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Genres In The New Testament

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The New Testament is a collection of 27 books that tell the story of Jesus and his followers. It’s the second half of the Christian Bible. The New Testament was written in Greek and Aramaic, and it’s divided into four sections: the Gospels (the biographies of Jesus), Acts (the story of the early church), Letters (letters from early Christians), and Revelation (the end times). Genres in the New Testament include letters, parables, proverbs, poetry, prophecy, sermons, and stories about Jesus’ childhood.

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Genres In The New Testament

Introduction

It is important that we understand some of the literary genres in the New Testament because it will help us read and interpret them rightly. It is not enough to just read the Bible: we must understand what we are reading.

AN APOCALYPTIC BOOK

Apocalyptic literature is a genre of ancient Jewish and Christian literature that is concerned with the end of the world and the final events of history. The term “apocalypse” comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning an unveiling or revelation. Apocalyptic works reveal how God will destroy evil in the world and restore humanity to happiness, purity and peace.

Apocalyptic literature is called apocalyptic because it often uses apocalyptic imagery to describe these last events. For example, people may be depicted as becoming pale or sickly when they suffer under evil (2 Esdras 5:15-16). The sun may be said to become dark during a time when God appears on earth (1 Enoch 91:2-3; 2 Baruch 56:17-19). Battles between good and evil may be described using images of fire (2 Baruch 34; 4 Ezra 13), lightning (4 Ezra 13), earthquakes that split mountains apart (4 Ezra 1:28) or floods that drown entire cities(4 Ezra 6:34-37).

NARRATIVES

Narratives are stories, and they’re found throughout the New Testament. Narratives are about people and events; they’re also about how these things happen in history or the future.

In Paul’s epistles, we find narratives of his own life and ministry. He tells us how he became a follower of Christ, what happened to him as a Christian, and what he did for God’s kingdom after becoming one of Jesus’ apostles. This is called “Pauline” because it comes from St. Paul (or Saul).

Narratives also appear in other writings such as Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles, which tell us about the life of Christ on earth; John’s Gospel which tells us about his coming back to life physically after being dead; Revelation which gives us glimpses into heaven through visions given by an angel named John (not St. John); Matthew who wrote mostly based on Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth; Mark who wrote using Peter as an eyewitness source for most everything except Jesus’ resurrection appearances; Luke who used sources such as Mark plus other gospels like those written by Matthew & Thomas Aquinas before modern critical methods had been invented yet so we don’t know exactly who wrote them but there was probably some influence from Alexander Pope when he wrote The Rape Of The Lock,’ Lewis Carroll when writing Through The Looking Glass Alice In Wonderland`and Edward Lear`s `The Owl And Pussycat`.

THE EPISTLES

The epistles are letters written by the apostles and other early Christian leaders. They were written to specific churches, or to specific individuals. The epistles can be grouped into three main categories:

  • General epistles (James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John)
  • Pauline/pastoral (Romans through Philemon)
  • Johannine (1 John through 3 John)

THE GOSPELS

There are four gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Gospel of John is the only gospel that was not written by an apostle (that means it wasn’t written by one of the twelve disciples). It was also written by someone who wasn’t Jewish and who didn’t write in Hebrew or Aramaic.

GENESIS 1-11

Genesis is a book of origins—a book of beginnings. It tells the story of how God created the world, how he made it livable for mankind, and how he gradually revealed himself to Adam and Eve. But Genesis also shows us something else: it reveals that people are not meant to be on their own in this world. God wanted there to be a relationship between him and his creation; therefore, he created man in his own image so that they could enjoy a close relationship with him (Genesis 1:26). But after Adam disobeyed God’s commandment against eating from the Tree of Knowledge, mankind lost this privilege (Genesis 3:22-24).

The Bible is an amazingly diverse book, with a variety of genres, voices, and types of literature included within its pages.

