7 Ways to Organize Your Personal Bible Study
My Bible Log's Notes feature is especially powerful. There are many different ways to create tags and organize notes to enable different workflows.
Here are 7 ideas for using the notes feature to get the most out of your personal Bible reading.
1. Open Questions
Track all of your questions as you go along without stopping, then come back to them. When you sit down to read, look over your notes that have this tag. You may find an answer or relevant info as you read.
Create a tag for at least 3 questions you want to research in the Bible. Can you answer these 3 example questions?
- How can someone be "saved," and what does it mean to be saved? Suggested tag: Salvation
- Do all the rules in Old Testament books like Leviticus apply to us today? Suggested tag: OT Rules
- How does the Bible talk about church? Who or what counts as a church? Does the Bible command us to "go to church"? Suggested tag: Church
2. Discipleship / 1:1 Conversation Points
Many people study the Bible with a friend or mentor. Mentors may meet to study the Bible throughout the week with multiple people in discipleship relationships. Creating a tag for each person you study with can help you maintain your ongoing Bible conversation. These tags can help you keep track of questions, answers, and important topics for your study time.
Create a tag for each person you study with or can talk to about the Bible. For each person, create at least one note with something you want to talk about with that person.
3. Topical Study
Create a tag for a specific subject, then search for it. It helps to "carry" questions with you. You may find that as you read the Bible, different passages help you better understand a topic or answer a question you've had.
One great topic for this kind of study is "prayer." You can keep track of verses that help you understand prayer and have the right mindset for talking to God. See how people have talked to God from Genesis through Revelation. See how God has talked to people, and the promises He has made to us.
The Bible is full of interesting topics, but it isn't a text book. There isn't a glossary at the end with every possible subject or issue that we want to research. Well, sometimes there is, but they can't possibly cover everything! Choose a subject from the Bible that interests you, and create a tag to organize your notes on that subject.
Use this list for inspiration:
- Church Leadership
- Spiritual Gifts
4. Original Language
You may be familiar with some of the ways the original Hebrew and Greek differ from the words you are reading. Keep track of verses that you want to research in their original language so you can fully understand them.
Many words have different nuances in different languages. For example, in English there is only one word for "love," but in ancient Greek (the language of the New Testament) there are seven different words for "love" that all have slightly different meanings.
Create a tag for passages you want to look up in the original language, like "Orig Lang." Find at least 3 different verses with the word "love" and tag them with this new tag. You can research these verses in their original language on sites like Blue Letter Bible.
5. Compare Translations
Have a favorite translation? Maybe you want to see how other translations handled the same verse, to catch more nuances of the original author's meaning.
Occasionally a side-by-side study of translations will show that certain phrases or whole sections only exist in one translation. This is often because those differences appear in some copies of the original manuscripts that we have today.
More often, comparing translations will reveal minor differences in word choice and phrasing.
Newer Bible translations tend to follow the oldest, most established manuscripts to ensure the highest possible accuracy. The phrases that were copied in later manuscripts may appear as footnotes in these newer translations.
As an example, 1 John 5:7-8 has some extra verbiage in the King James Version (KJV), one of the first English translations of the Bible:
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) omits these phrases to stay true to the earliest copies of the text:
7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
However, the NASB does include the later manuscript additions as a footnote so we can still be aware of them.
One very clear example of how translations can differ is when a particular translation receives an update to keep up with changes in the English language. The NASB was updated in 2020 after being last updated in 1995.
The Lockman Foundation, which is responsible for the NASB, explains on their website how and why they updated the translation after 25 years.
The NASB2020 has made small updates to make gender more clear in certain verses. This is because the original Greek language handles gender differently than modern English.
In English, the word "brothers" always means male siblings. In biblical Greek there is no word for "sibling," just "brother" and "sister". To talk about both brothers and sisters, you would still use the word "brothers" and people would understand that you meant everyone. If you wanted to only talk about your male siblings in biblical Greek, you would have to say "men brothers."
The NASB translators determined that modern English readers would make false assumptions about what the original Greek was saying, so they updated some instances of "brothers" to "brothers and sisters" to ensure a clear understanding.
With this distinction, we can now tell when the original authors were talking about both men and women, as well as when they were referring to only men.
Find verses that say "brothers" in the NASB95 and see if they have been updated to "brothers and sisters" in the NASB2020, or if those verses were really only referring to men.
6. Memory Verses
Keep track of verses you want to commit to heart, and practice them.
There are many passages in the Bible that share the importance and value of scripture:
- Psalm 19:7-11
- Psalm 119:9-12
- Psalm 119:105
- Psalm 119:140
- Psalm 119:151
- Luke 24:44
- John 17:17
- Romans 15:4
- 1 Corinthians 10:11-12
- Ephesians 6:10-17
- Colossians 3:16
- 2 Peter 1:19
- 2 Timothy 3:14-17
- Hebrews 4:12
- 1 John 5:13
Create a tag to keep track of your memory verses. Choose at least 3 of these passages and tag them as memory verses.
7. Journal and Prayer
Write your reflections on your reading each day. Keep track of the things you are hoping and praying for and how you want to grow, learn, and better serve others.
You can also use the notes feature to keep track of prayer requests and answered prayers. These are important but easy to lose sight of without a system of organization.
Each of these could be a tag:
- Prayer Request
- Answered Prayer
Use the Prayer Request tag to bring up the things you want to pray about.
Use the Answered Prayer tag to bring up the encouraging things that God has done in your life and the lives of others.
Create a tag to keep track of journal entries. Start by writing your first journal note and tagging it.
These are just a few of the many ways you can use organized notes and tags to get more out of your Bible reading time. Once you start using these features, you'll quickly develop your own ideas for how to apply them.