Lesson 2: How Can I Find Things in the Bible?
The Bible is a book filled with wisdom and insight for how to live
life. But with its incredible amount of content, how can you expect
to find what you need, when you need it?
A Christian in Arizona shared this story of how she came to be interested
in the Bible:
"When I was 13 years old, I picked up my Bible and decided that
I wanted to read it all the way through. My parents had always taken
us to church when we were young, but by that time in my life church
attendance was sporadic. We also never read much from the Old Testament,
so I was curious what it had to say.
"As I painfully read through the old English used in the King
James Version, I began to realize that the Old Testament had a lot to
say about what should be done in life and also what was supposed to
come in the future. I read about things that would last for all generations
and also about God's plan for an unknown time in the future. It made
little sense to me at the time, but the seeds were planted. Why had
I not been taught these things and why was this part of the Bible ignored
"This reading brought up more questions than answers at the time,
but I continued to learn bits and pieces as I read more, and in my mid-20s
I was more able to comprehend what I had read. I finally began to understand
the depth and meaning of what I was reading, and it changed my life
Share Your Story
Navigating the Bible
Between the two covers of your Bible lies an matchless treasure trove
of practical advice and straightforward instructions for living the best
possible life you can now, while preparing for a wonderful life forever.
But to a new student of the Bible, it can seem to be a daunting, mammoth
collection of print. So how can you effectively find your way through
this sea of words to study a specific topic or find a particular verse?
Unlike ancient times—when, long before the invention of the printing
press, owning a copy of even one of the books of the Bible was
rare—today inexpensive and even free Bibles are readily available. And
there is a wealth of resources—"Bible helps"—to assist you in pinpointing
exactly what you're hunting for in "the Good Book." We'll help you get
started in learning what to use and when.
First, let's look at a few passages that talk about why it's important
to study the Bible in the first place.
Does God appreciate those who search the Scriptures daily?
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received
the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find
out whether these things were so.
The Bereans were commended for their diligent searching of the Scriptures
until they found the truth of the matter. Reading the Bible through and
studying the context are still excellent tools for gaining familiarity
with this priceless book. A program of reading the Bible through (such
as The Good News Bible Reading
Program) is foundational in gaining an overview of God's revelation
to us and will help make it easier to find specific things later.
What can we gain from studying the Bible?
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that
the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God inspired the writing and compilation of the Bible to give us the
spiritual instruction and correction we need to change and become more
like He is. He does this for our good because He truly loves us!
What is the ultimate benefit of Bible study?
2 Timothy 3:15
...and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are
able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ
Salvation means being saved from the sinful way that leads to misery
and ultimately death, and being given access to God's way that leads to
true happiness and eternal life.
How to Use Concordances and Other References
I'm looking for a verse, but I don't remember where it is and
can only remember a small phrase from it. What can I do?
A concordance is a good tool for this situation. It lists, in alphabetical
order, the English words used in the Bible along with what verses they
appear in. If you can remember a specific word from a verse you're trying
to find, look up that word in a concordance, and you'll see a list of
verses that contain the word.
If you're still having trouble finding the verse you're looking for,
look up another word from the verse instead. Also keep in mind that a
concordance typically lists the words found in only one specific translation
of the Bible, and you may be thinking of the verse as it is rendered in
a different translation. Also, try to get a concordance that is not too
abbreviated, since condensed concordances list fewer words. The best concordances
are called "exhaustive" or "complete" concordances.
I'm trying to study a specific topic in the Bible but don't have
any verses in mind. How can I start?
One good way to do this is to look up related keywords in a concordance
(see previous comment).
You can also find verses related to many topics with a topical Bible
(sometimes called a topical concordance or topical index). Such a reference
work contains an alphabetical list of topics (e.g., "Armageddon," "Melchizedek,"
"resurrection," etc.) and collections of verses that relate to them. For
example, if you were trying to find out what the Bible has to say about
love, you'd simply turn to the section on "Love" and check out the verses
that relate to love, even ones that don't include the word "love."
Many Bibles also list related scriptures in their side or center margins.
It's good to remember that both topical Bibles and marginal references
are selectively chosen by whoever published them, so they may have some
I'm looking at a scripture, but I'm having a lot of trouble figuring
out what it means. What can I do?
First, each time you read the Bible, pray for God's help to
have spiritual understanding—the kind of comprehension that Jesus gave
His disciples after His resurrection (see Luke 24:45).
A critical key in Bible study is to let the Bible interpret the Bible.
Studying the context of the verse and looking at other verses that talk
about the same subject are the best places to start. Looking at how the
verse is translated in other Bible versions can also be helpful.
You might also find it helpful to do a search about the subject or the
verse on this Web site or our United Church
of God site.
Our Frequently Asked Bible Questions,
lessons, articles and booklets contain a lot of background information
and many related scriptures on a wide variety of subjects. Our The
Good News Bible Reading Program also has commentary and background
information on much of the Bible (currently, most of the Old Testament).
The ministers on our Personal Correspondence team are also happy to answer
Bible questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bible reference books can also be useful. Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias
can explain a given subject or what a word meant in Bible times. A commentary
is a volume or series of volumes in which authors record their interpretations
of many scriptures.
It is important to remember that, while these references are written
by well-educated people, they reflect the doctrinal and denominational
biases of the authors and often various commentaries will disagree with
each other. Don't rely on a commentary as a final authority on any issue;
rather, commentaries best serve as a starting point for finding possible
explanations of a verse. From there you must be sure to carefully check
that explanation against what the Bible itself says.
Okay, but some of these methods require reference books I don't
have. Is there a quicker and less expensive way?
The Internet provides many ways to go about the above methods quickly
and for free. Sites like biblegateway.com and blueletterbible.com provide
an easily accessible Bible in a huge variety of translations and languages,
as well as the option to search for any word or even phrase within the
selected version. Blueletterbible.com also
features the ability to view the corresponding Greek or Hebrew words for
each word in their online King James Version (click on "Show Strong's").
includes online versions of Nave's Topical Bible and Torrey's
New Topical Textbook.
Other options include free-to-use Bible programs such as e-Sword and
Online Bible. Downloadable from http://www.e-sword.net,
e-Sword allows Windows users to easily choose from and customize their
personal copy of the program with a huge variety of Bible translations,
commentaries, dictionaries, maps and various extras like Josephus's Antiquities
of the Jews. (Many of these add-ons are free, though some must be
purchased).Windows and Mac users can download the free Online Bible software
It also offers dozens of free downloadable public domain Bible versions
Many more software and online resources are listed in our booklet How
to Understand the Bible in the section on Bible
Study Software and Online Resources.
With these resources at your fingertips, you now have the ability to
find just about anything you need in the Bible. You are also well on your
way to having effective Bible studies about whatever topics you'd like
to delve into.
As an exercise for practicing what you just learned in this lesson, do
a Bible study on how to please God. Using your Bible, concordance, topical
index or Internet sources (such as doing a search on our Web site), dig
up at least five related scriptures. Then try to come up with five specific
things you can do to please God.
Next Lesson: What Happens After Death?
Questions about this
lesson? Feedback about
a Successful Bible Study
Live and Love the Bible
How to Understand the
The Good News Bible Reading
Frequently Asked Bible Questions