Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: How To Study the Bible

How To Study The Bible. R.A. Torrey. 1896. Hendrickson Publishers. 90 pages.

Is R.A. Torrey opinionated?! You better believe it!!! But he's also practical. In How To Study The Bible--first published over a hundred years ago--Torrey gives you practical guidelines on how to read the Bible, how to study the Bible, how to get the most from your time in The Word.

He urges his readers to remember..."that the Bible contains gold, and almost anyone is willing to dig for gold, especially if it is certain that he will find it. It is certain that one will find gold in the Bible, if he digs."

Chapter by chapter he goes through a handful of different methods including: the study of individual books, topical study, biographical study, study of types, the study of the books of the Bible in the order given in the Bible and in their chronological order, and the study of the Bible for practical usefulness in dealing with men.

Many of the chapters are quite detailed. Many follow a formal organizational layout--they're written in outline form practically. So the chapter on how to read an individual book offers several methods, several techniques, several levels to do just that. So you can get ideas from Torrey and adapt them to fit you where you are. Therefore under "Select A Book To Study" we find: 1) For your first book study, choose a short book 2) Choose a comparatively easy book 3) Choose a book that is rich enough in its teaching to illustrate the advantages of this method of study, and thus give a keen appetite for further studies of this same kind.

But it is under the heading "Master the Book's General Contents" that I found the most inspiration. It's challenging to say the least. But. I think it might be worth considering.
"It consists in merely reading the book through without stopping, and then reading it through again, and then again, say a dozen times in all, at a single sitting. To one who has never tried it, it does not seem as if that would amount to much, but any thoughtful man who has ever tried it will tell you quite differently. It is simply wonderful how a book takes on new meaning and beauty upon this sort of an acquaintance. It begins to open up. New relations between different parts of the book begin to disclose themselves. Fascinating lines of though running through the book appear. The book is grasped as a whole and the relation of the various parts to one another apprehended, and a foundation laid for an intelligent study of those parts in detail."
Torrey also suggests methods that sound like the modern-day inductive study. These methods include writing your own book introductions, writing your own summaries, dividing the book into sections, writing your own headings, writing down "truths" from each verse--what each verse has to say in great detail. Not only does he have you study each verse in each chapter in each book. He has you looking up the WORDS in each verse. Studying how individual words were used throughout the Bible. So if the book you were studying has a verse that mentions grace or love or justification or mercy or hope or whatever....then he has you looking up every use of that word so you can compare usages and definitions. So you can make connections between verses, find parallel passages, etc.

He is very detailed, very organized, very practical. This is the kind of resource that is MOST helpful to people seriously seeking a way to study the Bible, to understand it, to appreciate it. While not every method is as apparently helpful as others--it took me a while to grasp the point of "the study of the Bible for practical usefulness in dealing with men"--I think overall it does a good job in what it's trying to accomplish.

The second part of this book is crucial. It's subtitled: "Fundamental Conditions of the Most Profitable Bible Study." It stresses the fact that readers need to be a) born again b) have a love of the Bible, c) have a willingness to work or "dig" into the Bible, d) be willing to surrender their will to God, e) be willing to be obedient to the Bible's teachings f) have a child-like mind. (He writes, "Do not come to the Bible full of your own ideas, and seeking from it a confirmation of them. Come rather to find out what are God's ideas as He has revealed them there. Come not to find a confirmation of your own opinion, but to be taught what God may be pleased to teach. If a man comes to the Bible just to find his notions taught there, he will find them; but if he comes, recognizing his own ignorance, just as a little child, to be taught, he will find something infinitely better than his own notions--even the mind of God.") g) study the Bible as the Word of God h) come praying!

While I'm not sure it would be practical to use EVERY method suggested within How To Study The Bible, I think Torrey gives readers a good place to start.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Annette said...

I am reading a great book right now I think you might like. I checked it out from our public library, it is
A Visual History of the English Bible by Donald L. Brake.
I am learning so much, plus there is great glossy photo's!

Becky said...

My library doesn't have that one. But I think it has several books about how the English Bible came to be--how/when it was translated, the history of it, etc.

I think the "illustrated" aspect of it may keep it from being dry? I don't know. I guess that's the biggest concern I have. Is it really going to be interesting?!