Simple Bible Study Tips – Old Testament & New

I’m writing this post to answer a question that has been bugging me since the weekend.

On Friday night, I joined a Bible study with ‘Christians In Sport’ alongside my fellow athletes – national and international – at the Birmingham Grand Prix that took place on Saturday 19th Feb.

The question/my concern was that whilst we all answered ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘heaven, yes!’ to the following questions – Do you want to read the Bible? Do you want to read the Old Testament as well as the New Testament? Do you have unanswered questions about the Bible? – many of us answered ‘hell no!’ to the reality of actually doing what we want to do, i.e. reading and studying God’s word in its entirety.

Why?

Preconceived barriers of the Old Testament being too complicated, too messy, too unrepresentative of a ‘loving’ God, too vengeful. I hear this! But, I wonder whether, despite these barriers, I can still encourage us all to read the OT anyway…

And ultimately, that’s the purpose of this post –

To share some advice around reading the Bible; specifically, understanding the Old Testament.

Why the Old Testament?

  • It is part of the Holy Bible, the inspired word of God. IMO, reading the New Testament without the Old Testament is like knowing half of who God is.
  • The Old Testament is prophetic and a lot of what you read in the New Testament is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Knowing this, when reading the Old Testament, I sometimes ask myself (and God), ‘How can I see Jesus reflected in this text?’ or ‘How can I see this mirrored, revealed or developed in the New Testament?’
  • The Old Testament adds context to the New Testament. The NT authors refer to the OT myriad times. You’ll see quotes throughout the NT that are directly attributed to the prophets and King David in the Psalms. Not only that, the miracles and stories in the NT, such as the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the man with leprosy are all so much more powerful when viewed through the lens of the OT restrictions and perceptions around illness and being ‘unclean’! This context adds value and richness to your NT study.

Here’s my advice…

The Bible Project

Check out The Bible Project! The team deliver simple, short and captivating videos that draw out, in clear, layman’s terms what’s happening in the Bible. They have videos that focus on summarising chapters (Genesis to Revelation); themes (grace, faith, etc.); word studies (character of God, Gospel, witness); context (Jewish perspectives, the Biblical contemporary perspectives) and so much more.

These videos also provide key links between the Old Testament and New Testament and/or between different parts of the Bible that you may not have been able to pick up initially by yourself. They essentially help to fill in the gaps.

“The Old Testament really shines a light on the grace we have been given in the New Testament and there are learnings across it all.”

Quote from a good friend during Zoom Bible Study tonight (22/2/22)

Here’s a short video to get you started from the very first book of the Bible…

Bible Study Tips – SOAP

If you’re new to studying the Holy Bible or would just like some guidance to dive deeper, I love the acronym ‘SOAP’. It stands for Scripture – Observation – Application – Prayer and you can find a full explanation with guided illustration from the Bible verse in the final video of my church’s 3-part Bible Study series, focusing on John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” here.

Bible Study Plans

Check out YouVersion – a free Bible app designed and delivered by Life Church. I am a proponent of a physical copy of the Bible, but I also love that you can study your Bible alongside the YouVersion plans, which can provide you with additional guidance, understanding and context around difficult to understand passages of scripture.

I also love the fact there are more than 2,500 versions in over 1,700+ languages of the Holy Bible on the app (data from blog article on 20.10.21). This means, whether you prefer the olde English King James Version or the down-with-the-kids Message version by Eugene Peterson (one that I’m not a massive fan of, but love the thought-process behind it and also how he came up with this translation as told in Eat This Book: A Conversation in the art of Spiritual Reading) or somewhere in-between – New International Version, New Living Translation, Parole de Vie (Word of Life) – I’m sure you’re beginning to realise there are a lot of options.

N.B. These translations are designed to make the Bible more accessible for all; not to change the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek (and whatever other language(s) the sixty-six books were written in) texts.

Multiple translations also allow you to dive even deeper into a particular verse or passage, especially when using the SOAP method.

Finally, I’m also a fan of John & Lisa Bevere’s MessengerX app for guided Bible study, available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for free in 110+ languages.

