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is the Bible the most misunderstood book in all history? The most
twisted, distorted, maligned, misrepresented and tied-about book there
is? Because people refuse to believe it means exactly what it says!
Apply these simple basic rules and you will begin to really understand
the plain truth of God's Word!
we? Were we put on earth for a purpose? And what is that purpose? Why
are human lives empty, discontented, unhappy? How may human life become
happy, filled with interest, abundant, successful, prosperous? What is
the real cause of wars, and the way to world peace?
What lies on after death — what is the way to a happy, abundant,
eternal life? No book ever written, except the Holy Bible, reveals the
answers to these fundamental questions of life!
Yet, why do we find such confusion — such disagreement as to what this
book says? Why don't the hundreds of differing church denominations and
sects agree on what their acknowledged textbook says? Why do so many
individuals, capable of understanding almost any other book, say: "I
just can't understand the Bible"?
Study for Yourself
You yourself need to understand how to get the most out of God's Word.
You need to know that God does exist. If you are in any doubt about
this basic point, write immediately for our free booklet Does God
Exist? Before even beginning to seriously study the Bible, you must
realize that your Creator exists.
study, as well as with anything else, there is a right and a wrong way
to accomplish. There are certain rules which, if followed, will give
you a more thorough understanding of God's Word — leave you with fewer
questions, begin to help you think and act as God does because you
understand what He says in His Word.
following rules are not necessarily in order — they are certainly not
all the rules of Bible study — but they are basic and important and
will help you gain the truth from God's Word.
Pray for Guidance
First, before you even open the Bible, you must ask God, in prayer, to
open your mind to His Word in the study that you intend to make. David
was a man after God's own heart — he studied that portion of God's Word
which was available to him in his day. He meditated, thought about and
considered God's laws and His ways. He was close to God in every way,
and yet many times throughout the Psalms we read how David asked God to
guide him in his study, to open his mind, to reveal His truth.
"Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto
the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall
observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy
commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy
testimonies, and not to covetousness. ... Stablish thy word unto thy
servant, who is devoted to thy fear.... Behold, I have longed after thy
precepts: Quicken me in thy righteousness" (Ps. 119:33-40).
Without sincerely and believingly asking God's direction in your Bible
study — without seeking God's Kingdom and His righteousness first
(Matt. 6:33) — Bible study of itself would be ultimately futile. Just
as you can worship God in vain (Mark 7:7), so you can study His Word in
vain! Many wise and intelligent men have made a life study of God's
Word in its original languages, and yet did not understand the depth of
Men like Moffatt, who translated the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, certainly studied God's Word, but did not get the message, did not understand the Gospel.
Even in the introduction to his translation, Moffatt explains how he
feels the Old Testament is a compilation of Jewish literature. Adam
Clarke wrote six volumes of a commentary covering every last verse in
the Bible — yet not by any stretch of the imagination could he be
construed to have understood God's plan.
study and work that men of this intelligence have contributed can be
helpful to us. But not because of any special intelligence that we may
have — only because we have asked God to open our minds and give us His
understanding of His Word.
Formal Education Not Necessary
Do not feel that you have not had enough education, or that you are not
intelligent enough to really study God's Word. God tells us plainly
that it is not the wise, the mighty or the noble that He is calling to
an understanding of His Word now — read I Corinthians 1:25-27.
Take for granted that you do not know of yourself how to understand the
plan of God — that's why you must ask Him to make it plain.
If all that was needed to understand God's Word were brains, then a
vast number of the people of the world would have a thorough
understanding of God's Word! God says, "... They are wise to do evil,
but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jer. 4:22). As long as you know
how to read, you can get down on your knees and sincerely ask God to
guide you in a study of His Word. He will open your mind to understand
things that the most intelligent minds of mankind have not been able to
understand. Prayer will open to you an understanding of God's Word that
Einstein did not have. Prayer will open your mind to understand God's
Word in a way that the graduates of the great universities of the world
are not able to understand.
Prayer — your
contact with God — is important in the beginning of your study of His
Word — His contact with you — or you may spend profitless hours of
studying His Word in vain. The time spent, the verses covered, your
understanding of the depth of the Greek, your memorization of how many
verses there are in the Bible, will be of no avail at the return of
Jesus Christ! Only that part of His Word which you have made a part of
your very character will be of any account!
Heartfelt prayer for God's guidance in your own personal Bible study will insure success!
Attitude Must Be for Self-Correction
This next rule really goes hand-in-hand with the first. Before you rise
from your knees in prayer, you should fully recognize in your own mind
and heart that your purpose for this Bible study is not just to gain
academic knowledge, not only to prove or disprove a certain doctrine or
fact — but to get you closer to the stature of the fullness of the very
character of Jesus Christ. The only way this can be done is for you to
God's Word is written directly
to each of us as an individual — it is personal, direct — and as far as
our achieving salvation is concerned has nothing to do with anybody
else on the face of the earth.
attitude should be the same as Jeremiah's. In fact, since you're going
to be studying the Bible, turn to Jeremiah 10:23 and read two verses
there meaningfully and as part of your prayer. "O Lord, I know that the
way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct
his steps. 0 Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger,
lest thou bring me to noth-ing."
go through this mechanically, really mean it! Don't just do this
because this booklet says to do it, but because you want correction
from your Creator.
