Personal Bible Study – 3 Tips for a Deeper Understanding of Scripture

Many people study their Bibles without much of a structured plan. Reading the Bible simply for enjoyment can bring a blessing, but having a structured study plan can bring deeper understanding. Deeper understanding of Scripture in turn can enhance one’s Spiritual walk and act as a doorway to a closure personal relationship with God. These tips will bring rewards both to those new to Bible study and old hands alike. Some of the ideas we will discuss may seem quite simple or obvious, but you would be surprised at how many who count themselves as believers don’t take advantage of these simple tools. Please don’t make the mistake of underestimating the strength of simplicity.

Tip 1 Read your Bible completely from cover to cover.
This sounds like the proverbial no-brainer. You would likely be surprised though at how many who claim to believe the Bible have never taken this crucial first step. Sometimes people will claim to have read the Bible, but in actuality all they have done for years is dip in at random places. This practice is fine for inspiration, comfort or enjoyment but will be found lacking if one really wants to have an understanding of what the Scripture actually says or the coherent story it presents. What book or story do we ever read in this piecemeal fashion? When reading other stories don’t we do so from beginning to end? You needn’t be too overwhelmed by the size of the task. Just read some amount each day, picking up each time from where you last left off. The trick is consistency or reading some each day and/or at regular intervals. This should be done as a crucial first step to gain an understanding of the Bible, even before other types of Bible study if possible. Why not start today? If not now, when?

Tip 2 Look up words in a concordance.
Concordances can be found in both new and used bookstores. There are concordances that can be accessed and used for free on the World Wide Web by anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection. A concordance is a dictionary of sorts. Modern Bibles are translated from older texts which were originally written in other languages. Often the translator had no direct translation for some words so they just “did their best”. Or at times they may have translated a word from the original inconsistently in English. For example did you know that the word ‘Nation’ and the word ‘Gentile’ have the same meaning in the original texts? The translator just made a choice as to when to render it in these two different manners. Sometimes one English word used in different places in Scripture can actually refer to multiple words in the original language. By making use of a concordance one can look up words from verses, trace them back to the original language and discover the meaning of that word in the original language. I have been quite surprised at times to find the original meaning of words the definitions of which I mistakenly thought were obvious in English. Digging into the deeper meanings of words can in turn give deeper understanding to your Bible readings. Can you imagine somebody learning English and never being exposed to a dictionary? Why are we never encouraged to use a similar tool for Bible study?

Tip 3 Follow a keyword from a concordance to all associated Bible verses
Once you find a word in a Bible verse that you want to study and go to look it up in your concordance, you will find a list of verses that have the same word in them. Say for example you want to do a study to gain a deeper understand of the concept of ‘Grace’. When you look it up in your concordance there will be a listing of all the Bible verses that use the word ‘grace’. If you look up each verse and read it in context you will gain a deeper understanding of the Bible’s message and use of the word. This practice may give you a deeper and different understanding of the verse you are currently reading.

These tips form the bare minimum tools and practices I suggest to Bible students. They are simple and easy for anyone to put into practice. I can almost guarantee they will produce a deeper understanding of Scripture and be more practical and useful as study tools than the all too common “hunt and peck/piecemeal” approach that most are putting to use. Be blessed and happy studies.

Closer To Reality: The “Inspired” Bible

Many knowledgeable people, those true believers, acknowledge that theoretically, on paper at least, the concept that the authorized Bible being the inspired word of God Almighty has merit, even if God Almighty Himself is difficult to pin down. Some Doubting Thomas’s however say that this concept is pure bovine fertilizer for a whole host of reasons, not least of which are that the Bible is full of logical contradictions. What follows arises out of a debate I had with an Accidental Meta-physician and true believer which I’ve edited for, hopefully, sake of clarity.

The “Inspired” Bible 1

If the Bible is the absolutely inspired word of God, then God did an absolutely lousy job of proofreading His Magnum Opus. The Bible (and related discards) reads like it was cobbled together by dozens of humans over a lengthy period of time, with lots of copying and plagiarism and alterations and interpretations afoot, with no particular obvious rhyme or reason why some bits and pieces of text were given the stamp of approval (the authorized Bible) and some bits and pieces were excluded. The Bible reads like the first draft of an early attempt at an anthology of interconnected science fantasy stories (complete with unicorns) that doesn’t quite hang together as a cohesive whole. For example, you get at least three different figures on exactly how many of God’s ‘chosen people’ were forced or sent into exile into Babylon.

