Introduction to The Study Bible for Women
Skip to the first article, “How do I begin personal Bible study?”.
Please enjoy this letter from our editor explaining why The Study Bible for Women was created.
Opening God’s Word to women through a comprehensive study of Scripture prepared by women for women on subjects important to women is not really a modern phenomenon. The Apostle Paul placed within his discussion on church order a mandate for spiritually mature women to teach women who were new to the faith (Ti 2:3-5). In the modern era as well, women are devoting personal time and resources to diligent study of God’s Word and woman-to-woman instruction.
The Study Bible for Women, together with the Old and New Testament volumes of The Women’s Evangelical Commentary, completes a trilogy of unique tools for unlocking the riches of holy Scripture. These three volumes, without apology, are prepared primarily for women to use in personal study and preparation for teaching. In the Study Bible, women will find guidance for unfolding the clear meaning of Scripture as well as timely challenges to fashion their lives accordingly, written by believing sisters in the Lord who have a passion for woman-to-woman exposition and who are uniquely prepared to explain the Scriptures. The women who contributed to these volumes model disciplined reading of Scripture according to carefully defined hermeneutical boundaries, resulting in:
• distinctive exegesis that pulls out the meaning of the text rather than reading into the text their own personal opinions;
• sensitivity to apply Scripture to the particular needs and questions of women without using a feminist “gender lens”;
• intuitive scholarship—the linking of discerning intuition with the discipline of scholarship;
• cultivation of mentoring friendships that offer common ground instead of polarity in the tasks of understanding and teaching the Bible; and
• creativity in connecting mind and heart, doctrine and practical service, firm biblical boundaries and relevant life applications.
Scripture provides all you need for “life and godliness,” and The Study Bible for Women is the perfect tool for discovering this provision. Its specially designed features offer to any woman who comes to Scripture with an open heart and ready mind a catalyst for personal study of God’s Word as well as resources for teaching other women how to read and study the Scriptures. The introduction to each of the Bible’s 66 books answers basic fact questions about the book, explains what the book is about, offers good reasons for women to read it, and provides guidance for studying it effectively. Also included are a carefully selected key verse that captures one of the book’s themes, a timeline situating people and main events in history, and a content outline that provides a helpful overview of the book and its structure. The study notes in the outer margins offer insights on difficult-to-understand passages and spotlight important truths. In addition, “threads” of specialized study are woven throughout—explanations of foundational doctrines, profiles of biblical women, relevant discussions of biblical womanhood, helpful word studies, and answers to hard questions prompted by the text of Scripture. At the end of each book is a devotional word of application, celebration, encouragement, or other means of allowing the Holy Spirit to write the particular truths of that book on your own heart.
Come to Scripture with a teachable heart ready to hear God speak, respond to Him in obedience and find your place in His story. The godly woman will seek to conform her beliefs and behavior to Scripture, not pick and choose what Scripture is most agreeable to her own desires. Attentiveness to the Word of God, willingness to explore its depths, and eagerness to meet and enjoy fellowship with its divine Author will inspire your readiness to be come a wise woman whose life is securely built on the rock of doing whatever the Lord says (Mt 7:24-25). May the Lord grand to each of you who uses this Study Bible a renewed commitment of personal time and the determination to pursue the riches found in a serious study of God’s Word— not only for yourself but also for the women you will teach as the Word is continually written on your heart.
Yours for a journey through God’s Word,
Dorothy Kelley Patterson
How Do I Begin Personal Bible Study?
Spiritual formation or quiet time begins with setting apart a definite time for personal Bible study—not preparation time for research or teaching or writing but a communication time with God. Guard that time and use it wiseley. Once the time is set and you are serious about personal study, you are ready to move into the biblical text. You should read the book as a whole, not once but several times, hopefully reading through the book in one sitting. I emphasize a different aspect of study with each reading. For example, my first reading is to get broad aquantience with the book, without making notes but underlining or highlighting key ideas, not trying to interrupt reading with explanations from other but listening for the Spirit’s direction and application. My second reading is to determine how the book is divided or outlined and note in my journal recurring themes, terms of interest and topics addressed.
At this point you are ready to read the book by sections and summarize as you read, documenting the flow of the book’s message prayerfully and reverently. By reading the text without consulting other sources, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, you can come to your own understanding of the tat, Without being sidetracked, yu are able to master the overall message of the words themselves.
