Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Biographical Bible Study Method

Gebhard Fugel Moses vor dem brennenden Dornbusch c1920
I remember thinking when I was a kid that all the characters in the Bible were just too good.  Noah was so righteous he wasn't killed in the flood, Moses led the people out of Egypt, and David was a man after God's own heart.  How could I relate to these good people?   

Then I read the Bible instead of listening to children's stories, and I realized that Noah got drunk and naked after the flood, Moses begged God to choose someone else, and David was an adulterer and murderer.  We do a disservice to ourselves and our children when we elevate Biblical heroes to an unreachable pedestal.  When we study the people in the Bible fairly, we are able to see them in all their humanity: sinful people that God was able to use to accomplish his purposes despite their flaws. That is what the biographical method of Bible study is all about.

Step 1: Choose a Bible character for your study. 

Step 2: Use a concordance and/or topical Bible (link) to make a list of all the references concerning that person. Remember that some Bible characters may go by different names in different places, and may be called by something other than their proper name (e.g. "the disciple whom Jesus loved").

Step 3: Read all these passages once and note your first impressions.

Step 4: Read all the passages again and make a chronological outline of the person's life.

Step 5: Read all the passages again and look for other insights beyond your first impressions. Use the list of questions linked below to help you. 

Step 6: Read the passages again and identify character qualities of the person you have chosen.  Try to think of both positive and negative qualities. (For example, Peter was both zealous for Christ, and also hotheaded at times)

Step 7: Identify how Bible truths are illustrated in this person's life.  (For example, the life of Joseph shows how patiently waiting for the Lord's purposes is important)

Step 8: Summarize the main lessons you have learned. Remember to look at both sides.  The lessons can include both things we should do AND things we shouldn't do.

Step 9: Write out a personal application.  Remember that applications should be as specific and "doable" as possible.

Step 10: Make your study transferable. Not only should you see how these lessons apply in your life, but think about how they could apply to others as well.  How would you share these truths with others?

Step 11: Note someone you can share these lessons with. 
The attachment below is a list of questions to help you with step 5.  This is an extensive list of questions, and you shouldn't try to answer every one of them unless you just have several hours you want to spend on one biographical study.  Just select the questions you think would be helpful to your study. These are divided into divisions for easier use.

I'm so glad that God chose to tell his story of redemption through the people he created.  He could have chosen to tell us how to behave with a long list of rules, but instead he chose to tell us the stories about flawed people that he was able to use anyway.  When we can view these "heroes" through a lens of truth instead of through rose colored glasses, we can see just how much we can learn from them.


All Bible Study methods courtesy of Bill and Beverly Watkins, used with their permission and with many thanks.

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