as being cursed by God). Yet, ironically, Jesus’ crucifixion accomplished the Father's plan of redemption and became the greatest blessing to the world for those who desire the remission of their sins.

13. Studying the Bible by these different methods can certainly cause one to grow in his knowledge of God and His word. As was set forth, at the beginning of this chapter, the greatest knowledge can be gained by not limiting oneself to just one method but a combination of all of them. 

Example – The Letter in 2nd Corinthians

  1. First, locate all the Old Testament quotations and allusions.

  2. What is the main context of the 2nd Corinthian letter? What is it about?

  3. Let us consider one Old Testament quotation in 2 Corinthians:

  4. 2 Corinthians 4:13

  5. This verse comes from Psalm 116:10. 

  6. The context of chapter 4: Paul personally defends himself against false teachers who make false accusations against him. In chapter 3 Paul pointed out that he was a minister of the more glorious new covenant. The false teachers were the Judaizing teachers who were still upholding physical circumcision and the binding of the Old Testament law. They would have held Moses in high esteem. Paul shows that Moses was a great minister of the glorious old covenant, but now there is a more glorious new covenant that has been established in which he ministers.

  7. Paul discusses in chapter 4 (especially 4:7-12) all the persecutions and hardships he has had to endure for the cross of Jesus. He finds “life” in “dying” for the sake of Christ, his Lord. He is grateful that he is willing to selflessly give of himself in order to bring no harm to the Corinthian brethren. Paul then states this Old Testament quotation in 2 Corinthians 4:13. 

  8. Read the whole context of Psalm 116. The writer of the Psalms is going through hardships. This writer is selfless because of everything he is willing to endure. His view of death is that “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:10). That is why Paul's testimony is identical to that of the Psalmist. He knows that it is precious to die in the sight of God for the cause of righteousness. Paul states “we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” (2 Corinthians 4:13,14)

  9. These verses are packed with some great applications on how the New Testament writers use the Old Testament.


  1. Are there different methods used to study secular subjects, like history?

  2. Why would a study of covenants be beneficial?

  3. What is meant by “periods of Bible history?”

  4. What tools would be used in studying a subject?

  5. Why would it be important to study Bible characters?

  6. Of what value would be a book-by-book study of God’s word?

  7. Were chapter divisions a part of the original writings?

  8. How can a study of specific words help one gain a greater knowledge?

  9. What are some categorical uses of the Old Testament in the New Testament?


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