What Should I Look for in This Personal Reading of the Text Itself?
Look for these elements:
• The principal or most important subject addressed
• Any outstanding lessons
• Verses for focus and memorizing
• Prominent people and places mentioned—are there any role models?
• References to the central message of Scripture — Christ and His atonement
• Practical applications to life and work
• Devotional thoughts for meditation
The most careful study of Scripture is verse-by-verse exegesis in which you more slowly and deliberately though the text without trying to sidestep difficult verses:
• Consider parallel passages expressing the same thought (e.g., “fears the Lord” as found in Pr 31:30 and also in 1Pt 3:1-4).
• See how one passage casts light on another (e.g., an understanding of the creation order in Gn2 and explaining the relationship between men and women in the home, Eph 5:21-in Gn 2 in explaining the relationship between men and women in the home, Eph 5:21-31; and in the church, 1Tm 2:9-15).
• Let the meaning of one passage further define another (e.g., love as defined in 1Co 13 and then further amplified in 1Jn 3:16).
• Develop original principles to be modified and explained in relation to some new set of circumstances (e.g, the relationship between women and men clearly established through generations but then questions because of cultural changes and now defined through an understanding of egalitarianism vs. complementarianism.
Resources play heavily into personal study—whether for your own edification or to help you in teaching others. Grammatical tools can also be helpful, such as diagramming sentences…
What Kind of Sources Should I Use?
Sources are readily available, While the Bible is the primary source, the following are secondary sources that should be within every woman’s reach for study:
• Find verse quickly and examine how the words are used throughout Scripture by using a concordance of the Bible (an unabridged desk copy).
• Detailed information about words, people, places, and events can be found in a Bible dictionary.
• An overview and general information on books of the Bible can be found in a Bible handbook.
• Pinpointing geographical locations, often together with a description of the history and significance of the place, is best done in a Bible atlas.
• Translations and paraphrases are helpful to express the best understanding of a passage.
• A Harmony of the Gospels is essential for any study of the four Gospels.
• Charts and graphics are helpful organizational and clarifying tools.
• Bible commentaries are essential for exegetical study. Perhaps you will begin with the Women’s Evangelical commentary—both Old Testament and New Testament volumes (see additional bibliographies at the end of each book in these commentaries).
Once you have worked your way systematically through the text you are ready to study its theological content. With the big picture, you can better understand the flow of the author’s message. The most accurate interpretation is always found in comparing Scripture with Scripture:
• Obscure passages must be interpreted in light of passages that are crystal clear.
• Beware of trying to build a major doctrine on one, or even several, isolated verses.
• Understand doctrines by reviewing many verses and sections of Scripture.
• If, in your human evaluation, two doctors appear to contradict each other, accept both, realizing you will never understand the mind of God.
• Study brief passages in light of lengthier passages.
• Note that the New Testament helps to interpret the Old Testament and vice versa.
• Timeless principles are found behind timely manifestations of those principles.
• Systematic passages should take priority over incidental passages.
• Teaching or didactic passages make more clear symbolic or practical passages.
• Every part of Scripture must be viewed in light of its overall emphasis.
Application is the finale to your study of Scripture, but all practical lessons must be governed by discipled and tested principles of hermeneutics. The Bible is a book of principles and not merely a catalog of solutions for every situation. Principles are clearly stated, but you must be sensitive to the spirit of God’s Word since Scripture will not directly address every subject. The emphasis of Scripture is on inner commitment to holiness of life and obedience to God rather than a pseudo-spiritual load of outward acquiescence to whatever seems relevant in your own thinking. You must make a distinction between what the Bible records (e.g., slavery) and what it approves (e.g., male headship in the home and church). Express commands to individuals in Scripture are not necessarily the will of God for you, now is a literal reproduction of a biblical situation necessary to determine God’s will for you
Personal study is definitely the first step in preparing to teach the Bible. You must discover what the passage really says and what it means by following good hermeneutical principles and harmonizing the text with its context and with the whole Scripture. You are then ready to make an outline and to prepare an introduction to draw your pupils into the study as well as a conclusion to persuade them to move to action. In the heart of your teaching, challenge your listeners to think and make practical applications to life.