Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Review: How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur

This past week I read two books on studying the Bible inductively by Kay Arthur. The first one is "The BASIC STEPS of BIBLE STUDY" (BSBS), Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2019, and the second is "HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE" (HSYB), Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1994.


Right off the bat, between these two books, I would recommend HSYB, since BSBS is simply the first part of HSYB. BSBS is a very simple introduction to inductive Bible study, whereas HSYB goes into much more detail.

Both books are easy to read, even HSYB, the more in-depth book of the two. In fact, for every part of the process, there are easy to follow steps. HSYB is not the theory of inductive Bible study, but a practical walk-through of the process.


The book is divided into six parts. The first two chapters are an introduction. The rest of the chapters of the book are divided into five parts. The first introductory chapter, If You Want to Know God's Word, is written as a letter to the reader by the author, giving a little background to the development of the Precept Upon Precept Inductive Bible Courses. The second introductory chapter, The Joy and Value of Inductive Study, gives a very broad outline of the rest of the book. Arthur writes, "Inductive Bible study draws you into personal interaction with the Scripture and thus with the God of the Scriptures so that your beliefs are based on a prayerful understanding and legitimate interpretation of Scripture--truth that transforms you when you live by it." (p11)

PART ONE: Observation--Discover What It Says! has three chapters.
  1. The Rule of Context--Context Rules!
  2. Getting the Big Picture
  3. Focusing on the Details
Chapter 1 (p19) highlights the importance of the context of the passage we are studying. It all begins with prayer. The context is part of its surrounding words, sentences, chapters, book, and eventually the whole Bible. As a student of the Bible we should let the text speak for itself. We should be reading the Bible with purpose, asking the 5 W's and an H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

Chapter 2 (p27) helps us understand the big picture. Once again, we start in prayer. Here we read, and re-read the book we are about to study, and identify the type of literature we are dealing with, such as historical, biographical, poetic, proverbial, prophetic, epistolic, or a combination. Here we are again reminded to deal with the text objectively, and to use the 5 W's and an H. We need to discover the facts concerning people and events. This starts by identifying the obvious names and events, and marking the key words and phrases. From here we can move towards the theme of the book.

Chapter 3 (p43) helps us to get a bit more into the details. Once we have all the information from chapters 1 and 2, we list what we have learnt from the key words and phrases. Here the author gives some examples. Next we look for contrasts, comparisons, terms of conclusion, and expressions of time. We will also develop chapter and paragraph themes.

PART TWO: Interpretation--Discover What it Means! has eight chapters.
  1. The Search for Meaning
  2. It's All Greek to Me!
  3. Let Scripture Interpret Scripture
  4. The When, Where, and Why
  5. Let's Figure it Out
  6. When One Thing Represents Another
  7. Unraveling Revelation
  8. Getting the Point Across
Chapter 4 (p59) once again highlights the importance of context. Without saying too much about this chapter, it presents seven principles:
  • Context
  • Seeking the full counsel of God
  • Scripture will not contradict Scripture
  • Do not base your doctrine on obscure passages
  • Interpret Scripture literally, considering the styles and literary devices used by the writers of Scripture
  • Find the author's intended meaning
  • Check your findings against reliable commentaries
Chapter 5 (p67) introduces the reader to the fact that the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In this chapter Arthur introduces some helpful tools, like an exhaustive concordance, such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (KJV), and the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance (NASB), and how to use them. Expository dictionaries are also introduced in this chapter.

Chapter 6 (p73) introduces cross-references.

In chapter 7 (p77), we are pointed towards character studies, especially of book authors, and also to do studies of the historical settings of the book

Chapter 8 (p81) explains a bit about figures of speech, such as simile, metaphor, hypebole, etc.

Chapter 9 (p87) moves along to parables, and how to interpret them, and also allegory, types and symbols.

Chapter 10 (p95) moves into the realm of prophecy. The author gives 8 principles on interpreting prophecy. 
  • Prophets did not always indicate intervals between events, or write in chronological order.
  • Always approach prophecy as literal, unless grammar or common sense precludes it.
  • When a prophecy cannot be taken literally, look for what the author is trying to convey.
  • Prophets did not always write in the future tense for future events.
  • Always consider the context of the recipients.
  • Some prophecies could not always be understood by the author or the recipients.
  • Remember that many NT prophecies make use of OT allusions or quotations.
  • Watch for phrases that indicate periods of time.
Chapter 11 (p103) explains what is meant by a book or epistle's introduction, and comparison, contrast, repetition, progression, climax, pivotal point, radiation (No! Not nuclear!), interchange, general to particular, cause and effect, explanation or analysis, interrogation, and summarization. The author gives examples for each of these.