Remember, "All scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim.
In order for your attitude to be
proper in your approach to God's Word, turning to one other scripture
would clearly aid you in understanding what your approach should be —
in educating your attitude to be right before you begin. "Thus saith
the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where
is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have
been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is
poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.... Hear the
word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word" (Isa. 66:1-2,5).
This Bible, as originally written, contains the very mind and thoughts
of your Creator God! It is not to be argued about. It is not meant to
be a club to chastise other people with. In other words, if you are a
husband, do not use Ephesians 5:22 as a weapon against your wife — or,
if you are a wife, do not use Ephesians 5:25 as a weapon against your
husband. But each of you as husband or wife should apply Scripture to
The Bible commands you to "study [be diligent] to show yourself approved unto God..." (II Tim. 2:15).
Prove All Things
This third rule is in a way an extension of the proper attitude of
self-correction. Your approach to God's Word should be completely
positive! The example given by the Bereans in Acts 17:11: "These were
more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word
with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether
those things were so" — this was a positive attitude. The Bereans were
not searching the Scriptures to prove Paul was wrong. They were not
negative, angry, bitter.
So if you have heard
something about the Bible that you do not fully understand, your
approach in your own personal Bible study should be to prove that it is
The common misunderstanding of I
Thessalonians 5:21 which says "Prove all things" is that this proof
must entail a deep research into the Hebrew or Greek backgrounds, and
into encyclopedias and historical references, lexicons and musty
historical records. This is erroneous. If your research takes you into
references of this sort, and you are endeavoring to prove positively God's truth, this is perfectly all right — but it is not always necessary.
This word "prove" is positive. That is the one main point of this
particular law of Bible study. But the word itself means "to put to the
test." There are proving grounds on which the modern automobiles
manufactured in Detroit are tested. In the parable Jesus Christ uses
regarding the wedding supper, there is a reference to a man who had
just bought five yoke of oxen. The excuse he gave for not coming to the
supper was that he wanted to "prove" these oxen (Luke 14:19). This is
the same Greek word as used in I Thessalonians 5:21. Yet this man did
not mean that he was going to go to his local library and look up in
some dictionary a description of oxen to find out for sure whether they
were oxen —it meant he wanted to be excused from the wedding supper so
that he might take the oxen out to the field, yoke them up, hook a plow
behind them and find out whether they would be able to do what oxen are
supposed to be able to do. This is basically what God means in I
For example, God commands
us in the book of Malachi to prove Him in tithing. What He wants us to
do is not to technically search lexicons to find out Greek and Hebrew
derivations, but — just as the principle is throughout the entire Bible
— to do what He says to do. "Bring ye all the tithes into the
storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me [test
me] now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the
windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be
room enough to receive it" (Mai. 3:10). This is a positive going
forward, a finding out of what God does say, not a search for error or
Bible Never Contradicts Itself
Make no mistake about it. If the Bible is inspired by God, there can be
no errors in it as originally written. Jesus plainly said, "The
scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). The Bible does not contradict
So if you have difficulty in
understanding any particular scripture — if it seems to say something
different from another scripture, you may just need to study further.
Always remember beyond any shadow of a doubt the principle of rule
four: that God never contradicts Himself. Therefore, either your
understanding of the particular scripture or the translation that you
are reading is incorrect or misunderstood.
Malachi 3:6: "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of
Jacob are not consumed," means what it says. Hebrews 13:8 — "Jesus
Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" — means what it
The very source of truth is God's Word
(John 17:17) — and unless your approach to it, your study of it, is
from this point of view you will never gain any understanding from it.
Let's notice an apparent contradiction appearing in Proverbs 26:4,5.
Verse four reads: "Answer not a fool according to his folly." Yet, the
very next verse tells us: "Answer a fool according to his folly."
Actually, these two verses are not contradictory — but complementary!
The use of either verse — that is, its principle applied to a
particular use — depends on the set of circumstances. Both these verses
contain gems of wisdom that each one of us needs to learn to properly
apply in answering other people's questions.
The last part of each verse holds the key which unlocks the meaning of
these verses — and shows them to be practical, usable and wise
Verse four reads: "Answer not a
fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." The last
part of the verse holds the key: Don't degrade yourself by descending
to his level in an argument! Don't harangue — don't bite back, don't
try to "argue back" — with someone who is obviously trying to stir
The perfect example of this is
found in Luke 20:1-8. Here Christ was teaching in the temple. The
Pharisees came to Him with these words: "Tell us, by what authority
doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?"
Quite obviously, they weren't interested in learning anything — they weren't coming as humble individuals hungering after new knowledge. They were there to argue with Christ!
Notice how Christ handled the situation.
he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing, and
answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he
will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all
the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a
prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
"And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things" (Luke 20:3-8).
Christ answered their question with a question! To answer their
question directly would have only resulted in a verbal battle. An
argument would have ensued. Christ avoided strife by not answering them
according to then-folly.
verse five in Proverbs 26. Again, the last part of the verse holds the
key: "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own
In this case, if you don't answer
his question — if you don't accept his challenge — he is going to think
himself to be wise!
The Apostle Paul had this
problem. False apostles in Corinth were claiming they were the true
apostles of Christ. The congregation was being led astray!
