You don’t have to have doctorate to dig into the Scriptures. You can do deep studies on your own without knowing the original languages. Here are some things that you can do that even the scholars appear to neglect to do:
Read the contexts with the main thought as a thread. Yeah, most scholars know this, but not all do it. Sometimes people read Scripture like a driver concentrating on the road and not considering the cars behind and beside, and without knowing where they are going and why they’re in the car in the first place. Writers have a point, a purpose, and a theme. Sometimes their purpose is presented in the form of a list of morals of Christian behavior like in Romans 12. You’ll be lost in the book of Romans without knowing the context when see the words “law”, “flesh”, “righteousness”, and “works”. Remember that commands can stand alone in simplicity and not in figurative language, but understanding the principles, the heart and spirit of a command, comes from the context. The context includes the immediate verses before and after a passage, and the context includes the remote chapters and in books throughout each testament of Scripture. Start with the immediate context and then the remote. The more context you know, then the more insight you can offer straight from the Scriptures. Remember to also look at who is speaking to who, because Christ’s instructions for the Apostles are not always for all Christians, and God’s instructions to Noah, Moses, and the Israelites are not for Christians to obey but to learn from.
Parse the verses. This is essential the most immediate context to consider. A lot of insight can be gained by recognizing the grammar within a passage. Simply, look for the subject, the verb, the object, and then progress to the adverbs, adjectives and their prepositions, and you will be able to clearly see the precision of Scripture. Just brush up on your grammar and how to diagram a sentence.
Look up the original words for an English word. Most people do not know that there may be half a dozen different words behind one English word appearing again and again. For example, do a study on love or worship. Use an analytical concordance and, or Vine’s word-studies to find all of the words in Greek and Hebrew.
Look up the original word behind a specific English word in a specific verse. A Bible program is the easiest way. Though I cannot support the Calvinism in E-Sword.org, this is a good source to get a translation like the KJV with Strong’s number, which are numbers following each word. Download the Thayer’s lexicon too and then click on the Strong’s number for the word and a definition. You can also use an interlinear Bible or also called a polyglot that present the English with the original Hebrew or Greek below and sometimes these have Strong’s numbers too.
Find the precise meaning of a Biblical word by doing a word-study. I find it more trustworthy to use an analytical concordance like Young’s over a lexicon (dictionary). Analytical concordances give a concise definition and allow you to look at every usage of each word and this leads to the next step on doing a word-study. Most people do not know how to use a lexicon though most people think they do. These will take every single word used to translate a Biblical word as the meaning of the Word when they wouldn’t use the English dictionary this way. This would be like some taking the word “light”‘s 45 definitions to mean both “spiritual illumination or awareness; enlightenment” and “a person who is an outstanding leader, celebrity, or example” at the same time and in the same context. Some people take the definition of a word and use all its definitions and words to their own interpretation.
Do word-studies in the original languages. By doing a word-study, you can do the work of a scholar, like the author of a lexicon who can err, and define the term within its Biblical usages. Vine’s Word-Studies are great, but thanks to Analytical Concordances (like Young’s) and free Bible computer programs, you can do the work of scholars. E-sword like other Bible programs allow you to search a specific word in the original language by running a search by Strong’s numbers. Just download and install a Bible with Strong’s numbers. Find the word you want to reference and then search the Strong’s number and get a list of the word’s uses. To see the definition of a word, start with its most narrow and concise definition then broaden the definition in limits, but keep to one definition rather than a dozen words. Do a word-study on the word “worship” and you see how powerful this is study is. If you want to do a quick study (rather than search 200-1000 uses of a word sometimes), just use the Biblical book or writer that used the word and this will narrow your study. This could theoretically fall short when you cannot easily define words as used in other sources, but this has never been issue for me yet.
Organize your word-study. Organize the context and application of the uses of the word-study, so that you will have more useful study for others. For example, if you studied the word for love “agape”, then divide the verse into categories about loving God, the brethren, your enemies, and so forth. This helps also defining a word.
Know the grammatical significance of a form of a word. With general knowledge of grammar in addition to English, you could translate the Scriptures for yourself. In fact, Guy Woods wrote a book about being able to do that called “How to Read the New Testament Greek”. Use a Bible with RMAC, “Robinson’s Morphological Analysis Codes”. These codes follow words like Strong’s numbers and usually only with Strong’s numbers. You can get this from e-Sword too. Download with the RMAC code following each word. These letters represent the grammatical form of each word, and you get very good at translating, but it be better to learn to just translate. You can take this a step further and test the grammatical understanding by searching the RMAC codes.
Learn about the culture. Dig into archaeology and look for what evidence that archaeologists use to reach their conclusions and then draw your own without bias. The updated Halley’s Handbook will give you a good introduction into archaeology. Don’t forget the writings of the time as well. Manuscripts from Josephus to the early Christian writing of Clement of Rome unto Eusebius are very important in understanding the world, but please remember to look for their sources as well. You can also reach back into pagan history with Diodorus Siculus and a number of others. Be careful and make sure that you are not applying a heretic or false writing into your resources.
*The books mentioned here are usually a few dollars under $20.