2008 Effective Bible Study Course

This course was taught in the Winter Quarter, 2008 at the Sunset International Bible Institute.

You can listen to all of this study course for free by clicking on the links below.


Lesson 1: Introduction

Bible_Study.jpgOur class began with 49 students present. Of these, 43 are in the classroom, and 6 join us from remote video classrooms in Puyallup, WA and Fall River, MA. Since this was the first class, I lectured on some introductory materials such as:

  • What we hope to accomplish
  • Basic definitions: effective, study, exegesis, hermeneutics, interpretation
  • Attitudes necessary
  • “The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 2: The Goal of Interpretation

spectacles.gifToday we launched into The Goal of Interpretation: to discover the “author’s intended meaning.” Since the Bible was written by about 40 authors over a period of 1500+ years, we have some barriers to overcome – linguistic, historical, cultural, geographical, time and distance, and documentary. We also have our own inherent limits – personal misconceptions and biases, and poor study and thinking skills.
Our method of study will consist of doing research by examining the background, context, grammar and words of each biblical text.
Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 3: Tools of the Trade

j0402355.jpgToday we introduced the basic tools we use in biblical research. These consist of multiple good Bible translations, and various reference books, or their computer software equivalents. It is very important to evaluate the various reference works available based on their date of publication (i.e., age) bias, scholarship, and usability.

The primary areas into which our reference works fall are:

  • Concordances
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
  • Bible Backgrounds
  • Language Studies
  • Other

We briefly review and I make recommendations in each category.
Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 4: Principles of Interpretation, Part I

geometry.jpgToday we covered the 15 “Axioms” of interpretation found in our textbook, Principles of Interpretation, by Clinton Lockhart.

It is important to help the students realize that these “axioms” are self-evident observations about how we communicate and understand all normal human language. (Many have previously encountered axioms when studying geometry in school.) God chose to use human language and human beings to communicate His revelation; therefore, the same basic principles of interpretation apply.

I think many in the class found this a very enlightening presentation and the first time they had been exposed to the concept of actual scientific principles of interpretation.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 5: Principles of Interpretation, Part II

Today we covered some of the more common “Rules” of interpretation. Rules are only extensions of the Axioms we talked about last class period. These rules are also (1) either self-evident or (2) easily demonstrated from everyday human communications. However, Axioms or Rules are insufficient if common sense and a dedication to learning the truth are lacking.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 6: The “Temple Project,” Part I

Today we began to practically apply our Axioms and Rules. We focused on how to do a research project on a Bible subject. Our project was to answer the question, “What was the Temple in Jerusalem like in Jesus’ day?” Today we began our research by finding out what the Bible itself says on the subject. Afterward (Part II) we will turn to the dictionaries and other research resources.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 7: The “Temple Project,” Part II

Herods_Temple_Illustration_098.jpgToday we did Part II of our rather brief study of the Temple as it existed in Jesus’ day. A good Bible dictionary like the New Bible Dictionary or the New Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary have detailed articles describing many of the known aspects of the Temple: its dimensions, buildings, uses, destruction, and significance. In addition, today we spent the last 15 minutes of class viewing a 3-D animation of the Temple area from the iluminasoftware program by Tyndale House Publishers. What a great tool to use after the real research has been done; it truly helped the students visualize something of what the Temple must have looked like!

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 8: How to Read the Bible, Part I


This is the first of 3 class sessions using material from our second textbook, How to Read the Bible for All It’s
 Worth, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. Two basic topics are covered today:

  • Need and Nature of Interpretation – The Biblical text has both eternal relevance and historical particularity (happened at a certain time, place and circumstances). To discover the relevance of each Biblical document to us, we must first discover the message for the original audience. That original message was greatly influenced by their needs and circumstances. Through exegesis we discover the meaning to that first audience. The principles of hermeneutics (application) make it relevant to us.
  • Basic Requirement: Good Translations – The original texts of the Old and New Testaments were written in ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek. Unless we have studied and know these languages, we must use translations into English. This section is a discussion of the nature, challenges, and variables of translation work. We also look at Drs. Fee and Stuart’s biases in these matters, and consider the value of various translations available to us today.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 9: How to Read the Bible, Part II

This is class session 2 covering material in our textbook, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. This lesson has a brief discussion of the various kinds of literature found in the Bible, then advances to a detailed presentation of the characteristics and interpretation of the historical narrative sections in God’s Word.These narrative writings comprise about 40% of the entire Bible, including Genesis, Judges through Esther, Matthew through Acts, and significant parts of several other books.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 10: How to Read the Bible, Part III

Today we briefly consider two more genres, or kinds, of literature found in the Bible: Prophetic Writings and Epistles.

  1. The Prophetic Writings – Isaiah through Malachi, and the Revelation. Sections of other documents such as Matthew 24 and some of the Psalms are prophetic as well. We look at the Hebrew concept of a prophet, then see the role their messages and writings played in their own day. We then look at the New Testament use of the Old Testament prophetic writings.
  2. The Epistles – Romans through Jude. Some of these letters were formal in nature and clearly intended for a wide audience; examples would be Romans, Ephesians and Hebrews. Some are very informal and personal, such as Philemon. The remainder are a combination of doctrinal teaching intended for public reading and personal greetings and references. Ultimately we have to decide how the material in all these letters apply to us today. Some guidelines for this process are given.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 11: The Literary Context of a Passage

To fully understand a Biblical author’s intended meaning in any given passage, we have to know not only the background and general context, but also the immediate context and character of the writing. We look at two areas of immediate context:

  1. Composition – This involves the purpose, outline and logical order of the writing. Key words, phrases and concepts also need to be identified.
  2. Figurative Language – most author’s use at least some figurative language within their composition. It may be idioms, metaphors, similes, hyperbole, or other ways of figuratively speaking. Figurative language in order to communicate and illustrate better the central points of the author. We look at several types of figurative language common in the Bible.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 12: Interpreting Figurative Language

This class will complete our examination of Figurative Language, and then introduce the study of Words. Figurative language is so woven into the fabric of the Biblical text that we often overlook it. Carefully examining the text allows us to recognize the author’s use of it.

The most fundamental building blocks of human communication, and the Scriptures, are words. Since those Biblical words were originally spoken in Hebrew, Greek, or other ancient language, we are learning how to use resources to do word studies.

Here are links to today’s class material:

Lesson 13: The Study of Words

We learn words and word meanings before we learn any other part of language. They are the building blocks for all our verbal communication. In this class we discuss which Biblical words to study, then “learn by doing” a study of three words in Ephesians 3:16-21.At the end of the class we overview the use of commentaries as a part of Bible study.

Lesson 14: Teaching & Communicating Effectively

In this our final class of the course, we discuss two things:

  • How to incorporate the principles of Effective Bible Study into all of our Bible preparation and teaching
  • Ways to teach others to do Effective Bible Study

Some of the topics we cover include collecting resources, keeping the learner’s interest, and teaching methodologies.Here are links to today’s class materials:

“It is my fervent hope and prayer that you have followed us all the way through in this course material, and that it has been a blessing and a benefit to you.” – Richard Cravy