How To Study The Bible (#3)

"Get The Whole Truth"

Learning how to study the Bible does not need to be difficult. We have learned two basic principles that are fairly simple: (1) read to learn (know), and (2) develop an intense desire to discover the truth.

We will now focus on a third principle that is just as basic. Reading is necessary to understand the meaning of scripture and, as we have noted, it must be reading with the goal of gaining knowledge. But, there exists an additional dimension to this principle of reading: We must read all that the scriptures have to say about a subject in order to have a complete understanding of that subject. We must, in essence, get the whole truth.

Not Just Headline News

As you might suspect, this principle is one that we understand and respect in areas of study outside the Bible. No one assumes that a newspaper headline conveys all of the truth contained in the article that follows it. The headline, while grabbing your attention and certainly functioning as a memorable part of the story is just that -- only a part of the story. Likewise, when you read a passage in the Bible, it is important to keep in mind that it is only part of the story.

Consider the first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, which states: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." What is taught concerning the creation of the physical world in this passage is true, but it is certainly not all that the Bible has to say about the subject. There is so much more to be understood. To illustrate this note: (1) Psalm 33:6-9 informs us that God created and sustains the world by His word; (2) Hebrews 11:3 teaches us that God made the creation out of nothing; and (3) John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:2 instruct us that Christ played a role in the creation. These three corollary thoughts to creation are not exhaustive either; to be complete we would have to survey all of the Bible and glean every passage that relates to the topic. Only then would we be able to say that we have fairly represented what the Bible teaches about creation. But these additional passages plainly show that the complete truth concerning creation is not contained within Genesis 1:1 alone.

The Whole Truth: An Example

To further impress upon you just how important this principle is, consider this lengthier Bible account. On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane. All four of the "gospels" refer to the events of this night, and it is by examining the totality of their teaching that we demonstrate the importance of getting the whole truth.

When we examine the events of this night, as Mark 14:47 states, we note: "And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear." If you were teaching somebody about the events that took place on this occasion, and you referred to this passage, you would be examining a passage that taught the truth, but you would not be examining all that the Bible teaches about the subject.

In addition to studying Mark's account, we must note what else the Bible says about this subject. Matthew says: "And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear." (Matthew 26:51) Mark's account told us: (1) someone near Jesus drew a sword and (2) that person hit a servant of the high priest with the sword, thus cutting off his ear. Matthew adds the following information: (1) The person standing nearby was "with Jesus" and (2) he used "his sword" (as opposed to someone else's) to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant (KJV in Mark simply says "drew a sword," but other trans. say "drew his sword.")

Upon closer examination, we learn that this is still not all of the truth. Luke states: "When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, 'Lord, shall we strike with the sword?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, 'Permit even this.' And He touched this ear and healed him." (Luke 22:49-51) From Luke we learn: (1) Those with Jesus first asked about using swords. (2) It was the right ear of the high priest's servant that was cut off. (3) Jesus said "Permit even this." And (4), Jesus touched the ear of the servant and healed him. Had we consulted only Mark or Matthew, or even both, we would have missed this additional information. Only Luke presents it. To have ignored what Luke said would be tantamount to studying only part of the truth.

There exists one more account of this event. John informs us: "Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. ... One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, 'Did I not see you in the garden with Him?' " (John 18:10, 26)

From this passage we learn: (1) It was Simon Peter who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. (2) The servant was Malchus. And (3), one of Malchus' relatives was present at the time of the incident.


Though each of the four accounts presented the truth, no single account presented all of the truth. We learned all of the truth when we studied all of the evidence. Everything that we learned up to that point was true, but it was only part of the truth.

The lesson is clear. We must study all of the Bible's teaching on a subject before we claim to know the truth. This principle applies to everything the Bible teaches. If we only study some of what the Bible says about a topic, then it is possible that we will have overlooked some passage that would shed more light on our study. Such is the case with the example given about the events that took place in the garden of Gethsemane on the night that Jesus was betrayed, and such is the case with all Bible subjects.

Before we can know all about the Bible - we must be willing to study all of the Bible.

Read to learn. Study with great desire. Read all you can.


Jody L. Apple -

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