The Bible is an amazingly diverse book. It contains a variety of genres, voices, and types of literature that are often overlooked by readers. While there are some similarities between the different books of the Bible, they also include many differences. Some books may be more difficult to understand than others, but all provide valuable insights into God’s plan for us as human beings.

The Bible is not a single book; it is a collection of books (there are 66 in total). These 66 books were written over 1,000 years by 40 different authors who lived in all corners of the world—and yet God’s message still rings out loud and clear throughout all these writings! There are many different genres included within these 66 books: history, poetry and song lyrics from King David who ruled during 1000 BC; letters from apostles like Paul who wrote about his ministry experiences with other churches; apocalyptic visions about end times events (Daniel); genealogies showing how Jesus Christ is related back through Adam and Eve (Matthew) … The list goes on!

Conclusion

Understanding the genres of the Bible is important for helping us understand what we’re reading. As you dig deeper into your study, remember to consider the genre of each book and passage as you look at its meaning.

Genres in the Bible

What Are the Types of Literature Genres in the Bible?

The Bible is not one book; it is a library of sixty-six books that were written over a period of more than 1,500 years by many different authors. These authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit in their thinking and writing. Thus, the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error. It also has the human touch from its authors. Paul is different from David, who is different from James or Moses. So, their style and personality come out to us. These create the marvelous depth and wonder of Scripture and how God chooses to use us when He does not need to.

The Bible is literature, as is any book, filled with many kinds or types of language. It has Law, History, Wisdom, Poetry, Gospel, Epistles, Prophecy, and Apocalyptic Literature.

What is Genre?

How does the literary type or wording in the passage effect the interpretation? A lot, for example in my men’s group the other day, they we talking about the big rivalry football game that was coming up. All the words they used were in English; however their meaning is very different in describing the game of football than the same words used to describe a dance or play or in causal conversations. If some was there listening to the conversion and did not know about football they would be as lost as I was. Because it is all about how we use words, phrases, symbols and descriptions. In English we do this all of the time. In English, we have story, comedy, tragedy, novel, lyric poem, and epic to name a few. In the Greek and Hebrew, we have narrative, law, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, parable, epistle, and even romance. This is very important, as this helps us interpret the meaning of the text and whether it is literal or figurative. And if it is figurative what does the depiction represent.

This is important when determining if we will take a word or phrase as literal. Some are just common sense. When the Bible is referred to as a rock, we do not garden with it; when the Bible is called a mirror, we do not shave with it; when Jesus says He is the Bread…well, you should get the point. Some words are not to be taken literally, but the Bible is still communicating the literal Word of God. How do we determine if something is figurative, a metaphor, or a poetic figure? Usually, the Bible gives a clue in context, such as two or more words that do not go together like LORD and Rock, in Psalm 18:2, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer. In this case, it means “unfailingstrength,” as God is our Strength who does not fail. In this situation, you may need to look it up. Thus the key is, if you come across a word or phrase, assume it is literal, unless it does not make sense or does not seem to fit. Your clue is to pay attention to the context and genre and then look the word up in the various resources, such as a Lexicon, Bible Dictionary or Concordance.

The Basic Genres:

  • History or Narrative: There are stories and the epics and include Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, and Acts.
  • Law: These are the instructions and precepts of God given to us through Moses, such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
  • Wisdom: These are the literature of maxims and sayings such as Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. 
  • Poetry: These are the prose and rhymes such as Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations.
  • Prophecy: These include both major and minor prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
  • Apocalyptic: These are combinations of narrative and prose written in vivid imagery and poetic phrases that are intended to exaggerate for a purpose such as Daniel and most of Revelation. 
  • Parable: These are the sayings of Jesus that are narrative and instructional, contained in the Gospels. 
  • Epistle: These are the letters written to a specific audience that are practical for us today such as Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, Peter, John, and the first three chapters of Revelation. 
  • Romance: These are narrative, written also as love stories, such as Ruth and Song of Solomon.
  • Then, ask how the type of genre (type of literature) shows you the significance and implication of the general overview?
  • How does the type of genre contribute to possible meanings of specific words and then the point of the passage?

