Bible Study Basic: Read the Parts and the Whole


It’s week two of Bible Study Basic. Last week I told you The Bible is About Jesus. This week I’m giving you a method of reading the Bible. If you’re going to be a good Bible student you have to learn to read the parts and the whole. What do I mean by that? Well, we can divide your Bible up into smaller parts.

  • The Whole Bible
    • The Old Testament
      • The Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
        • Genesis
          • Genesis 3
            • Genesis 3:14-15

Above you see six levels of depth. As you read and study your Bible you should work to see how the whole helps you understand the individual parts, as well as how the parts contribute to the whole. Here are some questions you should ask:

  • How does the story of the Bible relate to the story of Genesis 3:14-15?
  • How does Genesis 3:14-15 relate to Genesis as a whole?
  • How does the message of the Pentateuch help me understand Genesis, or Genesis 3?

Let’s take Genesis 3:14-15 for example.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring  and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.

How does the story of the Bible relate to the story of Genesis 3:14-15

The Bible is God’s grand narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration in Christ Jesus. Our passage obviously teaches us about the Fall of man. Having been deceived by the serpent and spurned God’s love this verse is actually part of the curse God spoke over creation. Thankfully, even in the curse of the Fall God has redemption in mind. One day, the descendant of Adam and Eve will crush the serpent’s head.

How does Genesis 3:14-15 relate to Genesis as a whole?

The enmity between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent likely refers to the division throughout Genesis between those who trust and obey God and those who oppose his rule. Though they both knew what God required Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice and Cain refused. The descendants of Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son, represent those who seek God in Genesis. For the rest of the book the author makes distinctions between those who God calls in his grace and those he does not.

How does the message of the Pentateuch help me understand Genesis 3?

Here you’ll have to read and process a lot. The point of the Pentateuch is to show us where we came from and why we are the way we are (Creation and Fall). The Pentateuch is also given to us to show that only unilateral action by God himself will rescue us from our pitiful state. It is God who calls the undeserving Abraham and covenants to bless the world through him. God alone rescues his people out of their bondage in Egypt. He redeems his people, brings them to himself (Sinai), and calls them to obedience (Ten Commandments). No one in the Pentateuch demonstrates faithfulness or obedience to the degree that God must accept them. The end of the Deuteronomy shows us that even the most faithful leader, Moses, had disobeyed God and wouldn’t enter the Promised Land. When the book closes, the serpent still lives. The people of God must wait for the one who is greater than Moses to come and crush the serpent’s head.

10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. — Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (ESV)

Where do I begin?

1. Read Deep and Wide

If you want confidence when you open your Bible you have to read both deep (dig into small passages) and wide (read Romans in one sitting). You must work diligently to understand the parts in light of the whole. How can you do that if you never commit to read the entire Bible? You must work to understand the whole in light of the parts. How can you do that without committing to studying God’s Word in a class, or on your own?

2. Start a Journal

One of the best things you can do is to start a journal to take notes from your pastor’s preaching or your Bible study’s teaching. Any time they relate the passage under immediate investigation to the whole make note of it.

3. Summarize the Book in One Sentence

As you read the book look for recurring themes, phrases, words. Can you write out the argument the author is making in one sentence? I’ll never forget that the key phrase in Exodus is, “That you may know that I am the Lord.” It occurs 38 times in the book. Hebrews shows us that Jesus is supreme. John wrote his gospel that, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) I typically write my one sentence summary at the top of the title page of each book.

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