Scripture study strategies

I’m pretty OCD about a lot of things. I have an extensive bible collection that I’m kind of embarrassed of. Why? Sometimes I’ll write in them. Six months later I’ll come across what I wrote and guess what? I disagree with what I said. Time to put the bible on the bookshelf. Study bibles are a different problem. I just bought the ESV study bible. It’s great … except for the fact that it’s very baptistic, doesn’t affirm sacramentral efficacy, it’s contra the new perspective on Paul, it’s too strongly complementarian (more than Driscoll, who is surprisingly moderate on the issue), etc. So this means I rarely end up using study bibles. What about plain old vanilla translations with no markings in them? Can’t use those either. I don’t know why but I’m getting to the point where the bible really frustrates me. I can’t just sit down with the text. I have difficulty understanding what it’s saying. I’ll read Galatians and see three separate readings of a text with no reason to prioritize one reading over another. I’m starting to see that outside of core doctrinal beliefs, a lot of my readings probabilistically speaking are really only about 60-65% certain (if you can even rate the strengths of beliefs on a scale). This is why daily bible reading plans like M’Cheyne’s don’t work for me. I need to go slowly through a book, verse by verse.

What I’ve been doing for the past two years is keeping a file on each book of the Bible. Anything I read that’s interesting on say Romans goes into the Romans file. This is great but it ends up being really disjointed and inaccessible when I most need it. So in the spirit of lifehacker applied to Scriptural studies, here’s my new plan for study:

  • Using iWork I print out each book of the bible on landscape view. Half the page is text. The other half is blank for notes. Ian Clary will be happy that I’ve started to do this with the TNIV. Click here for my first shot at this with the book of Galatians. I plan on doing this for the entire Bible. Keep checking back for updates.
  • If my notes fill the page then I just reprint the page from the PDF and keep adding notes.
  • For doctrinal issues and relevant conversations I take notes on them as they come up and add them as separate pages affixed to the text of Scripture that they most relate to. Clippings and photocopies can also be inserted in between relevant pages of Scripture.
  • This is hopefully something I can keep up for the rest of my life, culminating with a homemade study bible that should span a couple levels of a bookcase by the time I’m a senior.
  • If you think I’m crazy, Jonathan Edwards did something similar with his “blank Bible.” The Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University is now preparing this for publication.