Aug 12, 2021

Biblical Studies

4 Min Read


Biblical Studies is a branch of theology that examines the text of Scripture in order to draw out (the literal translation of “exegesis”) its meaning. Exegesis includes many subdisciplines: textual criticism, hermeneutics, the study of the biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), biblical archaeology, biblical history, and biblical theology. How these disciplines relate to each other is debated, but all of them (either directly or indirectly) aid in discerning the meaning of Holy Scripture.


Textual criticism, when understood properly, is the task of comparing manuscripts in order to discover the original meaning of the text. Since we do not possess any of the original autographs, we must seek to get as close as we can by comparing manuscripts and thereby eliminating copying errors. There is no need for the Christian to feel nervous about this endeavor. God has preserved the Bible in a few exceptionally accurate manuscripts, in the case of the Old Testament, and in many thousands of manuscripts, in the case of the New Testament.

The student of the Bible must also learn how to read the Bible. Hermeneutics (from the Greek verb hermeneuō, meaning “to interpret”) is the study of interpretation. How do we interpret the Bible? We study how the Bible interprets itself. We study the historical background of the texts. We study the various literary genres in which the Bible has come down to us. We examine meaning itself, and how words convey meaning. We discover errors and fallacies of interpretation and seek to avoid them. Students also develop their understanding of how biblical studies and systematic theology complement each other and are not contradictory or conflicting.

The study of the biblical languages is a vitally important part of biblical studies since meaning can be lost in translation. The forms of words, the grammar of the languages (including some of the cognate languages to Hebrew, such as Akkadian and Ugaritic), the idiomatic expressions of a language all need to be studied properly so that the Bible can be well translated into all the earth’s languages.

Biblical archaeology studies the physical remains of history (apart from the texts) in order to help us understand the customs of ancient cultures and the geography of the land mentioned in the Bible and how the resulting data can affect our interpretation of the text.

Biblical history undertakes the study of the history of Israel and the church in connection with world history during biblical times. This is important not only because of interpretive reasons, but also for apologetic reasons, since there are many skeptical scholars who want to throw doubt on the historical truthfulness of Scripture.

Biblical theology is the study of the organic, unfolding nature of biblical revelation and especially how the earlier parts of Scripture foreshadow the later parts. The title of this branch of biblical studies is a bit of a misnomer, since it is not meant to imply that other branches of theology are unbiblical. This study traces the contours of biblical history, following the plotline of Scripture. Biblical theology helps us understand the dual nature of the authorship of Scripture: how God can be the final author of Scripture while prophets and Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, each in his own style. It also helps students connect the Bible together as one coherent whole, especially Old Testament to New Testament. Biblical theology takes as its starting point Luke 24 and John 5, that Jesus Christ is the ultimate content of all biblical revelation. This does not mean that Jesus Christ is the only subject matter of the Bible. Neither does it mean that every single detail of Scripture points directly to Jesus. Rather, the idea is that the scope of the whole is to give glory to God in Christ Jesus, and that Jesus is the climax of revelation.

New Christians or regular churchgoers should not feel intimidated by the existence of these fields, as if they have no right to come to Scripture and interpret the Scriptures for themselves. The basic gospel and what God demands of His people are clear enough in Scripture that anyone can discern them. These fields exist to serve the church and its people by helping to make interpretation easier and more accessible. This is why biblical scholars write commentaries and dictionaries to aid the general reader.


Many people find the study of Scripture to be an intimidating, if not impossible, endeavor. But God encourages us to put His Word on our hearts (Deut. 6:6), and He will open His Word to us if we are faithful to study it with diligence and humility. Consider joining a Bible study or class offered by your church so that you may learn from other Christians. Be sure to make some time each week for the study and contemplation of God’s Word.

R.C. Sproul

How to Study the Bible

Tabletalk magazine

Read the Bible with a red pen in hand. I suggest that you put a question mark in the margin beside every passage that you find unclear or hard to understand. Likewise, put an X beside every passage that offends you or makes you uncomfortable. Afterward, you can focus on the areas you struggle with, especially the texts marked with an X. This can be a guide to holiness, as the Xs show us quickly where our thinking is out of line with the mind of Christ. If I don’t like something I read in Scripture, perhaps I simply don’t understand it. If so, studying it again may help. If, in fact, I do understand the passage and still don’t like it, this is not an indication there is something wrong with the Bible. It’s an indication that something is wrong with me, something that needs to change.

R.C. Sproul

“A Practical Help for Bible Study,” Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow

We must read the Bible reverently, asking the Spirit to apply it to our lives. Yet, we are not to be passive in our study. Paul also tells us that we are to study in order that we might be reckoned as those who have God’s approval to handle and communicate His revelation (2 Tim. 2:15). We must work to understand God’s Word, meditating on it and thinking carefully about what it means and how we are to live out its commands. Private study is key, of course, but we are not to examine the Bible exclusively by ourselves. We must study with the church of God, examining the insights of past thinkers and regularly sitting under the preaching and teaching of our local churches.

R.C. Sproul

How to Study the Bible

Tabletalk magazine