6 Bible Study Methods You Need to Know (and Try)

Interior of The Word Study Reference Bible from Thomas Nelson, a Bible that can be used with any of the Bible study methods outlined in this article.

What is the goal or purpose of Bible study? While there are a number of different ways to say it they all boil down to this: We study the Bible to discover the intended meaning of a passage of Scripture and apply it to our lives today. It’s simple, but also not.

The “simple” is that we have a clear purpose. The “not” is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting there. That’s why different Bible study methods exist. 

What is a Bible Study method?

A Bible study method is a framework that help us understand and apply Scripture. Every method shares certain characteristics. They all incorporate observation, interpretation, application, and personal reflection. They all also place a different emphasis on one or another. Here are 6 methods we recommend:

  • The Inductive Method
  • The SOAP Method
  • The TEXT Method
  • The Verse-mapping Method
  • The Topical Study Method
  • The Character Study Method

The Inductive Method

The Inductive Bible Study Method is a process by which you make observations of a passage and draw conclusions from those observations. The questions at the heart of this approach typically follow the five Ws (and one H) approach many of us learned in elementary school:

  • Who (who is speaking; who is the intended audience; who is present in the moment, etc.)
  • What (what is this passage about; what problem is this addressing; what is happening; what is being said; what commands need to be obeyed, etc.)
  • When (when is this event taking place?)
  • Where (where is this event taking place, where does it fit in the larger context of the book and Scripture?)
  • Why (why is this message needed, why is it relevant today?)
  • How (how does this change what I know about God and humanity; how do I apply this to my life so that I can live more faithfully as a follower of Jesus?)

Many popular Bible study methods are variations of this tried-and-true approach (including many on this list). It’s also important to note that an inductive Bible study doesn’t require asking all of these types of questions every time. All you need are the passages that help you to best understand the meaning of the message and apply it.

The SOAP Method

The SOAP Method is a proven and effective approach to Bible study built on four practices:

  • Scripture, reading a passage and writing out 1­–2 specific verses by hand
  • Observation, asking questions of the text (who, what, where, when, how)
  • Application, considering how you should respond to what you’ve read
  • Prayer, thanking God for what he’s shown you, and for his empowerment as you seek to live faithfully in light of what you’ve discovered in your time in the Word

This method is at the heart of the Love God Greatly Bible. And best of all, SOAP can be used in in a verse-by-verse progression or in a topical study.

The TEXT Method

The TEXT Method is an accessible and memorable Bible study approach using four steps:

  • Talk to God in prayer before you read.
  • Encounter God and humanity in Scripture as you reflect on two simple questions: what does this passage say about God, and what does it say about humanity?
  • eXamine your heart, considering what needs to be confessed, added, taken away, or maintained as a follower of Jesus.
  • Talk to God and others, thanking God for what he has shown you in Scripture, and sharing what he’s shown you with someone else.

This method was introduced in The TEXT, a Bible designed for teens, young adults, and new believers, and can be practiced in a verse-by-verse or topical approach.

The Verse-mapping Method

The verse-mapping method of Bible study allows you to study the historical context, transliteration, translation, connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible. After choosing a verse (or verses) to study, do the following:

  • Write out your chosen verse(s)
  • Write them in at least two other translations (Remember, you can read a verse in multiple translations using Bible Gateway’s free tools)
  • Circle keywords to look up in the original languages and write down the definitions, synonyms, and root words
  • Explore the meaning and message of the verse or verses as you consider the people, places, and context involved, and make connections to other relevant passages and concepts in Scripture (the cross references in your Bible are ideally suited for this)
  • Write a 1–2 sentence summary of what you learned and consider how you can apply it

The Topical Bible Study Method

As the name suggests, this method helps you to explore in-depth a specific topic or concept within Scripture. To put this method into practice, follow the following steps:

  • Choose a topic you want to explore, perhaps a theological concept or aspect of how we’re meant to live as God’s people
  • Look up references to this topic (an exhaustive concordance is a helpful tool for this)
  • Choose the verses you wish to study
  • Ask questions about the topic
  • Read the verses and see how they address your questions
  • Summarize your conclusions
  • Write out your application

The Character Study method

Similar to a topical study, this method focuses on a specific biblical character to learn about how God worked in and through that individual and apply what we discover to our lives. Character studies involve the following steps:

  • Choose the biblical character you want to study
  • Find the relevant passages about him or her
  • Read your passages, and consult additional Bible study tools like Bible dictionaries, to learn everything you can about this character (the trustworthy questions who, what, when, where, and how will serve you well here)
  • Find the application points for your life

Many Bible Study Methods to Reach One Truth

These different Bible study methods all share the same goal: they are designed to help you better understand and live out the truth of God’s Word. Try them all and see how they help you to know, love, and obey God daily.  

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