The “Inspired” Bible 2

Writers and producers of science fiction, science fantasy and dark fantasy (horror) go to all sorts of weird and wonderful lengths to draw the reader (or the viewer) into their worldview. So too I suspect with the numerous human authors of the Bible. I mean Jonah and the ‘whale’ is marvellous dramatic plotting and a sort of “Jaws” story; we all love a good disaster film or story and thus the Noah’s Ark tale or the nuking of Sodom and Gomorrah fits that bill; ditto stories about the underdog coming out on top and the Biblical “High Noon” is your David versus Goliath fable. We also like war stories and so we have an obligatory Battle of Jericho. Another favourite is survival against all the odds and so we have the great unwashed facing off against the wilderness for 40 years. Now take the tale of Jesus missing from his tomb. That too is a marvellous supernatural plotting as were the sightings of his ‘ghost’. I mean just relating a revelation of finding a stone cold rotting corpse isn’t anywhere near as interesting.

The “Inspired” Bible 3

Why is it logical – logic being one of the favourite themes of true believers – to accept holus bolus the bona-fides of an alleged non-fiction text (the Bible) wherein the major players and major events cannot be independently verified? For example, there’s not one single shred of independent evidence that anything that’s related in Exodus ever happened, which is a super anomaly since there should be loads and loads of it. So, it’s not overly logical to accept the events in Exodus at face value, without question, holus bolus. Speaking of logic, logic suggests that Eve must have been a man since ‘she’ derived 100% of ‘her’ genetic material from Adam. In a similar fashion, Jesus must have been a woman since ‘he’ got ‘his’ genetic material from a woman. Logic also suggests that Jonah’s adventure would have been better placed as one of Grimm’s fairy tales! I mean you can’t seriously believe Jonah’s whale-of-a-tale actually happened, not and maintain your logical dignity. Now, in conclusion, can you really name me one Biblical tall tale that features at least of the major players in the Biblical drama, that has been independently verified by Mid and Near East historical scholars and/or professional archaeologists to which there is no room or reason for debate in much the same way as there is no wriggle room about Antony and Cleopatra or the exploits of Alexander-the-Great?

The “Inspired” Bible 4

Most events and most people leave relatively little or no trace at all. But here we’re talking here about the major players and major events in the most influential ‘non-fiction’ book of all time. Biblical events aren’t just any old events. Biblical characters aren’t just any old characters. The Bible raises the bar of expectations. Billions of people past and present believe that the Bible is actual history with actual characters. They deserve to have some actual evidence. If these Biblical characters actually existed, their remains, their grave-sites, would be actual evidence. Alas, such evidence, even dry and dusty bones, are all conspicuous by their absence.

As to those grave-sites, we are talking about the major players in the most famous and best read and best-selling ‘non-fiction’ book of all time and yet no one can tell me where even one of them (like Methuselah) has been laid to rest! Of course I shouldn’t pick on true believers since neither they nor anybody else can tell me either.

However, regarding the final resting place of Moses, look up Deuteronomy 34:6. You get some hardcore geography. Having done that, and having consulted a map, how about making like Indiana Jones, find the site, dig him up, and prove to the world once and for all that Moses wasn’t just a figment of Biblical mythology.

The “Inspired” Bible 5

Regarding the Biblical Ages of Man:

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten” – Psalm 90:10.

“His days shall be an hundred and twenty years” – Genesis 6:3.

Contradiction!

The “Inspired” Bible 6

Believers can quote the Bible as much as they like but for whatever statements quoted like the alleged resurrection of Jesus*, I’d like some 100% independent verification – some other source(s) material. As that Gershwin song suggested, just because the Bible says so doesn’t mean its historical fact. Where is the independent evidence for the existence of Jesus? Where is the independent (Egyptian or archaeological) evidence that the Exodus ever happened? Can you show me the grave-sites of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Joshua, Solomon, David, Ezekiel, Daniel, Goliath, Methuselah, Joseph and Mary, or for that matter any other character in the Bible? Has the grave-site of Jesus himself been identified and independently verified by ancient historians and archaeologists? True, some historical Biblical figures existed, but that’s to be expected since the Bible was written by the locals who would obviously incorporate local flavour into their tall tales. However, and for similar reasons, you’ll get real historical figures mentioned in historical novels like “Gone with the Wind”. That doesn’t make GWTW an historical and believable document.

