Posted by: alisonwalley | 4 October 2009

Using symbols in Bible reading

Reading the Bible with the help of notes or a commentary is good. But as I said in last week’s blog, it’s the Bible itself which is God’s word to us.

But how to start to study it on your own (or indeed in a group) if you’re not used to it. Many years ago I was taught a method which is really good for starting it. It was called the Swedish Method of Bible study (I think because the person who was giving the talk first came across it with Swedish students).

It’s very simple.

  1. Take a Bible passage and read it carefully
  2. Look for three things, represented by three symbols


  1. If you’re doing this on your own, it’s a good idea to look for more than one of these things. If you’re in a group, you could still see more than one thing but you might only have time to share one of them with the group.
  2. On your own: pray about the insight and the application. See if you can find the answer to the question (ask someone else, look up a commentary or the notes of a study Bible).
  3. In a group, all share the three things one by one. Discuss the puzzles. See what other people have seen that’s different to you. The application may be different with everyone. Pray that you’ll all be able to apply it.

Simple, yes. But an excellent start to make you really look at the text and not rely on other authorities.

When I was thinking about writing on this subject I did a quick web search. I forget how many thousands of sites came up under the subject. However, I found an excellent discussion of the method in the Briefing by Peter Blowes. He talks about the many advantages and some of the disadvantages of the method and how you can expand it.

Peter Blowes also says it was Ada Lum who first called it the ‘Swedish Method’. I think Ada, a wonderful woman of God, was who I learned it from in the first place.


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