Biblical Genres Include

Law: This contains the instructions and precepts of Moses, such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Law is “God’s law”, and is the expression of His sovereign will and character. The writings of Moses contain a lot of Law. God provided the Jews with many laws (619 or so). These laws defined the proper relationship with God, to one another, and with the world (the alien), as well as for worshipping God, governing the people, priestly duties, what to eat and not eat, how to build the temple, proper behavior, manners, and social interaction, etc. The Ten Commandments are often known as “The Law;” so are Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In the New Testament, the “Sermon on the Mount” is considered law and the fulfillment of the law, and Paul’s calls to the church are law in their literature form.

Most Christians have a distorted view of the law and think it does not apply to us. Jesus repeated and affirmed the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. The law points to our depravity and need for a Savior. Without the law, there would be no relationship to God or need for Christ to save us. Christ fulfills the law and thus we are not bound to its curse, but we must acknowledge its role in our lives as the pointer to the Cross and the mirror to our soul.

History or Narrative: These are the stories and the epics, and include: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, and Acts. Almost every Old Testament book contains history. Some books of the Bible are grouped together and commonly referred to as the “History” (Joshua, Kings, and Chronicles); these books tell us the history of the Jewish people from the time of the Judges through the Persian Empire. In the New Testament, Acts contains some of the history of the early church, and the Gospels also have history; Jesus’ life is told as history. Even the Epistles have history as they chronicle events. There is also anther sub-category of narrative called “Romance;” this is narrative written also as a love story such as Ruth and Song of Solomon.

Wisdom: This is the literature of maxims and sayings, including Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Wisdom Literature focuses on questions about the meaning of life (Job, Ecclesiastes) and on practical living and common sense (Proverbs and some Psalms). This literature contrasts our faulty human wisdom to God’s reasoning perfection. Thus, when we live for our own will and not His, we will experience grief and frustration, not because God is vengeful and angry, but because we led ourselves that way out of our pride and arrogance. This literature warns us of our evil nature and desires.

Poetry: These are the prose and rhyme books such as Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Poetry is found mostly in the Old Testament and is similar to modern poetry. Since it is a different language of Hebrew, the Bible’s poetry can be very different because it does not translate into English very well. Poetry that we are used to is usually based on parallelisms, rhythm, or various types of sound mixings, as is our music. Hebrew poetry is based on a tempo of stanzas and phrases re-told differently called “synonymous parallelism”, conveying the same ideas and meaning in contrasting or similar ways. Some called “synthetic parallelism,” also have extra ideas and words inserted.  “Antithetic parallelism” is mostly contrasting stanzas, and is very predominant in Proverbs. Some Bible books are all poetry (Psalms, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), and some books only have a few verses such as in Luke.

Gospel: This word means the “good news” that we received through salvation by the work and life of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. When the Gospels were first written in the first century, it was a brand new form of literature. The four Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John) contain a bit of all the literary types with the primary purpose of expressing faith in Christ and what He has done on our behalf. In these works, the stories are not necessarily in chronological or sequential order, except for Luke. In this type of literature, we find what is called a “Parable.” These are the sayings of Jesus that are narrative and instructional, contained in the Gospels.  Each of the gospels presents the teachings, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus in a distinctive way, but not contradictory, and for a specific audience. Matthew was written to Jews, and Luke to Greeks, both with different ways of reasoning and thinking. Think of the Gospels like the facets of a diamond, giving more depth and meaning.

Parables: These are the sayings of Jesus told in a short story or illustration form that are narrative and instructional; they teach a truth, and are contained in the Gospels. Usually, these are from everyday life examples that may have taken place or may not. At times, such as in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus was possibly pointing to it as He taught. These had a deeper purpose than the face value of the illustration, thus it took some thinking and a desire to learn in order to understand them. Perhaps, He used them to keep people of impiety and without intent of faith from bothering Him; or, perhaps He wanted to challenge the skeptics and people who were unresponsive.

