by Aren Haggard
One of my favorite TV shows, maybe you’ve seen it, is Sherlock Holmes. What makes Holmes the famed detective that he is, is his ability to come upon a crime scene and pick up on subtle nuances, ask the right questions, see the things that others miss and put all the pieces together. While none of us will be quite like Sherlock, we can all be great Bible detectives with the right tools and good methods. Below are a few of my favorites that I believe you will find helpful.
#1 Concordances, Commentaries and Parallel Versions
Some will prefer to grab a book off the shelf, which is something I do as well, but if you want all of your information in one place, let me offer a couple of websites. 1) Biblehub.com gives you dozens of parallel bible versions (so you can see how a passage reads in each version), several commentaries for each passage as well as cross references. 2) BlueLetterBible.com is my primary source when I want to know what was said in the original language, and where that same word is used elsewhere throughout scripture.
#2 How to Use Commentaries
Do not, I repeat, do not use commentaries as a be all end all for Biblical interpretation. No matter who wrote them. An appropriate way to use commentaries is to first study a text for yourself, and then see if anyone else is saying the same things you are. If no one is, go and study again just to be sure. Commentaries can also be great tools find information about nuances in the original language (of course cross reference to other tools like Vine’s and Strong’s), discover cross references you had yet to find, and find plausible explanations for things that are giving you pause. Again, commentaries are tools, not scripture. Even some of the finest brethren have been wrong within the pages of their commentaries.
#3 Ask Questions When Studying
Questions are a powerful tool when trying to gain an understanding of the Bible. When I come across a peculiar or oddly specific word I ask myself “Why that word, why not another?”. And after going to my tools and resources 90% of the time I find a Greek or Hebrew word that gives me a deeper understanding of the author’s intent. When I notice a detail that an author chose to include I say to myself “Okay, I know that God doesn’t waste any words, “Why do I need to know that?” Undoubtedly, when I go to my resources I find things like, that name was mentioned because that person later became a Christian, or that detail was mentioned because of a fulfillment of prophecy, or some other telling reason as to why such a detail was included. This list goes on and on as to what questions to ask, here are a few more you should find helpful. “Who is the author speaking to?” “Does this apply to me, and if so how?” “What does the rest of the Bible say on this subject?” “Does my conclusion agree with the rest of scripture?”
I hope you find these resources helpful. My prayer for you is that you will love God’s word, pour over it time and time gain, and discover priceless treasures that will draw you closer to God and give you a better understanding of Him and His will for your life.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. –Acts 17:11