Bill Pringle - [email protected]

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Scripture Study


This talk was given 22 Feb 2009. I had been asked to talk on this topic the week before, but was going to attend a different ward that week. I love scripture study and so I was sorry that I couldn't give the talk when asked. I got to give it the following week.


I would like to talk to you today about scripture study. I understand that you heard some talks last week on the same topic. In fact, I was asked to talk last Sunday, but since I wasn't going to be here, I had to turn the offer down. Some of you might know Rachel Ebeling, from Broomall. Rachel left on her mission, and gave her farewell talk last Sunday, which is where we were.

Even though I wasn't going to speak (or so I thought), the request got me thinking about what I would have said. Then, Friday night at about 11pm, I got an e-mail asking me to speak today on any topic. So I chose Scripture Study.

Institute Class

Many years ago, I attended an Institute class that was taught by Charlie Muldowney. Charlie knows the scriptures very well. I would study for an upcoming lesson and think I understood the material, only to get to class and have Charlie bring out details that I had totally missed. And these details added so much to the passages, that I realized I only understood a portion of the scriptures. I was reading the scriptures, but Charlie was studying them.

I would like to point out the difference between scripture study and reading scriptures. Scripture study is when you take more time than just reading. You stop and think about what you read. You think about related scriptures, look at the footnotes and follow all the scripture references. You think about what you will read next, etc. I measure my daily scripture reading by how many chapters I read. But when I am studying scriptures, I measure by how much time I spend. For example, at one point I read the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek (it took several years). I would look up the meanings of the various words, sometimes looking to see where else the same word was used, and the different ways it was translated. I would then compare different translations of the Bible to the original, and then took notes about what I learned. I might spend an entire week studying a single verse. That is why I measure by time instead of pages.

How to Start Scripture Study

One question that is often asked is how to study scriptures. What should you study? How should you study?

My suggestion is that you pick a theme or subject that you are interested in and then explore it. Perhaps you are facing a problem or decision. Maybe you want to learn more about some Gospel topic. Maybe there are some scriptures you want to learn more about, like the Scripture Mastery verses from Seminary. Another approach is to choose one book of the Bible and study it in detail. Once you have a topic, use the Topical Guide to find the subject, then read all the references.

The easiest and quickest way to do scripture study is to write a talk. I read once about a new convert who wanted to grow more in the Gospel, so she talked to her Bishop. He told her to write a talk about Baptism for next Sunday. When she came in the next week, she said she was all ready to give her talk. The Bishop explained that she was simply to write the talk. She wasn't going to speak in Sacrament. Next, he asked her to write a talk about the Holy Ghost. This kept up for several weeks until the woman was able to choose topics on her own.

So, don't wait to be asked, just write a talk. And when you are done, write a different talk. When I first joined the church, I used to work out answers to questions people might ask about the church. Other times, I would think about how I would explain a specific Gospel topic. This helped me collect my thoughts about a subject and understand it better.

The advantage of this approach is that when you are finally asked to give a talk, it might already be written. At a minimum, you will have a lot of material to work with when writing your talk.

My Web Site

On my web site (, there are some examples of my scripture studies. Maybe one of them might give you some ideas about topics to study. Let me tell you a little about what you can find.

Try the Christmas Story quiz, which are several questions about the Christmas story. I got an e-mail from somebody who wanted to use my quiz in their Sunday bulletins. They did a question one week and then printed the answer the next. You would be surprised how many people have problems answering them. Let me know how you did.

I also have some pages on my original language studies. You will find Gen 1 - 3 with copious notes about the original meanings of the Hebrew words. In Islam, they don't translate the Koran. You have to read it in the original language. I understand why. You should try reading the Bible in the original language. It will change your life.

There is a page on my web site about the Flood Story & Documentary Hypothesis. The flood story from Genesis is color coded so that two different flood stories can be extracted from the one account in the Bible. Not sure if it is true or not, but it sure is interesting.