Epistle: This refers to the 21 letters in the New Testament written to a specific audience that are also practical for us today such as Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, Peter, John, and the first three chapters of Revelation.  Epistles are the personal letters from the Apostles to their churches. These letters are both different and similar to the letters of their time. Most challenge the congregation to wake up out of their selfish ways and to concentrate on Christ in specific ways and clarifications. They begin with the names of the writer and the recipient, then a greeting, a reason for the letter, and then the central message or body of the letter; there is usually a closing, just like most letters today.

The epistles deal with concerns and false teachings that needed immediate correction. Some epistles were written in response to questions from the church, or for clarification for another letter, such as II Corinthians. The teachings of the epistles applied to both to the church they were written to, and also to Christians today. However, we need to understand the cultural and historical situation to better understand what is going on, so we do not misunderstand what is being said.

Prophecy means past, present, and future, not just the future. This includes major and minor prophets-Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Prophecy is the type of literature that is often associated with predicting the future. However, it also contains God’s words of “get with it or else.” There are two main types. One is “predictive,” as in foretelling an event, and the other is “didactic,” challenging others to line up morally or to teach a truth. Thus, prophecy also exposes sin and calls for repentance and obedience. It shows how God’s law can be applied to specific problems and situations, such as the repeated warnings to the Jews before their captivity. This is found in the Old Testament books of Isaiah through Malachi, the section of the Bible labeled “Prophecy” by both Jews and Christians. There are over 2000 specific predictions that have already come to pass, hundreds of years after the author’s death!

In the New Testament, prophecy is mainly found in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation. Prophecy has both an immediate call to a given situation, such as the “seven churches of Revelation”, and a predated future to come to pass. That is, it is two fold-a past and a future, both applying to the present. Some predictions are already fulfilled, such as the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and some have yet to come to pass such as sections of Daniel, 2 Peter, Revelation, and the return of Christ.

Apocalyptic: These are combinations of narrative and prose written in vivid imagery and poetic phrases that are intended to exaggerate for a purpose such as Daniel and most of Revelation.  Apocalyptic writing is a more specific form of prophecy. Apocalyptic writing is a type of literature that warns us of future events from which full meaning is hidden to us for the time being. Apocalyptic writing is almost a “secret,” giving us glimpses of what is to come through the use of symbols and imagery. We may not know the meanings now, but time will flush it out. Apocalyptic writing is found in Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

Warning: a lot of Christian writers love to embellish on this subject and give their own version of what will happen. But, the scores of books that have been written in the last hundred years have not panned out in their theories. It is “their” theories, not based on fact or careful study of scripture. The Bible clearly tells us we do not have access to that information; no one will know the time.

Types of Bible Versions

More than 60 English-language versions of the Bible are available today. We can divide them into three broad types:

  1. Word-for-word
  2. Meaning-to-meaning (also called thought-to-thought)
  3. Paraphrased.

Usually the introductory pages of a Bible will explain which of these approaches was used in its preparation.

Three types of translations 

1 The word-for-word versions most accurately follow the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. The King James Version (or Authorised Version) and its modern counterpart, the New King James Version, are both word-for-word translations. You can easily find them in most bookstores or on the Internet.

The accuracy of a version is obviously of utmost importance. Although the King James Version contains some mistakes, to establish sound doctrines, your first choice of versions should be a more literal edition such as the King James or the New King James Version.

2 What about the meaning-to-meaning versions? They can be valuable in putting the Scriptures into more understandable wording. Compare these two meaning-to-meaning versions of the same verse:

Hebrews 2:17-18 (New King James Version)

“Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted”…

Hebrews 2:17-18 (New International Version):

“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

The New International Version explains the point more clearly for most readers today, although the New King James is a more direct translation of the original language. So, when the text is not clear, many times a modern meaning-to-meaning translation can help. The Revised English Bible, the Good News Bible and the New Living Translation are other popular meaning-to-meaning translations.