*Oh, by the way, there is no absolute historical fact about the resurrection since not all scholars or historians agree that there ever was such a person who existed to in fact be resurrected.

The “Inspired” Bible 7

It is not surprising that some of the minor players in the Bible actually existed. I call the Bible “Historical Fiction” not just “Fiction”. After all, the Bible was penned by the locals who lived in the area and would have been aware of the reality of various figures who were incorporated into their tall tales. It’s exactly the same as you’ll find real historical characters in “Gone with the Wind” or in the twin novels “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance”. However, those novels are not exactly the sources one would go to for an overall historical account of the American Civil War or the lead-up to and history of World War II.

Anyway, I’m pleased for true believers that think the Bible is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. On the other hand, knowing that they tend to be on a quest to be closer to the theological truth, they might like to also consider reading “The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible” (1991) by classical historian Robin Lane Fox and/or “Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction” (2009) by classical scholar and anthropologist Eric H. Cline.

IMHO it’s all just myths and fairy tales for grown-ups. True believers know, and I know, that had they been born in a different time into a different culture, say Ancient Egypt, they’d be spouting with total conviction about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the reality of Isis, Horus and Osiris.

The “Inspired” Bible 8

True believers say there are lots of independent (i.e. – archaeological?) verifications for alleged Biblical truths. There is historical integrity within the Bible that has been confirmed or documented, or so they would allege. I wish they would just name one such verification involving a major Biblical character and a major supernaturally-themed Biblical event like Jonah and the ‘whale’ and I’ll be happy to dance around that circle with them. I refer again to those books by Robin Lane Fox and Eric H. Cline.

The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 1

One Biblical anomaly is where did Cain get his wife from? The standard answer is that Adam had “other sons and daughters” quite apart from Cain, Abel and Seth. There may have been inbreeding and incest, but when you gotta breed you gotta breed. Still, I’m not convinced.

“Cain knew his wife” – Genesis 4:17 – which precedes…

“Adam having other sons and daughters” – Genesis 5:4.

We note that Adam begat Seth at the age of 130 – Genesis 5:3 – and post Seth he lived another 800 years (dying at 930 years) and had other sons and daughters – Genesis 5:4. So all those unnamed sons and daughters were post-Seth and Seth was way post-Cain.

So again, where did Cain get his wife from?

The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 2

Regarding Cain’s wife, as just one example, when it comes to the Bible, the left hand (Genesis 4:17) most certainly did not know what the right hand (Genesis 5:4) was doing. In general, readers of Biblical events just get multi-variations on multi-theological themes. So when it come to the Bible you can just about ‘prove’ or theologically back up or even ‘disprove’ any claim you wish to make or refute. But since you’re pontificating over an overall work of historical fiction, I’m not always sure what the overriding point is in doing so. In any event, I’m not convinced until those true believers dish up some sort of independent historical or archaeological evidence that the Bible is historical fact and not historical fiction. The burden of proof is always on those who say something is so, yet proof of major Biblical events by the major Biblical players is always conspicuous by its absence.

The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 3

Unless true believers can provide me with some independent verification that Cain even existed, far less where his wife came from, I’ll just reword my previous comments and say it’s all mythological poppycock. It has as much reality as that of Athena being hatched fully grown from the head of Zeus, or Helen of Troy being the offspring of Zeus mating with a mortal woman by first turning himself into a swan and hence Helen being hatched from out of the resulting egg. The Ancient Greek myths zoomed in and out too but that don’t make them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You’re happy with blind faith. I want evidence, something you are unable to supply. Now, where is Cain (and his wife) buried? Surely if they existed their dry and dusty bones must be somewhere. Where?

The “Inspired” Bible: Job

Okay, here’s a little problem. I don’t believe Job actually existed! How do true believers like the Accidental Meta-physician actually know Job existed? How do they know that all of the events as related in Job actually happened? They weren’t there. They can’t verify one single word of Job – the person or the Book. They are relying on a person or persons who they know absolutely nothing about relating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Perhaps these authors of questionable bona-fides just made all of this up in order to present an interesting story. Has any independent Biblical historian verified all of this? Is there any archaeological conformation of any of this rather tall tale? Can anyone point out the actual location of the final resting place of this alleged Biblical character?