My most recent study is where I compare the 4 Gospels in parallel, along with the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon when appropriate. By placing the different accounts of each Gospel next to each other, you can see the small variations, and get a better picture of what happened. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story about a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years and touched the hem of Jesus' garment to be healed. Matthew and Mark both just mention the woman's condition, but Luke (who was a physician) goes into more detail about how the woman had seen several doctors for her condition but they were unable to heal her. Matthew is written for the Jews, so he often cites prophecies to show that Jesus is the Messiah. Luke writes with very polished language, while John is very cryptic. Comparing how each describe the same thing but in slightly different ways gives us some insight into what actually happened.

Learn the Biblical Cultures

Another source of study is to learn about the ancient cultures from Biblical Times. I got interested in Biblical Archaeology, and found all kinds of interesting things about the Bible. Let me give you two examples.

In Jerimah 32, the prophet is told to purchase some land to represent the return of Israel. In Jer 32:11, we read:

11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

Now, what does that mean, the sealed and the open parts? Back then, they didn't have copy machines. How can you verify that a contract hadn't been changed? If each person had a copy, either one could make changes and then claim their version was the original. So what they did was they wrote the contract out twice on a single parchment. They then rolled up the scroll half way so that one copy was inside the roll, and the other was outside. They then took needle and thread and stitched up the rolled copy, leaving the other copy outside. They then put sealing wax over the thread and used their signet rings on the wax. Each witness would make their mark on a drop of wax to signify that the two copies were the same. There was no way to open the scroll without breaking the thread or disturbing the wax, so you would know right away if the document had been tampered with. They could read the open copy easily, but if anyone thought the outer copy had been modified, they would gather witnesses to watch the scroll be opened and the inner copy checked.

Another example is in the New Testament, where Paul is talking about the benefits of charity. In 1 Cor. 13: 1 we read:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Now, a cymbal is supposed to be very loud, so a tinkling cymbal would be defective. But what is a sounding brass? If you have ever looked at pictures of Greek theaters, you might notice a shelf near the roof with a row of vases. When a play was to be performed, they would lay the vases on their sides with the mouths facing out towards the audience. When the actors spoke their lines, their voices would echo inside these metal vases and bounce out towards the audience, acting like an amplifier. Just like the tinkling cymbal, the vases or sounding brass were a shadow of the original sound.

Pick Something Interesting to You

Now, I found those examples very interesting. You might have found them very boring. The key is to pick something that is interesting to you. For example, we had a medical student named Dave Palmer in Broomall several years ago. He got interested in diagnosing people in the scriptures, based on their appearance, actions, or their ailments. According to Dave, in 2 Kings 4:34 Elisha performed CPR to raise the dead son of the Shunammite widow. He spent quite a bit of time and compiled an impressive list of possible medical conditions for Biblical characters. It was interesting to him because he was a medical student. You might be interested in studying different plants or minerals or animals in the Bible. I've seen a Bible Cookbook that gives recipes of dishes mentioned in the Bible. You could compare parts of the Bible and The Book of Mormon, or different versions of the same story. For example, both Gen 1 and Gen 2 describe the creation, but in different ways. Kings and Chronicles cover the same time period, and often tell the same story, but in slightly different ways.

The fact is, it doesn't matter what topic you choose. If you are interested in something, you will spend more time studying it. I have found that it is hard to learn just one thing. Once you start learning, it is hard to stop. I started with Biblical Archaeology, and then got interested in Hebrew & Greek. I then read the Bible in the original languages, and got more and more involved in the Scriptures. Each time I learned something, I would discover more questions I wanted answered.

We have all heard that the longest journey starts with a single step. Start your journey into scripture study today. Pick something to start with. Write a talk about it. Then keep going. All of a sudden, you will discover that others will think of you as an expert on whatever topics you have been studying. You will also discover that you love reading the scriptures. They will come alive for you, and you will find all kinds of meanings.

And, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 89:18-21

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

It is my prayer that you start today to study the scriptures. I promise you that you will not regret it, and you will be amazed at how much you will learn, and how much you will enjoy it. Just remember to pick things that are interesting to you. You will find that each time you study a topic, more things will become interesting. You will never run out of ideas about what to study.

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