Recently, Dr. Mike Heiser, a prominent Bible scholar at Logos Bible Software, shared his personal “Laws for Bible Study,” which he originally shared on his personal blog, The Naked Bible:
Heiser’s Laws for Bible Study:
Bible reading is not Bible study. I have learned, kicking and screaming mind you, that this is where most people are at. Everyone can do serious Bible study and they should.
1. There is no substitute for close attention to the biblical text
You should be observing the biblical text in the original languages. If you cannot, never trust one translation in a passage. Use several and then learn skills for understanding why they disagree. These skills would be things like learning grammatical terms and concepts, along with translation philosophy and the basics of textual criticism.
2. Patterns in the text are more important than word studies
You need to learn to trace threads and ideas through the Bible and observe how the New Testament re-purposes and interprets the Old Testament. If you aren’t paying attention to these things, you’re missing more than you think you’re seeing.
3. The Bible must be interpreted in context, and that context isn’t your own, or that of your theological tradition
The context of the Bible is the context that produced it—ancient Near East/Mediterranean.
In other words, if you’re letting your theological tradition filter the Bible to you, you aren’t doing Bible study or exegesis, and you aren’t interpreting the Bible in context.
4. The Bible is a divine human book; treat it as such
Put another way, God chose people to write the biblical text, and people write using grammar, in styles understood by their peers, and with deliberate intent—and so the Bible did not just drop from heaven. Study it as though some person actually wrote it, not like it is the result of a paranormal event.
5. If it’s weird, it’s important (i.e. it’s there for a reason; it is not random)
Put another way: Systematic theology isn’t helpful (and can be misleading) if its conclusions are not derived from exegesis of the original text. Biblical theology is done from the ground up, not the top down.