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Synthetic Study of the Bible

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Have you ever read a book of the Bible through in one sitting, repeatedly and continuously until you have a thorough grasp of the outline, main themes, and important details?

One of the requirements for my seminary students in the Bible Engagement – Encountering the Bible in a Life Changing Way class was to read the book of Titus once through, every day, for seven consecutive days. They had to read it in the same version, without the use of commentaries or guides, uninfluenced by chapter/verse designations, and in prayerful reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Reading each book of the Bible as a whole is called the synthetic study of the Bible. It’s so named because it majors on synthesis (combining into a coherent whole) as distinct from analysis (separating into constituent elements). To use a metaphor, it’s not about inspecting each tree in the forest, it’s about viewing the forest from above and seeing how the trees are an interconnected ecosystem.

The benefits of the synthetic study of the Bible includes the following:

  • it helps one experience the force of the book in its entirety
  • it builds understanding of a book as it relates to the other books of the Bible
  • it develops interpretive skills
  • it enlarges and strengthens mental vision and faith
  • it facilitates a mastery of the book being read, i.e., helps one retain it
  • it majors on repetition, and repetition is a great teacher
  • it helps one see “the beauty of the whole forest”
  • it compels one to rely on the Holy Spirit for insight and understanding
  • it fuels introspection that leads to conviction, prayer and life change

There are many other benefits. My seminary students journaled their synthetic Bible study experiences and some of their insights are captured in the comments below:

“I think after reading it a few times you notice little nuances and I just want to sit and stew over every verse” Dariusz Ciolek.

“I’m starting to take better note of Paul’s flow of thought …” Josh Bryant.

“I found myself convicted by what Paul writes.” Katherine Brouwer.

“On the first day I read it like a school text … as a theological student … trying to find critical issues … and I got stuck. On the second day I realised I was not a student … On the third day I was laughing … interacting personally with the text … On the fifth day the reading helped me think about my past life … and how God can change the entirety of my life.” Anmol Khadka.

“I grasped the main theme and the important details. I also had many insights and better understood the structure, teaching and importance of what Paul wrote in the letter.” Belinda Lam.

Do you long to really dig into God’s Word – to read the Bible in a way that helps you become very familiar with it? Wayne Davies started the synthetic study of the Bible by reading the shorter books of the New Testament repeatedly, in one sitting, and “was blown away by the impact it had on my understanding. It really worked!”

So why not try it for yourself?

Related Articles

Communal Bible Engagement

Tailor Made

Recommended Resources

James M. Gray, How to Master the English Bible

Wayne Davies, The Forgotten Bible Reading Method: How to Read and Understand the Bible in 5 Simple Steps.

Woodrow Kroll, Read Your Bible One Book at a Time

Scott Bolinder, Paul Caminiti, Alex Goodwin, Glenn Paauw, Institute for Bible Reading

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

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