Now was not the time for silence, or clever questions! Now was the time
to smash the contentions — to answer these false apostles.
Start with II Corinthians 11:23 and notice how he answered these foolish men:
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in
labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more
frequent, in deaths oft.
"Of the Jews five
times received I forty stripes save one.... In weariness and
painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings
often, in cold and nakedness."
Paul showed the people he was their true minister. He answered and debunked the claims of these other men.
There is no contradiction! But rather much wisdom in these two verses.
Wisdom we need to apply in our daily lives.
What Does the Bible Say?
Many times our misunderstanding comes from the confusion that this
world causes — from a misinterpretation, a direct twisting of a
scripture to conform to false doctrines.
unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for
light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for
bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in
their own sight" (Isa. 5:20-23). Many who claim to be representatives
of God, the interpreters of His Word, twist and wrest that Word to
their own destruction and the destruction of their hearers.
So always remember to ask yourself — and, answer — the question: "What does the Bible say?"
John 3:6 is a good example of this. "That which is born of the flesh is
flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." This is a very
clear scripture, explaining that flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit.
That's what the Bible says. But that's not what people say the Bible
Sometimes you may have to refer to a
reference work (which we will cover under a separate rule) for
scriptures such as I John 5:7.
Or perhaps a
note in the margin of your Bible will help you understand a scripture
that seems to contradict what you know to be the truth. Take the
example of Luke 17:20-21: "The kingdom of God cometh not with
observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for,
behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Here, the Bible does say,
"The kingdom of God is within you." But here it is only the King James
translation which says this — not necessarily God's exact Word. So,
since it is not clear in the King James translation, other aids are
necessary to find out what it does say.
This leads automatically to another important rule of Bible study.
Which Bible Do We Recommend?
The Ambassador College Correspondence Course rec-' ommends that its
students use the Authorized or King James translation. Many people
The King James Bible is based on
the reading of the majority of the authoritative Greek texts. About 95%
of the known Greek manuscripts agree with the basic text of the King
Some people will argue that
these texts are not the oldest — therefore they cannot be the most
accurate. Some modern critics have found a few variant, corrupt
manuscripts and fragments and suppose these bits and pieces to be more
reliable than the text carefully preserved generation after generation
in common usage. Actually these few fragments amount to less than 5% of
the total texts that have come down to our day. These corrupt texts
were long ago rejected by the Greek world.
The texts modern critics have salvaged from the monasteries in Egypt and elsewhere cannot be elevated — simply because they are "old" — above the thousands of reliable Greek manuscripts carefully preserved in the Greek world.
Of course, Bible translations other than the King James Version are
sometimes helpful. Their modern wording makes certain sections clearer
than the King James. The Revised Standard Version, The New English
Bible, and the Moffatt translation are written in modern English.
Both The New English Bible and the Moffatt translation are not merely
revisions of the King James Version. They are free-flowing
meaning-for-meaning, thought-for-thought comparisons — not the
traditional phrase-by-phrase translation of the KJV.
Where the translators have correctly grasped the thought intended by
the biblical writers, they have produced a remarkably clear rendering.
But without the knowledge of what is the true text, the translators at
times went astray.
Since very few basic
textual errors appear in the King James Version — though it is not
always a perfect or clear translation — it should be used most often
for actual Bible study — as opposed to just reading and scanning for
story flow. (For further information, see the section on Bible Study
Aids at the end of this booklet.)
Check the Context
Context means, con — with, text — text. In order to check the context,
you merely read the texts which come with the text that is in question.
You read the texts before and the texts after. In this example of Luke
17:21, you need to also ask yourself a number of questions regarding
the context. The text that is with (con) Luke 17:21, is Luke 17:20!
This verse just before answers the question regarding verse 21, but in
order to answer that question you must ask yourself the question, "Who?"
In other words, you must ask yourself: if "the Kingdom of God is within
you" — who is the "you" that the Bible is referring to? In this case
verse 20 explains that it is the Pharisees! Certainly you know Jesus
Christ wasn't saying that the Kingdom of God is inside of Pharisees!
Therefore, the con (with) text helps you to see that there must be a
mistranslation in this particular verse.
sure enough, when you check the margin of your Bible, you will find
that the word "within" should be better translated "among" — referring
to Jesus Himself as a representative of God's Kingdom who was at that
time "among" the Pharisees!
In order to
understand any scripture thoroughly, in its context, you need to ask
yourself — and answer for yourself — all the following questions: What?
When? Where? Why? Who? How? When you have answered these questions
regarding any particular text, and you have read all of the
accompanying texts, with the text in question, you will have God's
answer to the problem.
misunderstand Mark 7:19 — thinking that in this place unclean meats
were cleansed by Christ — simply because they do not read the context.
In this case the context is the entire chapter. You must go back from
verse 19, until you begin to find the subject about which verse 19 is
talking. That subject has to do with whether or not to wash your hands
ceremonially before you eat, and has nothing to do with whether the
food you eat is clean or unclean according to the laws of Leviticus 11
and Deuteronomy 14.
(For more information
about biblical dietary laws, send for your free copy of "Is All Animal
Flesh Good Food?")