Chronological Bible Study Plans

I shared my concern re the OT aversion with my Insta fam and here was one response to why the OT is off-putting…

“I feel the New Testament is more linear which can make it easier to follow.”

I hear that! So, in response, below is a list of several chronological Bible study plans to help you better understand the timeline. You can also buy Bibles that are crafted in chronological order. I don’t know why the original Bible was put together out of order, but I’m thankful other people have gone before us to figure this out so we don’t have to 🙂

A Proverbs A Day

Amongst many pieces of wisdom I’ve learned from my Pa (dad) over the years, this is one of my faves – a Proverbs a day.

There are 31 chapters in Proverbs.

The book was written by purportedly the wisest and richest man on earth (at that time or ever, IDK. I mean, he didn’t invent the plane or the telephone so I’m going to set that as a contemporary label).

Either way, there are many words to live by in his sayings. So, if you’re short on time or don’t know where to start in your Bible study, pick up your Bible (or open the app on your phone) and read the chapter that correlates with that day’s date. E.g. if today is Tuesday 22nd February 2022, I’ll open up Proverbs and read chapter 22.

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (New International Version)

Kid’s ‘Famous’ Bible Stories

I mean, they’re not necessarily ‘kid’s’ Bible stories, so I put a strike through that, but they’re stories that I heard, read and learned about as a child growing up in Sunday school and learning about at King of Kings, my primary school.

A while back, I mentioned the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6 NIV) when speaking with a friend in church, assuming (incorrectly) that he’d heard of the story. He hadn’t. And that’s my bad. Because I made the assumption that these ‘popular’ Bible stories were ‘popular’ when why would they be if you didn’t grow up going to church?!

“I love that [the Old Testament] is portrayed in stories…” – Insta Fam

So, start with the ‘popular’ Bible stories.

Bible Stories in Brief by Katy Goddard (Guardian Article, Feb 2009)

From the Bible Society, this link of ‘Famous stories in the Bible’ includes direct references to the ‘Top ten favourite Bible stories’ and ‘The 100 best-known stories in the Bible’.

Why NOT the Old Testament?

Because I want to share a balanced view on Bible study, I want to share a few of the contentions that came up relating to the Old Testament. I am not going to answer them fully in this post, because the post is already FAR TOO LONG, but I’ll share short responses and perhaps provide fuller responses in the coming days/weeks/months with videos or links to future posts. I hope that’s okay!

Far-Fetched Bible Stories

“…but I think the [OT Bible stories] can make it hard for people to relate to.”

Expanding on this, she wrote, “I remember having a discussion where a few people said they found some of the storylines hard to relate to such as Jonah and Whale or Noah and the Ark because they can come across as far-fetched even compared to the miracles in the New Testament.”

RESPONSE: I’m going to do some research and enquiries into miracle stories in recent history and current times and share them, because I’m also intrigued to see what I discover and how these recent miracles compare to the Old Testament stories. HOWEVER, I would say that one of the wildest miracles or ‘storylines’ in the Bible is surely found in the NT….I mean… the resurrection of Jesus?!

Misalignment between Old & New Testament

“I think some of the scripture isn’t inline with the teachings and actions of Jesus in the New Testament.”

RESPONSE:

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18, NIV)

This requires a more in-depth conversation around redemptive grace, righteousness through faith in Christ and simply, knowing that sin means we are imperfect and human so we can and could never do all the law teaches in the Old Testament. (Read The Book of Romans) It was and is impossible. But Jesus was and is always the answer to our sin and failings. That’s why his blood acts as a sort-of panacea for all our sin.

N.B. I prayed on this a little through the week and created a PDF in response. Download my tips and thoughts below.

A Vengeful God

“Because God is far more vengeful, I don’t want to believe in a God like that I guess.”

I responded to this in my Bible study this week (download above).

A Caveat

I’m not a Bible scholar. I haven’t studied theology. I’m just a Christian who enjoys sharing my experiences and knowledge with others. My Christian faith is a core part of who I am so that’s why I’m sharing this post on my website.

Finally, I’m always keen to have a conversation or answer questions or hear thoughts that disagree with my perspective, if delivered in a non-aggressive way. So… whether you agree, disagree or have any questions, drop me a message.

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