In every Explore the Bible session, at least one Bible skill activity is included. The skill may be included in the group plans or group activities as a way to help the members of our group develop and refine their personal Bible study skills so they can do it on their own.
This brings us to the issue of defining and listing Bible skills. Bible skills are actions a person takes that moves them beyond simply reading a Bible text and interacting with that text so that they gain a deeper understanding of that passage and how it fits into the whole counsel of God. That interaction may include word studies, map exploration, cross references, and a variety of other actions. These interactions help us answer the who, what, when, where, how, and why questions and help us connect the dots with other passages.
We began compiling a list of Bible study skills which seems to grow every time we revisit that list. So we could better manage our list, we began categorizing the skills. Our list is not perfect since some of the skills and categories overlap, but it does help us keep in mind the various ways Bible skills help us study the Bible.
Here are the nine broad categories we are currently using to organize our list:
Reading the passage aloud. This seems simple, but various ways of reading a passage can impact our understanding. Passages can be read with emphasis on different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns), in the emotion conveyed, or from various translations. Another variation of this category is reading a passage aloud as a prayer.
Memorizing. This category is about ways of memorizing Bible verses for recall. The skills in this category include memorization tools like using memory cards, reviewing, and Bible drill activities.
Paraphrasing. The goal of these skills is to help us get a clearer understanding of the parts of the words. Other skills like word studies help with these skills. When paraphrasing, we may do so with synonyms, antonyms, expanded definitions of the words used, and translation comparisons.
Word study. In this category, the actions usually involve using a Bible concordance, lexicon, or expository dictionary. We may look at ways a word is used in that partial Bible book or author, used by other authors, when it is repeated, and how that word is translated.
Diagraming. Many of our English teachers would be proud to see this here! In this category, we make a graphic depiction of how the words and phrases relate to each other. The goal of the diagram is defining the grammatical structure of the sentence or paragraph.
Bible Dictionary skills. This category is broad with multiple actions bound by the use of a Bible dictionary. Some of the subcategories include reading selected entries based on a topic, person, group of people, place, or item. We may then review other passages listed in the article, write a synopsis, or read related articles as next steps.
Map skills. A Bible atlas is a must at this point. We may be looking at distance, topography, water sources, agricultural usages, and migrations. We may also look for other things that happened in that location or region which may help us get context.
Comparing similar or related passages. Cross references serve as the starting point. Some of the actions listed in this category include comparing synoptic accounts (the Gospels, Samuel/Kings/Chronicles), quotes on an Old Testament passage, New Testament interpretations of an Old Testament passage, and passages with the same theme or theological concept.
Bible Book Backgrounds. A Study Bible, commentary, and Bible handbook come in handy when doing these actions. These skills include identifying the writer’s stated purpose, the audience and the significance of that audience, themes, and connections to other Bible books. We may also look at customs and culture during the time that book was written to gain some historical context.
What other categories might you add to this list?
Preview studies in Explore the Bible and see how Bible skills are featured. Preview here.