How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


Searching and memorization alone are not enough. We have to put portions of the Word together and compare them.

In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul speaks of spiritual things and the spiritual man. If we compare the spiritual man with the spiritual things, we will see something.

Psalm 36:9 says, “In Your light we see light.” It is not enough to have one kind of light. We need two kinds of light. In fact, one light leads to the other light. Light complements light in the Bible.

Second Peter 1:20 says, “No prophecy of Scripture is of one’s own interpretation.” It is easy for us to understand this to mean that prophecies are not to be interpreted by man. But according to the grammar of Peter’s word, it means that no prophecy is of its own interpretation. It is its and not one’s. If this verse meant that no prophecy is to be interpreted by man, Peter would have been too simple, for every Christian knows that God’s prophecy cannot be interpreted according to man’s own ideas. It would be redundant for Peter to say this. But this was not Peter’s meaning. The words own interpretation refer to an interpretation of the text by the text itself. When Peter said that no prophecy should be interpreted by its own interpretation, he was saying that each prophecy has a meaning that pertains to that text alone. Yet God’s speaking is not completed through just one text. In the books of the prophets we are told that God’s word is “here a little, there a little” (Isa. 28:13). Therefore, no Bible student should interpret a passage according to that passage alone. This is to interpret according to its own interpretation. When we read Daniel 9, we should not interpret it merely according to Daniel 9. In reading Revelation 13, we should not interpret it merely according to Revelation 13. If we interpret these two chapters according to just these two chapters, we are interpreting according to their own interpretation, and we are violating the principle of prophetic interpretation.

Here God shows us a principle: We must compare our reading of one passage of the Scriptures with other passages. We cannot base our interpretation on just that text alone. In tackling a teaching found in the Bible, we have to look for explanations of this teaching from other passages of the Bible. This is very important. Many heresies in Christianity have resulted from men holding on to one or two verses of the Bible without consulting other related passages. Satan also quotes the Scriptures here and there, but he quotes them to tempt men. We must remember that the more we compare, the less we will be liable to private interpretation. It is much safer for us to compare one verse with ten other verses. If we can only find five verses, it is better, but not as good as ten verses. The more comparisons we make, the better it is. If there is only one verse that says something, we have to be careful; we cannot build something big upon one isolated instance. Otherwise, we will end up with trouble. It is not very trustworthy to base everything on one verse. In reading the Bible we have to compare. We cannot interpret anything by the text of one passage alone. We must have the confirmation of other passages.

For example, Revelation 19 says that when the Lord descends from heaven to fight, He will remove all His enemies by the sword of His mouth. If we interpret this text by itself, we may conclude that the Lord’s mouth contains a sword, and we may even say that this sword is quick, sharp, and shining. If we realize that no Scripture should be interpreted by its own interpretation, we immediately will look for the meaning of “sharp sword” when we come to this passage, and from Ephesians 6:17 we will find that the sharp sword refers to the word of God.

Who do the ten virgins in Matthew 25 refer to? In reading 2 Corinthians 11:2, we find that they refer to the church. (In 2 Corinthians, virgin is singular in number, referring to the one church. In Matthew there are ten virgins, which refer to the responsibility of individuals before the Lord. Ten is composed of two fives, and five is the number of human responsibility before God.) Such comparative reading can give us much light.

It is also important to compare the Old Testament with the New Testament. If we compare the scope of God’s speaking in the Old Testament with the scope of His speaking in the New Testament, we immediately will see that God’s Word is progressive, that the word of revelation is progressive. Some words are found both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example, without the book of Daniel, there cannot be the book of Revelation. Yet, in comparison, Revelation is more advanced than the book of Daniel. We can also compare Revelation 2 and 3 with Matthew 13, Revelation 4 and 5 with Philippians 2, and Revelation 6 with Matthew 24. We can also compare the later chapters of Revelation with Daniel. When we compare these passages one with another and interpret one according to the other, we will see many things which we previously have not seen.

We can compare the four Gospels as well. Some things are spoken of in all four Gospels, while other things are not mentioned in every one of them. Either case bears much significance. For example, Matthew does not speak of the ascension of the Lord Jesus; it only speaks of His resurrection. Mark speaks of the Lord’s ascension. Luke speaks of the Lord’s ascension as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit. John does not say anything about the Lord’s ascension, but it speaks of His coming back. The four Gospels all end differently. We have to ask why they are different. If we look for the answer we will see something. Matthew tells us that the Lord is always the King on earth. This is the reason it does not say anything about ascension. Mark speaks of the Lord as God’s appointed Servant returning to God. Hence it speaks of ascension. Luke is on the glorified man. Therefore, it speaks about ascension as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit. John says that the Lord is the Only Begotten who is still in heaven and in the Father’s bosom. This is the reason it does not speak of ascension. Every book has its own characteristics, and we can only find them by comparison.


Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 tell us that we have to meditate and dwell on the word of the Lord all the time. At ordinary times (i.e., other than the times when we are reading the Bible), we should meditate on the Lord’s Word. We should learn to mold our thoughts according to the thoughts of the Bible. We should be meditating whether or not we are reading the Word. Romans 8:6 speaks of “the mind set on the spirit.” This means that we should think of the spirit, set our mind on the spirit, and fix it upon the spirit. This verse does not mean that we should set our mind on the spirit only, but that we should have a mind of the spirit. We should not just concentrate on the spirit, but we should have a concentration that is of the spirit. In other words, whenever our mind turns, it should always turn to God’s Word. No matter what the circumstances may be, our mind should always be fixed on God’s Word. This is a matter not of artificial reminding but of spontaneous meditating. Ordinarily, our mind should be a mind that is set on the Word. Our mind should not be set on the Bible only when we are thinking about the Bible; it should be on the Bible even when we are not thinking about it. We should be inclined toward God’s Word in a spontaneous way.

There are two sides to our meditation. On the one hand, we meditate when we read the Bible. On the other hand, we meditate at all times. When we are reading the Bible, our mind should be meditating on God’s Word. But when we are not reading the Bible, we should also be actively exercising ourselves with our trained mind. It is not a matter of forcing ourselves to think about the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will direct our thoughts in this direction, and it will become part of our habit. Once we develop such a habit, we will spontaneously become rich in the Lord.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)