There are even lies
written in the Bible, and you have to be careful that you ask yourself
exactly what the Bible says in the entirety of the context of any one
statement. The Bible says, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). This
is a biblical statement! But in order to find out whether it's true or
not you have to find out who said it. In this particular case, the same
verse explains that Satan the devil said it, but in order to find out
whether it is true or not (because sometimes even Satan tells the
truth), you have to go back in the context until you come to Genesis
2:17 where the Creator God is quoted as saying, "Thou shalt surely
die." Then you know what the Bible, in its entirety and in its truth,
One particular hindrance in
checking the context is the very presence of chapters and verses. While
this system of division is certainly helpful in finding biblical
passages, it can be misleading. Take the division between Matthew 16:28
and 17:1, for example. In order to understand Christ's enigmatic
statement in the last verse of chapter 16, you have to read all the way
to verse 9 of chapter 17. Yet, people tend to stop reading at chapter
breaks. Sometimes an important key to understanding a difficult
scripture is just to continue reading beyond the chapter break.
Get All the Scriptures
No one scripture can of itself, taken out of context, be used to
establish the truth. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the
scripture is of any private interpretation" (II Peter 1:20).
God has put His Bible together in a very unusual manner. He has written
it so that men could study it intricately in its original languages,
poring over its pages for their entire lifetime — and yet never come to
a knowledge of the truth. Many people have memorized great sections of
the Bible and yet not come to realize what those sections mean. You
must take the whole Bible in its entire context, getting all of the
scriptures in that Bible on any one subject, before you can come to the
knowledge of that particular subject from God's point of view.
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand
doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the
breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line
upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little..." (Isa.
That is how the converted mind is
to study the Bible. Yet, when the unconverted study God's Word a little
here and a little there, they are still not able to understand the
message of God's truth because they do not have His Holy Spirit guiding
them. That Holy Spirit — the very mind and understanding of God — is
the power that inspired those words in the first place, and without
that Spirit to inspire the understanding, the door to the Word of God
remains shut! (The Holy Spirit is given only to those who obey God —
Acts 5:32.) Continuing from Isaiah: "... But the word of the Lord was
unto them [those who disobey] precept upon precept, precept upon
precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a
little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and
snared, and taken" (Isa. 28:13).
people think that the Bible is contradicting itself when actually all
it is doing is supplementing itself. A good example of this is found in
Matthew 27:37 as compared to Luke 23:38. Here Matthew and Luke appear
to contradict one another in their statements as to what was written on
the sign affixed to the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified.
Now while you're going through this booklet, just take time to get your
Bible and use this example to prove that getting all of the scriptures
on any one subject will give you God's understanding on it. In order to
find out what was written on that sign, who wrote it, and how many
languages it was written in, you will need to put at least four
scriptures together, not just two. So turn first to Matthew 27:37, and
write down what the Bible says was written on that sign. Then, go right
on to Mark 15:26 and write beneath what you have written what Mark says
was written on that sign. Then do the same with Luke 23:38 and also
John 19:19. Put them all together and you will see what was written on
If one of these scriptures were
left out you would not know that it was Pilate who did the writing. If
two of these scriptures were left out, you would not know that the
writing was originally done in three languages. These four bits of
information, each from a different author, supply us with a complete
record of what was written there originally. No one scripture
contradicts the other — each only serves to complement and round out
the information of the other.
Here is one
important key in helping you grasp this point: Two or more Bible
writers may approach the same subject from different angles. One writer
may follow a strict chronological order. Another groups associated
ideas together. One may write a detailed history. Another will omit
some events and condense others. But always remember that these
accounts of the same event(s) complement — not contradict — each other.
Let the Bible Interpret the Bible
So many people write in and comment how much they enjoy Mr. Armstrong's
interpretation of the Bible. Time and again you will hear Mr. Armstrong
explain to the television and radio audience that it is not his
interpretation that is being heard, but only plain biblical truth!
In your edition of the King James Bible, the book of Revelation will
probably be entitled "The Revelation of St. John the Divine." This is
an excellent example of man's interpretation. Now in order for you to
understand what the book of Revelation is — whose revelation it is, to
whom it was written and what it is about — all you have to do is read
the first few verses of the book itself! In fact the very first words
of the very first verse directly contradict man's interpretation of the
Bible with the plain Bible statement that this book is "the revelation
of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:1).
What Were the Words on Jesus' Cross?
The Gospels are four different accounts or biographies of the ministry
of Jesus. Each biographer records the truth — but each one is written
from a different point of view, stressing a different facet of Christ's
ministry, or grouping His teachings together differently. To glean the
whole truth from the Gospel accounts, you must first get all four
Gospel accounts on any given subject and put them together.
For example, notice the inscription placed on Jesus' cross, as recorded by the Gospe! writers:
Matthew 27:37 — This is Jesus The King of the Jews
The King of the Jews
Luke 23:38 — This
The King of the
John 19:19 — Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews
Sum — This is Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews
Not one Gospel account contradicts the other — but they complement each
other when you take all four together and add them up as you would an
arithmetic problem. The answer is the sum total of all the scriptures
on the subject. You might find it convenient to purchase a copy of
Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. This very helpful book puts all
four Gospel accounts together in chronological order.
Romans 3:4 is a good clear principle to live by in this rule of Bible
study: "... Let God be true, but every man a liar."