The Accidental Meta-physician quotes Job several times. How does he know for absolute certain that these Biblical quotes attributed to Job are accurate? How does he know the English translation is accurate? Who was the Johnny-on-the-spot writing this down many thousands of years ago? Does anyone know who he (she) was? Was this a case of someone who told someone who told someone who told someone?

According to the “HarperCollins Bible Dictionary” (Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor), the entry for “Job, the Book of” states “Date, place, and identity of authorship are debated.” That does auger well for the accuracy of the Biblical text.

In conclusion, how does anyone know for absolute certain that this Biblical event actually happened in the way and manner described? I say it’s all a work of pure fiction even though I can no more prove that than true believers can prove the contrary. It’s all about faith, not about evidence. It’s not logical to trump faith over actual hardcore evidence. My hardcore evidence backing my point of view is that there is no hardcore evidence!

The “Inspired” Bible: Moses

There’s no independent evidence that Moses ever existed, so there’s no independent evidence that Moses wrote anything. In any event, can true believers tell me where Moses was laid to rest, being such a major player in Biblical terms and all? So here’s Moses, leader of a rag-tag band of 200,000 souls wandering throughout the wilderness – the great unwashed of the times – who stayed with them and guided them through thick-and-thin for 40 years. When Moses dies, just before his motley crowd were to leave the wilderness and enter the Promised Land, did they just threw his body into some shallow and unmarked pit or maybe left his bodily corpse to the local buzzards? [Many of us like to put out food for the wild birds but that’s ridiculous.] That’s not a heck of a lot of gratitude the multitudes showed their fearless leader, old man Moses, did they now?

Actually as noted above, we know from Deuteronomy 34:6 the rough geographical location where Moses was laid to rest. It’s just a matter of some wannabe Indiana Jones finding the site and digging Moses up and thus proving once and for all that Moses actually existed.

Still, I find it amazing that my Accidental Meta-physician spends hours and hours debating historical events, like Cain’s wife and Job and Moses that more likely as not have no actual verified historical reality. He keeps going on and on and on about these Biblical events as if they were carved in stone and available as independent evidence for all to see. They’re not. As an accurate historical text, the Bible has just as much credibility as “Gone with the Wind”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” or “The Last of the Mohicans”. He is however presenting all of this Biblical stuff as though it was all verified historical fact, and that’s not the case, so IMHO he is being more than just slightly dishonest with his reading audience!

Nature’s Bible – The Anti Guru Guru

There’s even a quote in the bible, “as above, so below” and I think it refers to the waistline.

If there was ever a signpost to our spiritual, mental, social, career, family, financial and personal connection to something greater than ourselves, it is the health of our body.

Now, we need to make a very clear distinction. It’s not how our body looks that determines the connection, how big your boobs are, or how small you waist line or how many ripped muscles gint off the moonlight. No, that’s EGO.

Your body is nature’s bible and if you want to hear God, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, Spirit talk, listen to your body.

Got a sore knee? Is that really just a sore medial ligament or are you being stubborn in life?

Got migraine? Is that bad luck or is this blocked inspiration… blocking intuition?

Got the Flu? Is that a virus, need an anti biotic or is your body evolving… adapting… something to embrace rather than conquer?

Got Cancer? Been lying to yourself about something. Deep fear or guilt inside that you’ve thought you’ve dealt with but not?

Got Neck Pain? Judging something or someone but thought they’d never know it?

Listening

In the late 90’s, my colleague an I, (he’s one of the world’s leading Chiropractors and Cranial Behavioural Therapists) created a list of bio feedback signals that turned body awareness into a whole new science.

We listed ailments from constipation right thr0ugh to acne and hair loss and provided our understanding of the feedback we all could translate from those signals. Our body became “our guide” – No need for Holy Books, buildings or Preachers… Your body is the Guru. The Anti Guru Guru.

The Controversy

We shared the book with many communities, including indigenous communities. The stuff hit the fan almost immediately. Power groups including organised religions felt their grip on their “brand” of God slipping and argued against the idea claiming that “if you’re sick, God’s will” or “Your Fault.”

