It stands to reason, and is borne out in the experience of countless down through the ages, that if Christians are to have Jesus as the focal figure of their lives and God’s Church, they must learn of Him to be able to really learn Him. And the source of information “of” Him is the Scriptures. But how do we read the Bible? How do we go about studying it?
The truth is that there are books about the Bible, and about Christian faith (for that matter), all over the place. But when it comes down to reading the Bible and studying the Bible itself… well, most Christians seem content to stick to the books about it. Why is that? The Bible can be a tough book to read, sometimes, and there are various reasons for that – one of which is unfamiliarity with it. Unfamiliarity breeds unfamiliarity. In some ways analogous to the Ethiopian Eunuch, how can we understand it, how can we become familiar with it, if it isn’t opened to us by someone who “gets” it?
There are lots of ways to go about understanding the Bible better. I’m about to list a few computer resources (along with a brief assessment of their value), and I commend any of them to all – though for varying reasons.
One of the keys to understanding the Bible is to read it. That usually requires some kind of plan, and continuous reading (rather than just jumping from one place to another), so that things can be read in some kind of context. A help with this can be a Commentary, which is a book that is written by a scholar containing various comments about the verse or passage under consideration. To complement this, the Bible Dictionary (or Encyclopedia) can be very helpful, as these will often contain entries on many of the people and places referred to in whatever passage you’re reading, and give an account of that subject.
A number of these and other works that can be helpful for Bible study, are available for free online. I am going to highlight three programs that can be downloaded that can make using these simple. For each of them, there are various “modules” that can be added to them to put more resources at the fingers of the Bible student.
The first, and my first contact with such programs, is E-Sword. E-Sword is a very good product, and there is an extensive library available for it. A number of first-rate works are available, though a number of its add-on modules will cost some money (so, not all free). Nonetheless, it gives a handy screen to write your own Bible study notes in and to tie to whatever verse you’re reading in the Bible view – very handy.
There is also a handy on-line version of E-Sword that can be used, though I’ve never tried to use it for long-term/in-depth study and can’t comment on how useful it is for that.
I found E-Sword to be a good program, but I eventually found another program called The Word. This is one that I highly recommend. I find the interface to be a little easier (more intuitive, then?) than the E-Sword interface, and the option to add my own comments on verses/passages/chapters/books easier. The library of available resources is similar to those available for E-Sword.
Another Bible Study program that I’ve grown a little bit familiar with, and which a friend of mine works on developing, is called Bibletime. Bibletime has lots of language resources, lots of book modules to download, and of all the programs I’ve found it has the best method for downloading/installing new modules to it. Check out Bibletime – it’s worth your time .
So these are three useful Bible study programs that I commend to Christians for the building up of the Church, and the deepening of faith, and the direction of focus on Jesus Christ – who is the Word made flesh.