The book of Revelation has long been an enigma to the people of the
world. God says it is a book of revelation. The world says it is a book
of hidden mystery. People have come up with many weird interpretations
for the book of Revelation — yet the book of Revelation is vivid in its
own clear description and needs no interpretation. Continue in
Take the case of the seven
golden candlesticks that John saw in Revelation 1. You don't have to
wonder what these seven golden candlesticks are — all you have to do is
read on until you come, in the context, to verse 20; and that verse
tells you plainly that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.
In verse 16 it states that John saw seven stars in the hand of the Son
of man. There is no need to go into great eloquent illustrations of
what the seven stars are, because again verse 20 reveals the plain
Bible truth — no interpretation necessary — that the seven stars are
the angels of the seven churches. And so it goes through the rest of
All you have to do is be patient
and search God's Word and you will come up with God's clear answers to
the muddled questions of mankind.
Don't Put Vague Scriptures First
Perhaps a better general statement of yet another vital rule of Bible
study would be: Never establish a doctrine by a vague or
many people assume that the vision which Peter had regarding the
unclean beasts lowered to him on a sheet affirms that God "cleansed"
unclean meat. Because they take out of context a verse, unclear of
itself, that says, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common"
(Acts 10:15). However, all they need to do is read on two more verses
and verse 17 very plainly says that Peter himself doubted what the
vision meant when he saw it. He didn't jump to any conclusions, but
vague-scripture quot-ers are eager to! Further reading in the same
chapter will explain what Peter finally came to understand about the
vision. Read verse 28: "God hath showed me [by means of this vision]
that I should not call any man common or unclean."
When studying any one particular biblical subject or doctrine, begin
with the plainer scriptures. Reserve the more obscure ones until you
have more knowledge. Realize that some scriptures — if taken by
themselves and out of context — can be made to say more than one thing.
This is why it is important to observe a previous rule: Study all the
scriptures on any one subject to get at the truth. But, always begin
with plain, clear scriptures.
the law and the Ten Commandments, keep these clear and plain scriptures
in mind: I John 3:4; 2:4; 5:2, 3; Matthew 5:17; 19:17. These scriptures
cannot be twisted to say that God's law and commandments are abolished
and no longer need to be obeyed.
and hell is the subject, begin with such scriptures as John 3:13 and
Acts 2:34. Then understand John 14:2 and Luke 16 in the light of John
3:13 and Acts 2:34. About the soul: Genesis 2:7, Psalm 146:4 and
Eccle-siastes 9:5 are clear and plain. Matthew 10:28, on the other
hand, is vague and obscure. Any such scripture must be understood in
the light of the plainer ones.
Use Several Translations
In Matthew 27:46 Jesus Christ, while hanging on the cross before He
died, used the Aramaic translation of the first verse of Psalm 22. Even
though the original Word of God was inspired in the Hebrew or the Greek
(some portions of the books of Daniel and Ezra were inspired in
Aramaic), God has allowed it to be translated into nearly every
language spoken by mankind. If we were going to be particular about
which language we used or which translation, then we would all have to
learn Hebrew and Greek and study the Bible in its original languages.
The Living Bible— Paraphrased
"The Living Bible captures the story flow of the Bible, but is * not a
literal word-by-word translation. It is a paraphrase that is not always
accurate in some key doctrinal areas.
essential rule of Bible study is: "Don't establish doctrine with Bible
helps." The Living Bible is essentially a "Bible help," not a
translation. It is a paraphrase of the Bible, often leaning to what one
sincere individual thinks the Bible says.
Another rule for Bible study is "Don't put vague scriptures first." By
making vague scriptures "come clear," but clearly wrong, The Living
Bible could possibly deceive and mislead those who are not extremely
Many people do not realize the Bible
is, in the original languages, literally cryptic in some passages. Such
unclear passages are not always "King James euphemisms"; they are often
Hebrew literary or poetic expressions. When any individual tries to
"uncloud" unclear passages, such a person is very liable to make errors.
After all, Peter did say Paul was "hard to be understood" (II Pet.
3:15, 16). So don't take all of The Living Bible's
"easy-to-be-understood'' versions of Paul's complex statements at face
For example, The Living Bible
repeatedly refers to Christians "going to heaven." (Write for our free
booklet What Is the Reward of the Saved? if you don't understand why
this particular viewpoint is in error.)
anti-law approach of The Living Bible is graphically demonstrated by
the following quotation taken from the preface to the Living Laws of
Moses. (The Living Bible originally appeared in seven consecutive books
beginning with The Living Letters in 1962.)
. . Many of the laws recorded here are obsolete, now that Christ has
come. So why read them? One reason is that we can rejoice in being free
from them! For Christ has set us free. Well does the old hymn remind
us: "Free from the law, oh, happy condition! ..." Do not only think "Oh
boy, I'm glad I'm free from having to follow all those weird rules!"
But also think, "What was the purpose of those rules?"
Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets . . ." (Matt. 5:17).
Of course, you have seen The Living Bible quoted on occasion in
Ambassador College publications, but that has primarily been to add
color and life to already clearly understood verses.
The Living Bible should be read and scanned for story flow, but not
necessarily "studied. " David was inspired to write, "The words of the
Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified
seven times" (Ps. 12:6). We can't afford to let any translation,
version or paraphrase mislead us in the slightest!