A meaning-to-meaning translation is also helpful in conveying the point of ancient figures of speech — idioms that would not make sense to us in modern language. Consider the modern American idiom “kick the bucket.” This phrase may not be around centuries from now, and someone translating it then might need to use the word “die” instead. This is a meaning-to-meaning rendering rather than a literal one. Ancient Hebrew and Greek had such expressions as well, and in such cases a meaning-to-meaning translation is very helpful.

Meaning-to-meaning versions use more up-to-date language and they are easier to understand. But remember, they are not the best choice for establishing doctrine or teaching because at times they involve more interpretation, which may differ from what the original writers intended to say.

3 Paraphrased Bibles, such as The Living Bible or The Message Bible, also can be useful. Their goal is to make the Bible even easier to read in modern language. However, be very cautious in working with these kind of translations. Often the authors exercised considerable “poetic license” in interpreting biblical terms and passages according to their own personal religious ideas.

Paraphrased versions can be consulted to better grasp the story flow but should not be relied on exclusively to establish doctrine. Consider them inadequate sources for accurately determining the meaning of any text. I like to use this type of translation for passages in the Old Testament, like the books of Isaiah or the Kings or Chronicles in order to gain better understanding of the story and the characters.

Below is a listing of some Bible versions according to the type of translation they are.

Literal Translations:

(Word for word, most accurate)

  • KJV — King James Version
  • NKJV — New King James Version
  • NASB — New American Standard Bible
  • ASV — American Standard Version
  • RSV — Revised Standard Version
  • King James II Bible
  • The Holy Bible in Modern English
  • YLT — Young’s Literal Translation
  • JPS — Jewish Publication Society

Meaning-to-meaning:

(Remains close to original but with more modern language)

  • Jewish New Testament
  • Knox Translation
  • Today’s English Version
  • NEB — The New English Bible
  • The Bible, A New Translation (Moffatt)
  • NIV — New International Version
  • ESV — The English Standard Version
  • NAB — New American Bible
  • NJB — New Jerusalem Bible
  • REB — Revised English Bible
  • CEV — Contemporary English Version
  • Good News Bible

More Free (or Loose) Translations:

(Paraphrases)

  • CEV — Contempoarary English Version
  • TLB — Living Bible
  • The Amplified Bible
  • Phillips Translation
  • MSG — The Message

Popular Bible Versions

King James Version (1611)

The King James Version is still one of the most popular versions of the Bible having been the standard Bible of the English speaking world for around 300 years since it was first published in 1611. It is a word for word translation that aimed to be as close a translation as possible of the original books of the Bible.

With the discovery of earlier and better manuscript evidence the time had come for updated versions of the English Bible.

The English Revised Version (1885)

Several dozen British and American scholars for over a decade worked on new translation with significant changes from the King James Version. In the Old Testament corrections were made to mistranslations of Hebrew words and in the New Testament a great many changes were made based on better textual evidence. The English Revised Version included British spelling and figures of speech which made it not so popular in the United States.

The American Standard Version (1901)

The American Standard Version was a translation put together by some of the American scholars who worked on the English Revised Version. The translation used American English and differed little from the English Revised Version. The differences were mainly spelling, points of idiom and word-order.

The Moffatt Bible (1926)

One of the first modern language Bible translations.

The Revised Standard Version (1952)

The Revised Standard Version is a revision of the American Standard Version. It was the first translation that aimed to take advantage of the discovery in 1947 of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English (1958)

This New Testament translation was one of the first paraphrase translations of the Bible. J.B. Phillips chose the paraphrase style for his New Testament as it was originally intended for young people to read.

The Amplified Bible (1965)

The Amplified Bible uses the American Standard Version as a base and includes extra words to communicate insights from the original text. 

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

A translation by Catholic scholars based in Jerusalem.

