[From Justin Taylor at Between 2 Worlds]

One tip to help you understand the Bible better is read it with a pen or pencil in hand. Write down key words on a scratch of paper. Circle words in your Bible that are conceptually or linguistically similar. Underline key words. Doodle.

As part of the leadership team for the ESV Study Bible, one thing I wanted to make sure we included was a number of charts, because they can be helpful visual aids to make explicit the logical organization in a chapter.

In an earlier post on asking questions of the Bible, I suggested asking texts the journalistic questions (who, what, when, where, why, how).

Putting your answers in a chart allows you to see quickly the contrasts and similarities that the author is highlighting.

For example, take Hebrews 1:1-2a:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. . . .

It’s easy to read that quickly. But instead of skimming it, try breaking it down so that you can slow down and see more:

Who? God God
What? spoke spoke
When? long ago in these last days
How? at many times, in many ways (in one decisive way)*
To whom? our fathers[OT patriarchs] us[New Covenant people]
By whom? the prophets his Son


You can then move on to vv. 2b-3:

. . . whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. . . .

Here, instead of a chart, it might help simply to list the seven things that the author is affirming about who Jesus is and what he has done:

  1. Jesus is the God-appointed messianic heir of all things.
  2. Jesus is the creator of the world.
  3. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory.
  4. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.
  5. Jesus is the upholder of the universe by his powerful word.
  6. Jesus is the one who made purification for our sins.
  7. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God, the Majesty on high.

I haven’t added much to what the wording of the text says—just a clarifying word or two. But the value here is simply to “unpack” the contents—which can help us to meditate upon these distinct aspects of Christ’s splendor and work.

Another way to meditate on Christ’s work in this passage is to put it through the grid of prophet-priest-king:

Prophet God . . . has spoken to us by his Son
Priest [Jesus made] purification for sins
King [God] appointed [Jesus] the heir of all things

So my suggestion: get your Bible and try to make a chart today.