The King James Version was written about 360 years ago. In the time
since, the English language has undergone many changes. Sometimes those
texts which are vague and unclear in the King James can be cleared up
very easily by just reading a more modern translation, such as the Moffatt or the Revised Standard Version.
However, one note of caution should be brought out at this point.
Modern translations such as the RSV, Moffatt version, and The New
English Bible as well as paraphrases such as The Living Bible should
not be solely relied upon. The King James Version is still the best
generally available standard by which to judge the accuracy of these
other translations, versions, and paraphrases. These modern renderings
will often clarify vague verses in the King James, but they are most
likely in error when they totally depart from the KJV. Many of these
modern versions have been rendered from faulty original texts. (For
further information about different translations, see the section on
Bible Study Aids at the end of this booklet.)
But there is one thing to note about the King James translation, and
that is regarding italics. This word italic is written in italics.
Words that look like this in your King James Version are not in the
original languages but are supplied by the translators. So everywhere
in the King James Version where you notice words in italics they are
supplied to help you understand the meaning of the sentence. However,
the translators did not always supply the words correctly. So some of
these words in italics are incorrect and do not help, but rather
hinder, your understanding.
On the other
hand, not all of the words which are supplied by the translators are in
italics. Take I John 5:7 for instance, where the reference to three who
bear witness in heaven is a completely erroneous reference inserted by
a monk-copyist in the Middle Ages. The fact is this particular verse
appears only in the King James Version and is in none of the other
translations of the Bible.
difficulties will be cleared up by merely reading another translation
and comparing it to the King James. Any questions arising after a
thorough reading through several translations of any one verse will be
few, and can be handled by studying further in Bible helps.
Who Divided the Bible into Chapters and Verses?
system of dividing the Bible into chapters and verses is man-made and
of comparatively recent origin. The Bible, as inspired by God, had no
Chapters and verses are
helpful in finding passages in the Bible. However, this division has
sometimes obscured the meaning of certain passages of Scripture by
separating thoughts that ought to be joined together.
The first modern system of dividing the Bible into sections was devised
by Cardinal Hugo in the mid-thirteenth century. Hugo, who was compiling
a concordance to the Latin Vulgate Version of the Bible, found it
necessary to divide the Bible into sections. These sections basically
became the chapters that we are acquainted with today. As yet there
were no divisions into verses.
1445, Mordecai Nathan, a Jewish scholar, divided the Hebrew Old
Testament into chapters. He and a later scholar by the name of Athias
are credited with the further breakdown of the Old Testament chapters
In 1551 the New Testament was
similarly subdivided into verses. This work was accomplished by the
famous English printer, Robert Stephens. Ever since that time, the
Bible has retained the present chapter and verse system.
Such a system is not without flaws, however. In some places, Stephens'
divisions are inaccurate and tend to interrupt the natural sense of the
subject. Because of such imperfections, a new system of supplementing
the chapter-verse division with paragraph arrangements has been adopted
in many of the newer revisions of the Bible. This often helps the
reader to better comprehend the subject matter.
If there are words that you have difficulty in understanding, remember
not only to look them up in an English dictionary such as Webster's,
but if possible in a Bible dictionary or in a concordance so that you
can see what the meaning of the word in the original is. Sometimes
people will look up a word in a modern dictionary and find a definition
that is not at all the sense of the word as used in the King James
Version. Take for example the word "conversation" in I Peter 3.
Conversation to us today means talking between two people. A modern
dictionary will give this definition. However, in the time of King
James, this particular word meant the entire conduct of a person, and
that is the usual meaning in the Bible of this word.
Another good example is the word "prevent." Its usual biblical meaning
is to precede or go before, but it means to hinder in modern-day
English. Therefore I Thessalonians 4:15 should be corrected to read:
"... We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall
not precede [prevent] them which are asleep."
In order to understand certain biblical expressions then, you need to
understand the meaning of the original word, and not just the meaning
in a modern dictionary.
But this leads to our next rule.
Don't Establish Doctrine With "Bible Helps''
Clarke's Commentary and the commentary by Jamie-son, Fausset and Brown
are good reference works — as is Halley's Pocket Bible Handbook. (A
more complete list is available at the end of this booklet. See the
section on Bible Study Aids.)
the backs of Bibles there will be sections called "Bible Helps." These
"helps" may often lead you astray.
all of these Bible helps should be used only to establish historical or
grammatical facts related to the Bible and must not be used to
establish doctrine or to interpret the meaning of the Bible itself.
What Do Bible Italics Signify?
What about the use of italicized words in the Bible? Italicized words
were first used in 1 560 when an edition of a Bible, known as the
Geneva Bible, appeared. This Bible had been prepared by the Reformers
in Geneva and was translated directly from the original Hebrew and
Greek. In this Bible there were words which had to be added in English
to make the full meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek idioms plain.
No language can be translated word for word. The reformers
distinguished such necessarily added words by italicizing them. This
was the most popular Bible obtainable at that time.
There were three versions of the Bible in England by the beginning of
the seventeenth century. These translations were by no means perfect
and, as time passed, the meaning of some of the English words changed.
