Brief Insights for Mastering Bible Study (Heiser)

Heiser, Michael. Brief Insights for Mastering Bible Study. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.

This book is written on the most basic level. It is designed for the brand new Christian, though there are insights that experienced bible readers can take home. The goal is not to learn a method or a series of steps but to learn how to think critically. You must learn to develop insightful questions.

Study Habits

Memorization isn’t bible study. It is good, perhaps even necessary. Bible study involves thinking and thinking is work. It isn’t a ritual event. And if time is a commodity, Heiser recommends, and I think this is quite good, devoting small increments to thinking about what we have studied.

In chapter 5 Heiser admits we can never have pure objectivity to the text. We can still ask whether our precommitments are impeding our knowledge of what the text is saying.

Geography is important, too. If something happened at a place, look it up on a map. For example, it makes a big difference if the Transfiguration happened around Mt. Herman rather than Mt. Tabor.

Read Journal Articles

Journal articles are published several times a year. They are more up-to-date and cutting edge than commentaries. While not objective, they give you access to a wider range of experts in the field. The average lifespan of a critical article is about twenty years. Think of scholarship before the discovery of Ugarit or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

He then covers linguistic issues in the text: there is no Holy Ghost Greek, the Masoretic Text didn’t fall from heaven, and the books in the canon are not necessarily in chronological order. Per the Masoretic text, this means you can entertain alternative textual readings if you have good warrant to do so.

Heiser points out that the cultural milieu of the bible is not that of late Western Europe. This seems like a truism, but it’s not. People get nervous when the term “Second Temple Judaism” is mentioned, if only because of what NT Wright has done with the term. Be that as it may, what is more likely to be understood by a first century Jew: the writings of that time period or 19th century theology?

Also, don’t worry too much about doing word studies. Most people at the beginner level commit more fallacies on this point than anywhere else (scholars, too). For example, is a butterfly a fly that is made out of butter? That’s what doing word-studies looks like. It’s more profitable to trace concepts throughout the bible than word studies.

Bible Study Tools

Strong’s Concordance is good, but online search engines have rendered it somewhat obsolete. If you are going to use an interlinear bible, use a reverse one. If it is in a bible software it can directly link the words.

I do wish Heiser had gone a bit deeper at times, but this makes a perfect graduation gift for the brand new Christian.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s