I love digging into the Word and unearthing priceless treasures from the troves of Scripture. But when I first became a Christian, I didn’t have a clue where to start – I was just hungry for the Word of the Living God and anxious to know Him more. I wish someone would have mapped out my journey through the Word and given me a helping hand as I started my dig.
So, I’m excited about the opportunity to write this post and share with you what I wish someone would have shared with me about 23 years ago. I’d like offer a map of sorts that will help us find what we’re looking for in the Word of God. To make it cohesive, I’m going to begin with the basics and chart it out in topical chunks.
CHARTING OUT THE BIBLE
Law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Historical – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Poetic – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)
Major Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
Minor Prophets – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Historical – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (a/k/a The Gospels), Acts
Pauline Epistles – Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Other Letters – Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1,2 & 3 John, Jude
Prophecy – Revelation
Knowing the basic structure of the Bible helps point you in the right direction when you begin your own treasure hunt in the Word. If you’re not familiar with where they are, you can find them in the table of contents.
FINDING WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
The Word of God is exciting, rich and inexhaustible. Every word on every page is a deliberate choice by the Creator of the universe to speak to us from His heart to ours. That’s why it’s so important that we not just casually read it, but thoroughly study it.
As you flip through the Bible, you’ll find that it’s broken down into easily distinguishable portions of scripture known as chapters and verses. But it wasn’t always that way. In the 13th century Stephen Langton gave us the chapter system we use today and in the 1400’s, Robert Stephanus devised the verse system that makes finding what we’re looking for much easier. Could you imagine if someone told you to find where the Bible says, “for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” without having it divided by chapters and verses? I’m so thankful we live on this side of the chapter and verse implementation!
There’s nothing like the thrill of turning the pages of scripture in our quest to know God more. When you’re looking for a specific word, you can turn in the back of your Bible to the concordance and find it along with several scripture references that contain that word. It’s a great tool, but the concordance in the back of your Bible is limited.
However, in the 1800’s, James Strong developed what we know today as, Strong’s Concordance. With this wonderful tool, we can now find any word in the Bible along with every chapter and verse where it is found. It’s important to note that the Strong’s Concordance is divided by the Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament (Greek). Each word has a coordinating number. After finding the assigned number, you turn to either the Old or New Testament section and find the basic meaning of that particular word.
Today, we have the luxury of cyberspace where we can find just about anything with the click of a button. We can go to blueletterbible.org, biblegateway.com, crosswalk.com and a host of other sites to find what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure what chapter or verse to go to in order to find something, most website tools allow you to input a keyword or phrase.
It’s vital to study the Bible beyond the surface. The same word that has been translated into our English Bible may have several meanings in it’s original Hebrew or Greek. That’s why the Strong’s Concordance is such a valuable tool. But I’d also like to share with you a few of my favorite study books that give us more depth to our word studies.
Here’s a sample of what’s on my bookshelf:
Spiros Zodhiates ~ “Complete Word Study Dictionary-Old Testament” ~ AMG Publishers
Spiros Zodhiates ~ “Complete Word Study Dictionary-New Testament” ~ AMG Publishers
W.E. Vines ~ “Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament” ~ Zondervan
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary ~ Holman
Interlinear Hebrew Greek English Bible
An array of commentaries on various books of the Bible
When I became a Christian in 1987, I didn’t know about all the resources that were available then. I certainly would have been stoked to have access to the tools that are now at our fingertips through the internet. We are so blessed because what we have now makes the excavation of the Word of God much easier and much less time consuming. But I also believe to whom much is given, much is required.
So, let’s all study to show ourselves approved…workers who need not be ashamed…rightly dividing the Word of Truth.