The need for a better translation arose.
result, our most popular translation today, the King James or
Authorized Version, was made. King James I of England gave this task to
a group of fifty-four translators. In this group were High Churchmen,
Puritans and the best scholars in the land. They translated from the
best Hebrew and Greek texts available to them and also made use of
italics to distinguish the words they added to make peculiar Hebrew and
Greek idioms understandable in English.
most cases italicized words clarify the meaning of certain phrases. But
if you will investigate, you will find that the translators were not
filled with God's Holy Spirit. Consequently, such men — on occasion —
did make mistakes.
You should be careful
therefore to notice which words are italics and to distinguish them
from the other words of the text.
How to Use a Bible Concordance
A Bible concordance is very helpful in searching out particular
scriptures. A concordance is an index of the words found in Scripture.
By knowing just a few words of a passage you will be able to find the
scripture in your Bible.
A concordance can
also help you to understand your Bible in two important ways. (1) A
concordance has all the scriptures containing a certain word listed
together, enabling you to bring related material together so that you
can get the whole meaning of what the Bible has to say about a
particular subject. (2) A concordance will help you to find the meaning
of symbolic words. For example, to find who or what is the "dragon" of
Revelation 16:13, look up the word "dragon" in the concordance. You
will find this word is also found in Revelation 12:9, where the
identity of the dragon is revealed.
concordances are available. The small Cruden's Concordance is very
popular and quite good for general Bible study. Then there are the
large, complete concordances showing meanings of words in the original
Hebrew and Greek such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Young's
Analytical Concordance. These can be obtained at most Bible bookstores,
local bookstores or your local public library.
Many Bibles have a center-reference column. They can be useful in locating other scriptures on the same
subject. However, they also can be confusing. For instance, in my
Bible, at Revelation 1:10 which says "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's
day ...," there is a little 2 by "the Lord's day." In the margin column
by the 2 there are two scriptural references — one to Acts 20:7 and the
other to I Corinthians 16:2. Both refer to the first day of the week,
but have nothing to do with the Lord's day, which is explained in the
rest of the book of Revelation.
Yet to find
out what the Bible says about what day Jesus Christ is Lord of, read
Mark 2:27-28. "And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and
not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the
So, with Bible helps you must remember to use them only for technical facts and not for interpretative facts.
Apply these vital rules diligently, and your Bible study will be both interesting and rewarding.
A BIBLE-MARKING SYSTEM
Intelligently marking the Bible is a vital aid to study. But do you
know how to make Bible marking useful and helpful? Here are some
suggestions for creating a personally effective Bible-marking system.
Marking the Word of God as an aid to effective study can be one of the
most rewarding activities of Christian life. Although it is a very
personal and individual matter, many, it seems, would like to learn a
systematic plan of marking. Many, in fact, have tried their own
methods. But over a period of years, it is apparent that they are doing
little more than cluttering the page with confusion. What is lacking?
No Distinctive System
The essential problem is that there is no distinction between various types of marks and reasons for marking.
For example, suppose you are reading the Bible and come to a verse that
strikes you personally. So you color it bright red to help you remember
where it is. Perhaps later you find a verse that clarifies a basic
doctrine. Out comes the red pencil. This verse gets the same mark.
Again later while studying, you notice that one particular verse
summarizes the overall flow or meaning of that section. So, diligently
you color in this verse to help you remember the content of the
passage. All with the same red pencil.
simple system is adequate as long as one does not have too many marks.
But as Bible students have painfully found, unless there is some
distinction in the type of marks used and the reasons why marks are
made, whole chapters eventually get marked. The result is often worse
than leaving the entire page blank.
Therefore, a good system of Bible marking should consist of a separate
standard mark for each reason for marking.
Marking Types and Reasons to Mark
When considering all the possible ways to mark a printed text, you will
eventually isolate four basic methods: 1) coloring, 2) underlining, 3)
bracketing and 4) making marginal marks. Others are mere variations of
these basic types.
Even the way in which
individuals go about studying can vary considerably. But basically,
there are underlying reasons, typical of virtually all Bible students,
for marking the Bible.
These areas cover: 1) flow or outline, 2) personal emphasis, and 3) doctrine. Let's analyze them.
Marking for flow enables one to quickly be reminded of the overall
content or story flow of that section. Flow marking may seldom deal
with verses of importance personally or doctrinally. They are the ones
which help you recapture the outline of that section of scripture.
Students and ministers find flow marks particularly useful.
Personal emphasis marking, on the other hand, is often quite
individualistic. This category of marking makes a particular verse
stand out and helps one to find it again rapidly.
Doctrinal emphasis markings are by nature more technical. These marks
emphasize a verse or section that is significant for explaining an
important teaching of Scripture.
Now we need
to decide which of the four types of marks (coloring, underlining,
bracketing, margin marks) ought to be used with these three categories
One Sensible Combination
Even though many may not realize it, outline or story flow is probably
the most important reason to mark the Bible. In the technically
well-marked Bible there will often be more of this type of marking.
Therefore, it is logical to give flow marking the first choice of
marking types. But before trying to decide whether to use color,
underlining, brackets or marginal marks, consider another aspect of
both marks and reasons for marking.
outline is essentially an in-context issue. Personal or doctrinal
emphasis marks generally have nothing to do with their location in the
Bible. In other words, they are 0UT-0F-c0ntext issues.