In one far North Canadian community where I’d been doing amazing work with youth and people at risk, my assistant and I got chased out of town by a bunch of radicals. Shot guns and all.. yahooo

The challenge is not so in the physical symptoms but the psychological mental health related bio-feedback.

Take the following examples:

Depression – the body saying change direction, change expectations.

Schizophrenia – split parenting, unchanged.

Bipolar – Two parents who did not collude on what behaviour would earn a child, acceptance.

ADHD – Comes as a result of single pointed focus on one thing, excluding all others, greed.

Alseimers – Regret

Parkinsons – Shame

Obesity – Rejection (self and other)

Multiple Sclerosis – No Self Respect

Tourette – Lacking Trust

And this list went on… controversial on one hand because it places some “responsibility back on the patient” for healing… it also implies a non medical, no psychological intervention in healing. A factor that, for the mainstream was threatening, unscientific and an open door to plagiarism and new age crap.

They were right.

Armed with our science, clients started to “give advice” based on their minimal knowledge – some even set up shop and offered to heal people.

We withdrew the list. Some people made money on the back of it, Like “intuitive healers” and books like “Heal Your Body” flipped the insight upside down. Suggesting the mind can heal the body, but really it’s the opposite, the body can heal the mind.

Insight

If LOVE is the way we connect to the higher forces of creation, whether this be Nature, the Universe, God, Allah or Whatever it’s label, then those things in our own mind that oppose LOVE must, in essence be the places we need to go explore.

It is easy to sit in a Church or Cave and feel all convinced of the Love that comes to bring health to life but, what exists in our mind as we walk just 100 meters from that place of worship, that is what determines our wellness, our connection. And so, it’s the body that sends us insight as to where we’ve blocked the love, for self, other, work, creator or blade of grass.

Saving whales is not love but can be. Having sex is not love, but can be. Work is not love but can be. There are so many avenues for our body to speak, and guide us to where our mind needs healing.

Some Real World Examples:

Marie came to me with her mum. Marie was 17, bone thin, anorexic, depressed and heavily medicated. Her mother was a sophisticated, educated woman, well dressed, elegant and highly intuitive. Since the age of 12 Marie had suffered illness after illness. Her body was wasting. She’d been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, mental health issues, depression, anorexia and more… this was not a good situation, and as always, I was a last ditch effort after all the mainstream had exhausted their options.

When the body goes into withdrawal, it’s a signpost to a mind that’s blocking love. The only question is what judgement has been implanted in that mind, and become stuck. And the amazing thing is, that this judgement is so easily changed, and healed, once it’s detected.

Like a detective in an adventure novel, I simply unravel the case. I go back to 12 to 18 months before the body started changing. I step through every variable, each week, each choice, each event looking for connections.

At the age of 10 Marie was a bring, athletic, inspired girl. Top of her class. By 14 she was ill, weal and depressed. What happened in between those years? With a loving mum by her side, we recounted those trivial moments, that can change a life. Boyfriends… na too big, too obvious. Sport.. na not inspiring enough for Marie… then, wham, we found it. At 12 Marie had to choose between Arts and Science in her education. She chose, or had chosen for her on the basis of her extreme capability in Science, the science stream. I asked Marie, “when you were five years old, what was your dream?”

Her mother replied, before Marie could raise her head, “fashion, she wanted to create a fashion label.” Then Marie lifted her eyes to mine, “I used to live for designing clothes, I loved drawing, sketching, imagining, different materials, different clothing, summer, winter, colours. But, they said my natural talent was science” She lowered her head again. Back to her withdrawn space.

Nothing needed to be said. Tears ran down my face. A young spirit crushed by a school system, a single choice, a lost dream and a family in distress. Her body, Nature’s Bible screaming Psalms from every cell, nobody listening. Till now.

I turned to the mother, and got a nod, a clearance to speak. Marie, what if tomorrow we wound the clock back, got you some education in fashion, mum funded a private sewing room for you to sketch and draw and sew and then create some of your own, and then others, fashion. Maybe a shop eventually after one or two showings and then…. and then…..

Now, you may think I was dangling a carrot in front of a child’s eyes, but that’s not true. I was reading her own heart, and speaking the dream she’d killed, judged and crushed. There was no chronic fatigue, anorexia or mental health problem, her body was simply doing and saying, what nature intended.

“Nature destroys (recycles) anything that does not fulfill its purpose”