How To Understand and Apply the Bible

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One of the most important tasks for any believer is to know how to understand and apply the Bible to his or her life. False interpretations and false teachings abound in our world today — as it has for all of history. How are we, as God’s people, going to stand firm for God’s truth and not waver in the midst of such false teaching. The only way is if we accurately understand, interpret, and apply God’s Word to our life. This is the primary task of the preacher, but it is not the preacher’s job alone. While God has certainly given us gifted men to teach and shepherd us, He has given each and every one of us the ability and the access to open God’s Word and read it, understand it, and apply it for ourselves.

But that can be a daunting task for many of us, can’t it? Where do we start? How do we ensure that we’re doing it correctly? That’s where two incredibly helpful new books come in to play: How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology by Jason DeRouchie and How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology by Andrew Naselli.

Neither of these books are “quick reads” or books that you would want to sit down and just leisurely read on a rainy day (thought I’m sure you would certainly benefit from doing that). Rather, these are detailed textbook-type-books, meant to help the reader systematically work through the topic of hermeneutics, or how to accurately read, understand, and apply the Bible.

Though the 12 steps are similar in each volume, they do differ slightly in their specifics and in their arrangement.

The Old Testament

In DeRouchie’s volume on the Old Testament, his 12 steps are separated into 5 parts:

Part 1: “Text — What is the makeup of the passage?” includes (1) Genre, (2) Literary Units and Text Hierarchy, (3) Text Criticism, and (4) Translation.

Part 2: “Observation — How is the passage communicated?” includes (5) Clause and Text Grammar, (6) Argument-Tracing, and (7) Word and Concept Studies.

Part 3: “Context — Where does the passage fit?” includes (8) Historical Context and (9) Literary Context

Part 4: “Meaning — What does the passage mean?” includes (10) Biblical Theology and (11) Systematic Theology.

Part 5: “Application — Why does the passage matter?” includes (12) Practical Theology.

The New Testament

In Naselli’s volume on the New Testament, they are not grouped into any parts, but rather listed with a brief description of each:

  1. Genre — Establish guidelines for interpreting a passage’s style of literature
  2. Textual Criticism — Establish the original wording
  3. Translation — Compare translations
  4. Greek Grammar — Understand how sentences communicate by words, phrases, and clauses
  5. Argument Diagram — Trace the logical argument by arcing, bracketing, or phrasing
  6. Historical-Cultural Context — Understand the situation in which the author composed the literature and any historical-cultural details that the author mentions or probably assumes
  7. Literary Context — Understand the role that a passage plays in its whole book
  8. Word Studies — Unpack key words, phrases, and concepts
  9. Biblical Theology — Study how the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ
  10. Historical Theology — Survey and evaluate how significant exegetes and theologians have understood the Bible and theology
  11. Systematic Theology — Discern how a passage theologically coheres with the whole Bible
  12. Practical Theology — Apply the text to yourself, the church, and the world


I remember going through Hermeneutics classes in both college and seminary. I remember the books that we used for each class being excellent and helpful. However, I do wish that we would have had these books for those classes. Each of these volumes are excellent, scholarly, thorough, practical, applicable, and readable as they help equip the reader to accurately and faithfully understand and apply the Bible.

Though I’m sure they will primarily be used for college and seminary hermeneutics classes, I firmly believe that every single member of our churches would benefit greatly from taking some extended time of study to go through these books. No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, each of us can benefit from sharpening our skills in rightly understanding and applying God’s Word to our lives and the lives of those we minister to. I know that I will be turning back to these books in the months and years to come. I would recommend you buy a copy for yourself and do the same.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank P&R Publishers for providing me with a review copy of these books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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