Now notice the types of marks. Coloring is an in-context mark. It is
placed on or in the text. So, in fact, is underlining. It too is an
in-context mark. Brackets and marginal marks, on the other hand, are an
out-of-context mark. They are placed outside the text.
Besides this, it is also important that marks and purposes do not
overlap. If, for example, you mark a verse for a personal reason, what
happens if you discover that you need it for outline as well?
Here is one of the best overall ways to keep everything straight. Use
in-context marks for the in-context purposes. Use out-of-context marks
for the out-of-context purposes.
that both coloring and underlining should be used to mark the flow;
color for the main issues, underlining for the smaller sub issues.
Brackets and marginal marks are better used for personal emphasis,
doctrinal emphasis and clarification.
long run, there are not that many personal or doctrinal verses on any
one page that need to be marked for memory. It is far better to make
these part of your life rather than simply marking them in your Bible.
Marking, frankly, is more of a literary matter than
personal. When you open to a particular passage, it is intellectually
more essential to have your mind focused onto the main subject. That is
why it is more sensible for most people to reserve both the strong
in-context marks of underlining and color for flow.
But why both? Couldn't one use something like color for personal verses
and underlining for flow? Not without confusion.
Imagine a Bible page on which flow was underlined and personal verses
colored. Color stands out far more emphatically than underlining and
would virtually cancel out any marks for the outline.
But if you use brackets for personal and doctrinal verses, there is
little conflict. Both stand out in clear relief and do not interfere
with each other.
Some may wonder why no
distinction is made between personal and doctrinal marks. The reason is
simple. There is very little difference between the two because both
are items you consider important and that need emphasis. Secondly,
there are rarely more than one or two such verses on any one Bible
page. So a distinctive mark is necessary — brackets do very well for
With this system you can open to any
chapter and immediately see the context. And if you are reviewing a
doctrine or looking for a verse of personal significance, the brackets
will lead you effectively to it. Nothing overlaps or conflicts. Notice
the examples shown.
Multicolored Pencils and Special Pens
Do not be tempted to employ a battery of multicolored pens and pencils.
They only lead to confusion over a period of time.
The beauty of the above-described system is that it needs only one
simple colored pencil (any color) and a pen. Incidentally, it is best
to select a pen that will not run or smear on the Bible page. Many
pens, especially if they contain red ink, will make an awful mess after
a few months. Test the ink on a back page before you use the pen
It is generally best to use this
basic one-pen/one-pencil system. You can find such tools anywhere and
you will never be confused by which color or pen to use.
Multicoloration and special pens and pencils look pretty, but rarely
Earlier it was mentioned that marginal marks are also useful. Here is how.
Suppose you want to add some emphasis or clarification to a word,
phrase or an entire section of the text. For example, "conversation" in
Philippians 3:20 should read "citizenship." (This is the more correct
translation from the original Greek.) How can you mark this, yet not
confuse the main system?
Simple! Just put a
small bracket around "conversation" and make a note in the margin. You
won't confuse this with a doctrinal mark because these should be used
on whole verses only. If it ever becomes necessary to explain an entire
verse, rather than just a word or two, don't mark it at all. Just write
a note in the margin.
Some people like to
draw lines between words or verses on the same page to show a
connection. Do so if you wish, but with caution. Too many such marks
can confuse the flow. A few could be useful, especially in certain
Another type of Bible mark that needs mentioning is chain referencing.
How, for example, should you mark a series of scriptures on one subject?
The best way is to simply make a note in the margin and put no mark at
all on the verse itself. If you wish, you can number these chains. For
example (3) for "repentance," (5) for "faith," etc., but don't be
tempted to color all the verses on a particular subject. You will too
often find that the same scripture is needed in several chains. Which
color would you make it? But a numbered note in the margin does not
obscure other notes already there.
Frankly, chain referencing is of limited value and should be used sparingly. Chain references are better put in the back of your Bible, leaving the actual Bible pages free for more useful notes.
In marking your Bible, always use caution. An improperly marked verse
will remain in your Bible, confusing you every time you turn to it.
Think before you mark. Be sure you really do understand the verse.
In particular, go extremely slow on marking scriptures for personal
correction. You will return to a verse marked earlier for personal
correction and wonder why you ever marked it. Take time to digest
comments and ideas before you permanently mark your most important
personal possession. Don't be concerned if it takes several years to
flow mark most of your Bible.
Don't Be Afraid to Mark
Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they
are life" (John 6:63). The message contained in the Bible is the
important thing. The words Jesus spoke are spirit and life.
But the ink and paper on which God's Word is printed is not "holy." God
nowhere sanctifies the ink, paper, binding, or other physical
components of the Bible.
Therefore don't be
afraid to go ahead and mark your Bible. Make use of it. Study it
carefully, diligently, and mark it with wisdom. If you don't have a
good quality Bible for marking, save enough money to purchase one — a
Bible with easily readable print, good-sized margins, printed on good
quality paper. They can be obtained through almost any large bookstore.
Remember the admonition of the Apostle Paul: "Study to shew thyself
approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly
dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15). Study your Bible more
effectively. Use it as a handy tool. Make it useful by means of a
systematic, practicable and simple marking system. Make your Christian
"sword" — the Word of God — sharp and glittering and effective by
marking your Bible.