I’ve heard from so many of you who are interested in the Bible study method I’ve fallen in love with — Verse Mapping.*
You want to know more. (Me too!) So here it is… the definitive post to answer those questions on the one thing that has forever changed how I study Scripture.
WHY VERSE MAPPING?
Moment of honesty: I don’t always understand what I read in Scripture. And because I could be confused about it, the Bible wasn’t sinking into my heart. I could go about my day without time in the Word as long as I was cherry-picking verses out when I needed something from God. (Facebook is a good place to find inspirational verses, right?) So that was my daily nod to God. I’d read a page or two in a Bible study. Write some things down. Pray. And that was it. I didn’t go deeper.
I had no idea it was even a problem until I took Beth Moore’s #ChildrenoftheDay Bible Study in the fall of 2014. In one of the lessons, Beth told a story about how she studies scripture. Picture this incredible teacher sitting at her dining room table, up to her elbows in books on history, Greek, Hebrew, Biblical concordance and theology topics. And she’d stay there for hours — sometimes until her family came home in the evening — digging deep into the Word just because she was passionate to learn more! I saw her hunger for God’s Word and that was it for me.
I wanted to finally understand what I read in the Bible on that level. No more doing devotions because I think I should. I wanted to need to. And when I opened up to my best friend about it, she said, “Kristy, why don’t you try verse mapping?” And so it began. 😉
WHAT IS VERSE MAPPING?
Verse mapping isn’t new. In fact, it’s a topic Proverbs 31 Ministries covered in a popular blog post almost a few years ago, and then again in a video in 2015. You’ll find endless examples with a simple Google search. And you guessed it — verse-mapping Pinterest boards are popping up all over. But what is it? Who’s doing it? And can it really help us understand the Word more clearly?
DEFINITION: Verse-Mapping is a method of studying the historical context, transliteration, translation, connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible.
Plain and simple? Verse mapping is: getting real about studying the Bible. All of it. It’s not just reading. It’s researching everything you can in a verse to learn more about who God is and how He wants to speak to you through His Word. In short? It’s serious study.
HOW TO VERSE MAP: I’m reminding you now that I’m not a Biblical theologian by education. (I’m an art/history researcher and writer, who has been 15-years corporate-trained in research, writing, and instructional design.) What matters here is that I’m a believer in Christ who wants to become a disciple of Christ. So this is all about taking that curiosity to own our faith in Christ and dig in to the Word, learning together. There’s no structural right or wrong way to verse mapping — working from right to left, and top to bottom is just what works for me. 🙂
To make it easy, I have only ONE RULE for verse mapping: If I can’t back something up with Scripture, then I can’t write it down. That’s it. Everything is fair game in studying, as long as God said it first. Here goes…
STEP 1: GATHER YOUR TOOLS
- Notebook or journal
- Bible App (to look up various translations)
- You might also want to invest in a concordance and Hebrew/Greek dictionaries. (I recommend one like this from Zondervan, but you can also find the information for FREE online!)
- Time on your calendar (We have to be intentional with our time to do this. I have three kids, a job, and lots of excuses for why I can’t fit this into my schedule on any given day. If that’s a struggle for you too, then add that into the next step and pray about it.)
STEP 2: PRAY
I am a firm believer that you cannot study scripture without the Holy Spirit by your side. He must be the active guide in any time of study. So pray. Talk to Him. Listen to worship music and praise for as long as you need to. Invite Him in to your study time and ask Him to take the reins through your verse mapping. This should be time that you spend together — with Him revealing more of who He is to your heart. We can’t do it without Him. Ask and it will be given. Seek and you’ll find Him.
STEP 3: READ
Instead of abstaining from something during Lent this year, I felt the Holy Spirit impress it upon my heart to add something to my life — verse mapping. I received clear instruction to start in the Book of Acts and to keep going until I’m told to stop. SO that’s where my examples come from, but you should read what He’s impressed upon your heart. And keep reading until a verse stands out. What grabs you? What themes do you see? What question(s) do you have? If something sticks out, then you can be sure that’s your verse for the day.
STEP 4: WRITE your VERSE
I use my Dad’s Bible, which is the NKJV. Once I have my verse for the day, I record it and document it in at least 2-4 other translations. (NIV, NASB, KJV, ESV, ASV, MSG) This helps me to notice similar word choice, phrases that stand out, and/or aspects of grammar usage that are of note. Anything here could trigger a question or path of further investigation.
This is also where I note word choice, part(s) of speech and dig deep into definitions, Hebrew/Greek translations, Biblical concordance and some seriously cool context around the verse. (When I began mapping Romans, I bought a THICK history book on Rome in the 1st century. It’s been exciting to dig in to the historical context behind Paul’s letters.)
STEP 5: ACTIONS
I’m a storyteller by my heart’s design, so I’m always drawn to the players in a scene. That’s what the Actions record. What is happening in the verse? To whom? Who are the characters in what you’re reading? How does their story relate to other stories/verses/persons in other areas of Scripture?
The other part of this section relies on organization. I was an instructional designer and facilitator in corporate America for 15 years, so I love the opportunity to organize content. This is all about curating TRUTH, friends. What are the topics, themes, dates of significant events and/or theological elements of the verse(s) you’re researching?
Anything is fair game here as long as you can back it up with Scripture.
(NOTE: I color-code my verse mapping, so light blue is the quick-look color I use to document all of my related verses. It really helps to look for that when I come back to review an older map.) This section can get long. It may even branch out into a second page (like this one did below). It’s okay — just go with where God is leading you.
Let the Spirit loose in your heart in this section — I promise He will give you some #WOW #facepalm #mindblown #jawdrop #IlovetheBible #intheWord moments if you let Him!
STEP 6: OUTCOME
There’s an answer to every question. You may not have known where the verse map would go that day, but He’s going to bring you full circle to answer any question you started with. You should find verses that minister to your heart and give you life application for the journey you’re on with God. He’ll remind you of examples in your own life where you may have seen a concept lived out. And most importantly? What did He tell you? What did you learn? How has your heart been softened? How has your passion grown?
I encourage all of us to start small. Some of my maps are one or two pages with lots of white space. That’s okay. And others (depending on what I need to hear from God that day) turn into four pages of study that digs deep in my heart.
Look up a word here. Choose a verse there. Just do it honestly and the Holy Spirit will grow our passion around His Word. We don’t have to have it all figured out with the first or the twentieth map. We just have to come hungry to the table every day — He’ll handle the preparation for the feast ahead of time.
So now it’s your turn! Want to give it a try with me? Add a comment below with your thoughts. Do you think verse mapping might be for you?
Be sure to use the hashtag #VerseMapClub to connect and share your verse map experience on social media. I’ll be adding more posts soon, and you can bet I’ll want to see how it’s going for you. Connect with me in Pinterest and I’ll be happy to add you to this community board: VERSE_MAPPING
With new LIFE in the Word,
(*)Verse Mapping 101 – All content: © 2016 Kristy Cambron