Writing Bible Studies: Feeling the Nudge?

Writing Bible studies is my passion, but it used to scare my freckles white. How are we supposed to improve on the inerrant Word? Thankfully, that’s not our goal. Whew! A good Bible study provides practical, 21st-century application to timeless truths filtered through the author’s life experiences.

So where do we begin? Some writers start with a theme such as comfort or joy. I love to start with a few passages of Scripture that resonate in my heart and mind that I’ve read during my morning quiet time, or heard in a sermon or Bible class. Both approaches work well because they provide a solid starting point.

Whether you’re writing a full-length Bible study, an abbreviated study for a magazine, or teaching a Bible class, I’ve learned there are five basic steps that seldom change. Begin by asking God for His wisdom and guidance, then:

1. Immerse yourself in the scene.

Writing Bible studies involves telling a story, so don’t neglect the scenery, human interaction, or history. Who wrote the passages? Where do they take place? What season is it? What’s the emotional temperature? Is there conflict? Who’s involved? From whose POV is the story told? How is God revealed? What’s the overarching lesson? Incorporating some or all of these elements invites readers to relate on a personal level.

2.  Look up the passages in their original language.

Whether Greek (New Testament) or Hebrew (Old Testament), it’s crucial to understand the accurate meaning of the words used. The Hebrew language contains no vowels, so English translators added them so we could understand the text. But sometimes the interpretations fall short of capturing the original connotation. For example, Psalm 23:3 promises, “He restores my soul.” In the Hebrew, “restores” means “to reset.” In other words, God reboots us! The rich meanings that I learn during this step often alter the trajectory of an entire study.

3. Research the culture of that time period.

For example, it’s hard to understand the depth of love that drove the prodigal son‘s father to run and welcome his son home until we learn that it was utterly disgraceful in that culture for a man of the father’s stature to lift his robes, run, and reveal his hairy knees. (Yes, really!) That cultural detail allows us to grasp on a deeper level God’s passionate pursuit of us when we go astray. Researching the cultural background provides vivid history and valuable insight.

4. Read Biblical commentaries.

Scholars use their theological expertise to point out nuances in the original languages and cultural idiosyncrasies that help you parallel today’s trends. They often cross-reference words, verses, and similar scenarios throughout Scripture that aid your writing perspective. Also, several commentators lived in the 19-20th centuries, so that really cool, old-school writing style lights up my imagination!

5. Use reference books and resources.

Just like the Chicago Manual of Style represents a must-have for fiction writers, Bible study writers need particular resources readily available. I find these indispensable:

Last, but by no means least, every Bible study writer needs to be a faithful student of Scripture. Here’s a handy Bible Reading Checklist to download and tuck in your Bible. It’s a useful tool to check off the books and chapters as you read them.

Regardless of how you approach writing Bible studies, keep writing. Relentlessly ask God to guide you. Your freckles will return, I promise! This process enriches your spiritual journey and provides that same opportunity for others. This may be a tedious process, but you’re not just writing about any story. It’s THE story.

Let’s chat:  If you write Bible studies, what works for you?  If you’ve never written one, what did you find most helpful?

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