Methods of Studying the Bible Part 3: Effective Bible Study Tools and Free Guide
Our last two articles (Series Introduction: New Testament Genres, Methods of Studying the Bible Part 2: New Testament Genres) introduced the Bible as a collection of 66 books, covered the two covenants of the Bible, analyzed the formation and foundation of the two covenants as well as the genres included in them, and provided extra resources for diligent reading. This post will close our new series on methods for studying the Bible and provide effective Bible study tools with a free guide as a resource to help outline any given passage of Scripture.
Recap: Old Testament Genres
The Old Testament genres included the law, narratives, wisdom and poetry, and prophetic literature. Some of the books included in these genres were written by authors such as Moses and Malachi and spanned over a 1,000 years. Without the Old Testament, we would have no way of understanding the New Testament as the Old Testament provides the framework on biblical history, theology, and morality.
This genre makes up the first five books of the Bible and is the legal code for Israel, ordained by God. The laws mentioned in these genres are tied to the Mosaic Covenant, or the conditional covenant. The principles interwoven in these laws were meant to reveal our guilt and debt before God.
Simply put, the narrative genre is story (or documentary). Books such as Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Ruth, etc. document historical segments in time and illustrate how God interacted with mankind before Jesus came to Earth. This genre contains three elements: setting, plot, and character. Setting is usually communicated first and establishes where the story occurs both historically and geographically. Characters are the humans involved in the story and God since the Bible is collectively His Word. Human characters are the people God uses to demonstrate a Biblical truth. Plot consists of the driving action that moves the biblical story from its beginning to its end.
Wisdom and Poetry
The books within the wisdom and poetry genres (with the exception of Job) were written during the same timeframe of Israelite history and display wisdom from Israel's greatest kings: David and his son, Solomon. Wisdom books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs deal with deep truths and illustrate how to live life successfully while on Earth. The poetic books such as Psalms and Song of Solomon have different functions. For instance, Psalms details worship and praise, exemplifying the full spectrum of human emotion while Song of Solomon deals with marriage, sex, and love.
Prophetic literature such as Ezekiel and Isaiah always include segments of narrative where Israel's history is recorded since this is vital to understand a particular prophet's role and commission. Symbolism is often used extensively to illustrate God's character, purpose, and plan as well as judgment.
Recap: New Testament Genres
The New Testament is comprised of 27 books written by apostles and disciples and focus on the New Covenant through the eternal atonement of Jesus' sacrifice. These books span 50 years between AD 45 and AD 95. We mentioned previously that one common observational mistake with studying the New Testament was invalidating the Old Testament and wanted to reemphasize the commonality of this mistake and how grave it can be. The New Testament remains consist with the Old but focuses more on different attributes of God and highlights the eternal covenant since Jesus paid the price for sin. The Law such as the Ten Commandments is now written on the hearts and minds of every human (Romans 2:15) and still reveals our guilt before God.
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) display the eternal good news of salvation and records Christ's birth, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. These are not to be confused with biographies but to be understood as a collection of records of Christ's ministry to differing audiences.