Reading vs Studying the bible: What is the difference?

Unlocking Deeper Understanding: What it Means to Study the Word

“Read your bible!” — You may be very familiar with hearing that phrase from your Pastor, Bible study leader or parent. As Christians seeking to grow in our faith, we are encouraged to read the bible and through the help of the Holy Spirit we grow in our knowledge of God.

Bible reading is useful for breadth of knowledge but if we want more depth, studying the context is necessary. To illustrate, consider this agricultural analogy: Are you a ‘raker’ or a ‘digger’ of biblical scripture? As readers of the bible, of course, you know agricultural-related references are a must! I have been asking myself similar questions, as I have felt more challenged and convicted to delve deeper into the Word of God

What Does it Mean to ‘Study’ the Bible?

Exegesis: careful analytical study of the biblical passages

Exegesis involves discovering the original intended meaning of scripture considering its historical and literary context. This helps us understand what the text meant to its original audience, forming an objective foundation before applying it to our own lives. In doing this, we cannot be skewed by our own bias or interpretation. By starting with exegesis, we seek God’s intended message for us rather than what might simply sound pleasing to us.

Questions to consider when studying the bible:

  • When and where was it written?
  • How did God interact with people at that time?
  • What type of book is it?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Who was meant to read it?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable

2 Timothy 3:16

Hermeneutics: the study of biblical interpretation

Hermeneutics involves applying scripture to the present, allowing for some subjectivity. For each of us, the process of arriving at the meaning of Scripture is influenced by who we are as individuals but also by our cultural, socioeconomic and historical contexts. These can all affect the interpretive process.

Some learning strategies for the bible

  • Read through the Bible in different translations
  • Use an application bible which has a commentary section
  • Look into the root meaning of biblical words
  • Have a separate journal to jot down new revelations
  • Bible verse mapping
  • Study the bible according to biblical characters or topics

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, as you study more, you will discover a strategy that is effective for you.

When I started this journey of studying my bible more, I felt like I was ‘behind’ or ‘lacking in some way’ but I was reminded that our faith is a beautiful lifetime journey, and will be strengthened as we continue to grow in our relationship with God. But ultimately the end goal is to know God, we can do all this extended research and reading and still miss Him in the process also due to lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” Ephesians 1:17 NIV. The goal is to know God better through His Word. Let’s move from being ‘rakers’ to ‘diggers’ of Scripture, uncovering the profound truths God has for us.

Some useful resources that have helped me


  • Chinedu Agwu

    Chinedu is from London, and currently works as a Lecturer in Biosciences and a freelance medical writer. She is passionate about social justice and community impact projects, empowering young people and reading books in the book club she co-founded with her friend. She likes to use her gifting in written and oral communication to share the gospel and build faith in others.

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