The New English Bible (1970)

The New English Bible was a translation that was by a team of English scholars. It was a free translation communicating the sense of meaning rather than a “word-for-word” meaning. In doing so it was easier to read but sacrificed accuracy in the process.

The Living Bible (1971)

The Living Bible is a paraphrase translation by Kenneth Taylor who translated the Bible into modern language with the intent that even a child could understand its message.

The New American Standard Bible (1971)

The New American Standard Bible is an update to the American Standard Version taking advantange of new manuscript discoveries since the ASV was originally created in 1901. 

The Good News Bible (1976)

The Good News Bible was another free translation using modern English aimed at being easy to read.

The New International Version (1979)

The New International Version was not a revision of any previous translation but a new translation done by an international group of over 100 scholars. They sought to create a version midway between a literal word for word translation and a free paraphrase translation.

The New King James Version (1982)

Thomas Nelson Publishers assembled 119 scholars to work on a revision of the King James Version that replaced archaic English words and phrases with the modern equivalent of those words. It retains much of the accuracy of the King James while being more easier to read.

Jewish New Testament (1989)

An English translation that uses traditional Jewish expressions.

New Revised Standard Version (1989)

A “gender neutral” revision of the Revised Standard Version

Contemporary English Version (1991)

A free translation that aims to read with natural, uncomplicated English.

The Message (2002)

A paraphrase translation

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004)

Like the New International Version it is a translation that tries to maintain a balance between being a word for word translation and paraphrase translation. 

How to Read & Study the Bible

The following information makes a distinction between reading the Bible and studying the Bible.
Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible (as opposed to leaving the studying of it for other times) prepares the reader with a general knowledge of its characters, places and events, along with a familiarity of the text and book order. Though a large book, reading the Bible educates the student with a better understanding of the context for a later more detailed and in-depth study where the benefits of its message become substantial. Reading the Bible is the way to lay a foundation of understanding the Bible, particularly valuable to the new Bible student or the young.

While reading, a particular detail or point may catch your interest. However, in order to continue the flow of the reading, this may be more effective to consider at length during a Bible study session.  As such, make notes as you read to return to those areas that have caught your interest, where other passages, or resources such word studies and commentaries may be useful. 

Helpful tips for reading the Bible:

  • Use a translation that is easy to read.  Word-for-word translations are ideal for Bible study, while meaning-for-meaning (paraphrase) Bibles may be more suited to general reading of the Bible, though with the caution to be aware the accuracy of the text may have limitations and better examined with the former. When reading the Bible a second time, try reading it using a different translation each new time you read it.
  • Use a Bible reading plan that is well balanced. Reading the Bible in order from Genesis may challenge some readers, especially through the areas of ‘the begats’ or the intricate details of the tabernacle and ceremonial laws, etc. A Bible Plan may include a mix of daily passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Proverbs and Psalms to help maintain interest.
  • Read at a set time each day. Reading the Bible in a year takes consistency, and planning a set time to read the Bible helps to maintain that consistency. If you miss a day or two, move on and pick it up at your next opportunity.
  • Highlight verses that are of interest or have personal application. This also highlights verses and passages for later detailed study in greater depth for better understanding the difficult areas. 
  • Read five Psalms and/or one chapter of Proverbs a day to cover those books in a month. There are 150 Psalms (5 books of 30 Psalms each) and 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Reading five psalms a day means it can be read in a month. The Book of Proverbs (a great book for young perople to learn wisdom) can likewise be read in a month by reading a chapter a day.

Studying the Bible

How to Study the Bible (strategies, bible reading programs, suggestions)  

There are two broad ways to study the Bible:

  1. Chapter and verse study of books of the Bible.  

    Studying the Bible a book at a time can help with an understanding of the flow of the history in the Bible. The original order of the Bible books is somewhat different to the order we find in most Bibles today. For example, the original New Testament order places the General Epistles before the Epistles of Paul. Studying the Bible with this in mind can help place the subject matter of the Bible in an organised way that will progressively build a clearer account of the context as you proceed. 
    Use Bible aids such as commentaries and Bible atlases.
  2. Studying the Bible by topic.