PART THREE: Application--Discover How it Works! only has one chapter.
  1. The Transformed Life.
Chapter 12 is all about a changed life before God. It makes use of  2 Tim 3:16-17 to explain how a life can be changed.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
PART FOUR: Organization--Broaden Your Skills! has three chapters.
  1. Outlining--Just the Bare Facts
  2. Studying Topically by Subject
  3. Character Studies--Learning from the Lives of Others
Chapter 13 (p119) gives some good pointers on how to do an outline of a book of the Bible with an example of how to do a 2 Timothy outline.

Chapter 14 (p129) dives into topical studies. Here the Bible student will look up every parallel and relative passage on the chosen topic, information will be assembled, an outline of the information will be created, and finally end with prayer and meditation on the findings.

Chapter 15 (p133) guides us into doing character studies. We first gather all information on the chosen character, then read all the info and make notes concerning the main truths. Next, check extra-biblical references like Bible dictionaries, and then compile the material. Finally, apply the truth discovered to your own life.

PART FIVE: Practical Helps--Tools for Further Study has seven appendices.
  1. Summary of the Inductive Process
  2. At a Glance Chart
  3. Observation Worksheet
  4. How to Use Word Study Tools
  5. Tense, Voice, and Mood of Verbs
  6. How to Discover Tense, Voice, and Mood
  7. Recommended Study Helps
Appendix A (p141) is simply a summary of what has been learnt in the book concerning the process of inductive Bible study.

Appendix B (p145) shows the Chart at a Glance which is a form to show the main content of a Bible book that the student has studied.

Chart at a Glance

Appendix C (p147) shows what a page of your Bible will look like when you use the marking technique suggested in this book.

It is called an Observation Worksheet (p147), 
but it is actually a page from the Bible.
This is a page from my own Bible. 
You can use symbols, etc. sparingly
or liberally. It is up to you.

Appendix D (p149) gives detailed run-throughs of how to use an exhaustive concordance and an expository dictionary.

Appendix E (p161) gives more detail on the Greek verb: tense, voice, and mood, and then provides charts for each.

Appendix F (p171) helps the student to discover the Greek tense, voice, and mood of verbs in different tools such as Complete Word Study New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates, A Parsing Guide to the Greek New Testament by Nathan Han.

Finally, in Appendix G (p179), recommended study helps are listed under the following headings:
  • Books on Inductive Bible Study
  • Bible Concordances
  • Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • Word Study Helps
  • General Reference Works
  • Greek Study Books

HSYB is certainly a very useful book. The Bible student can use this book to go as deep as he wants to go.

There are some caveats in this book. In chapter 5, It's All Greek to Me!, the author introduces the use of exhaustive concordances. While there is much to gain from such concordances, there are also major pitfalls in using them. Many Hebrew and Greek words have different nuances that can change depending on the context they are found in, and not all the different nuances can fit in every context the word is used. In exhaustive concordances, these ideas are not explained to readers. Then there are words that are synonyms, and are used as such in the Bible, but are treated as different words altogether, such as AGAPAO (ἀγαπάω) and PHILEO (φιλέω), and LOGOS (λόγος) and RHEMA (ῥῆμα). Sometimes a little Greek is worse than no Greek at all!

Even with the inductive Bible study method, it is possible to remain stuck in the theological system that we are used to. This is very clear for the author of the book. In chapter 10, Unraveling Revelation, Arthur's eighth principle is "When you study prophecy, watch for phrases that indicate periods of time." (p 100) It references Mt 24:21, 29-30 where the tribulation is mentioned. Although the author has mentioned exaggeration (hyperbole) as a literary device on p83, she didn't see that Matthew was using it here when he wrote that "there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will."

Some of the tools that are recommended by the author are useful, but there are newer, better tools available today in some of the categories she mentions in Appendix G above.

I would like to add the following to Appendix G's bullet points:
  • Bible Concordances
Wilkins, W. Don, The STRONGEST NASB Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan, 2000.
  • Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
Mounce, William D., Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Zondervan, 2006.
  • Greek Study Books
Mounce, William D., INTERLINEAR For the Rest of US , Zondervan, 2006.
Mounce, William D. and Mounce, Robert H., THE ZONDERVAN Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (NASB/NIV), Zondervan, 2008.


Would I recommend this book to others who would like to learn about the inductive Bible study method, or to those who would like to start studying their Bibles? Yes! As with any "system" or "method" there are pitfalls. However, we simply need to keep our eyes open to the pitfalls, and adapt accordingly.

I hope this was useful!

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