Tools needed for Biographical Bible Study
A study bible.
An exhaustive concordance.
Bible Dictionary or encyclopedia
Topical BibleThe Bible is a historical document. The entire Bible can be viewed as one beautiful story that the God of the universe himself has written and directed. He chose the characters that would be in story. He chose their entry points and their exit points. He plotted everything. He chose characters with all kinds of flaws that you could imagine and put them in the play. He also chose characters who in spite of their flaws had great strength of character. God wrote this love letter, this story for our benefit so that we can learn from the characters that he has chosen. Because none of them appeared in the story without God’s careful selection and purposeful decision to put them in, a biographical study becomes a method by which we can go deeper into God’s word and with the help of the Holy Spirit find out what lessons God has for us to learn his chosen characters. We may even ask God why he put a particular character in the story at the exact time that he did.
What is a Biographical Study
A biography is a written account of a person’s life written by another person. In a biographical study you will write a very vivid biography of your character making him or her come alive as much as possible. The way we go about it is that we select a character of interest from the Bible and study their life, work, character traits, and relationship to Christ. We want to know what was their passion, what motivated and inspired them to live life as they did. What were their struggles and weaknesses, what were their strengths? The Biographical study is really a type of topical Bible Study but is set apart because of its usefulness.
Benefits of the Biographical Bible Study.
We will be able to learn from the character’s strengths and weaknesses and God would use that information to transform our own lives as we examine our lives in light of the character’s life to see where we need to grow.
Procedure for doing a Biographical Bible Study.
Step 1. Select the character of interest to you for your study. Chose a person who has a strength that you want to have or a flaw that you want to get rid off.
Step 2. Use an exhaustive concordance to gather all the passages in the Bible that mention your character.
Step 3: Repeatedly read each Bible reference about your character and meditate on it. Read with a pencil and notebook so that you can write any information that you glean.
Step 4: Make a sketch the person’s life from Birth to Death if possible. If not, simply make a chronological map of all the information that you have about the character. If possible write the verses along a chronological time-line to map the person’s life.
Step 5. Analyze the character of the person: An important part of the Biographical Study is a Character Study. Some authors present the character study as a separate method of Bible Study. However we leave character study as part of the Biographical Study where it belongs because we feel that it is most beneficial to study a person’s character in context with the rest of the person’s life. Our character is shaped and molded by our experiences. Isolated character and studying it without also at the same time studying the rest of the person’s life and the circumstances under which that character developed and was expressed will lead to a fragmentary knowledge of the person and not a complete picture of the person. Under this portion of the biographical study, focus on studying the person’s character and comparing and contrasting it to the Character of Christ. Then draw lessons from this character study to shape your own character.
Step 6: Analyze the person’s work.
Step 7: Note the person’s relationship to Jesus as a type of Christ (Joseph, David, Isaac etc), a forerunner of Christ (e.g. John the Baptist), a believer in Christ, servant of Christ, a nonbeliever, enemy of Christ, family member to Christ, friend etc.
Step 8: Summarize the main lessons learned from the life of the character.
Step 9: Write an application.
Some of the areas to probe before making the sketch of the person’s life:
– Look up the meaning of their name
– Note when and where he lived.
– Examine their weaknesses, failures and their strengths.
– Examine their family background
– Examine their family relationships
– Examine the mistakes they made, the privileges they squandered, opportunities they lost
– Also examine their areas of success, they opportunities they made good use of, the dangers they avoided.
– Look at their relationship to power and success and their strengths and weaknesses in that area.
Advise for doing a biographical Bible Study.
Some characters in the Bible have very little said about them. For such people, you have to look up verse or passage about them and use it. Others like Jesus, Paul, and David have a lot written about them. To do a biographical study about a character with much written about, you need to carefully choose which passages to use for our biographical sketch. It would not be advisable to try to use every reference on them.
– Begin with someone who has very few references in the Bible, someone like Stephen or Barnabas.
– Resist the temptation to read other people’s biographical studies on your character until you have done yours. If you do, you will cheat yourself from the joy of discovering the facts about that person.
– Some characters like Peter may go by different names. Make sure you identify all the names so that you don’t leave out any verses about this character from your study.
– Use the Visualization method of meditation on the passages and try to enter into the scene and really enjoy the sights and smells and take up that person’s character fully. That’s what good actors do; they become the character they are playing. Do that in your study.