    A good approach for new Bible students to cover the fundamental themes and doctrines of the Bible. The Bible Answers Lessons provide a systematic study of the key doctrines of the Bible. Often we have questions about a particular biblical subject or life issue, and these can provide excellent and meaningful topics for studying the Bible by subject. The process of writing and summarising what you study can help reinforce and cement what you are learning in your mind. 

    At different times in our life we might have a particularly hard time with a particular personal challenge or sin. At those times, do a focused study on those issues. Ephesians 5:26 says that we are to be cleansed with the washing of the water of God’s word. Search and study all the verses on that subject.

    Locate other books, study guides and related resources to help you in your battle to you overcome in that area and develop the fruit of the spirit to grow into the graces and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

There are four broad types of content found in the Bible:

Doctrine

History

Prophecy

Christian Living

Points to consider when studying each of these broad types of content in the Bible.


Points to consider to understand doctrine:

  1. Follow the truth where it leads and don’t force the scriptures to match pre-conceived ideas.
  2. Don’t be dogmatic with scriptures where there are multiple possibilities or the scriptures aren’t completely clear. 
  3. Use the best translations and always check the meaning of the Greek or Hebrew for any words that are key to the specific subject you are trying to prove.
  4. Understand the verses that are unclear by comparing them with the easier and clear verses on the same subject.

Why study the vast amount of history in the Bible?:

  • Understanding biblical history helps us to better understand the cause and effects of living God’s way versus the way of sin (The ‘Give’ Way versus The ‘Get’ Way)
  • It helps us to better understand the plan of salvation by the way that God is working through that plan through Israel and the church (Gen. 12:3, 22:18, 28:14).
  • It helps us to better understand the lessons of ancient Israel so we can avoid their sins and mistakes and emulate the good examples (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).
  • It helps us to strengthen our faith in the goodness of God by the way that He has been faithful to Israel and to the church. 


Points to Consider to Understand Prophecy

  • Prophecy is rooted in history. We can better understand the future by better understanding the past. Remember that prophecies are often dual, with a contemporary application as well as an unfolding of a future parallel. By understanding the original, ancient fulfillment we can better understand the future and greater fulfillment of those same prophecies (Isaiah 41:22, Ezekiel 21:14).
  • The modern identity of Israel (in particular) as well as other nations in the prophecies is a major key to unlock those prophecies.
  • Let the Bible interpret its own symbols, and don’t force personal interpretations.
  • The basic outline of prophecy is contained in the Old Testament book of Daniel and New Testament book of Revelation. A solid understanding of these roughly chronological books provides the framework for understanding the books of the major and minor prophets.

Points to Consider when studying the Law of God and its application for the Christian Way of life

  • Always ask the question: “How can I apply this in my life?” An excellent resource for this is the commentary of the Life Application Bible.
  • God is love (1 John 4:18) and He is consistent (the same yesterday, today and tomorrow) so any laws that seem unloving or inconsistent are not that way when studied more carefully.  
  • Understand the progression of God’s giving of laws to His people.

Ten Commandments – Ten broad specific laws

Statutes – Additional specific letter of the law commands

Judgments –  Case laws of using principles behind the laws

Sermon on the Mount & New Testament letters – Spirit of the law


A note worth pondering:
  Of the Ten Commandments, seven of them begin with “Thou shalt not”, and this has led to the idea that the Ten Commandments are negative and restrictive. Why do seven of them start with “Thou shalt not”?

Basically, a negatively written command is limited to addressing a specific class of sin, while all other areas of life are not under the power of that command. The person who refrains from sin, is a free man or woman.  Thus, a negatively written command is in fact a guarantee of liberty for the law-abiding person.

The New Testament reinforces the Law of God by expounding on its principles. As prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, Jesus magnified the law and explemified in in action.  The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable (Isaiah 42:21).

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