By Kristy Cambron
Having walked away from my career to pursue a new career as a fiction author, I found myself on a completely different life path than the one I’d known.
My family and I were grieving the loss of my dad to cancer. Navigating the calling of a new writing career and raising a young family doesn’t exactly make it easy to process life change at every turn. So while it wasn’t surprising that I found myself in unfamiliar territory, what is surprising is the place that I found the least familiar: the pages of my Bible.
After years of having no time to attend a women’s Bible study, I had a true lack of confidence in my ability to understand the Word. So when I decided to pursue Bible study in a group, I walked into a church building with more than a few barriers to overcome. As if it was a lifeline, I held onto the Bible I’d been recently given—the one my dad used when he was saved and baptized at 60 years old—the Bible my dad had studied in the two short years before he’d passed away. I wanted to find an answer to my every question in those pages. I needed a life-guide, despite my schedule and my apprehensions. And I ardently hoped that there was a way for me to find a reawakening in my faith, praying that the Holy Spirit was ready and willing to help me walk this new story road.
Here was my prayer: I wanted that Bible to be worn and weary from use and the Word well-traveled in my heart and mind.
Maybe finding yourself on a similar story road draws you to seek a new way of studying Scripture too. As followers of Jesus, we want to experience what the Bible promises:
• We will become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
• We need to study God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17), understand it (Psalm 119:130), and obey it (Luke 11:28) in every season of our lives.
• We’ll make God’s Word our oxygen—to apply its promises to our daily faith walk, no matter the outlook of the path ahead (Hebrews 4:12).
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But depending on Scripture for guidance and direction is not as far away as you might think.
If you want to unpack the context of the Scriptures you’re reading but you want to do it in a simple way—looking at the Hebrew/Greek translations, finding connections in the Word, and learning as much as you can from spending time with the Holy Spirit—then get ready. You’re invited to experience study that will inspire, encourage, and unlock your understanding of the Word of God!
What is Verse Mapping?
Mapping Bible verses isn’t new; it’s been a topic of conversation and practice for years. You’ll find endless examples of simple ways to accomplish this with a quick online search. And Bible journaling images and inductive study methods are popping up all over social media. But what is verse mapping, and can a few steps really help us understand God’s Word more clearly—enough to truly make us new creations?
In simplest terms, verse mapping is getting real about studying the Bible. It’s not just reading it, 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.
What Qualifies Me to Do This Kind of Study?
If you’re not a seminary-trained theologian by education, don’t worry—verse mapping is for anyone with a heart to know the Word of God more. What matters is not how much knowledge you have before you begin but where the experience takes you.
What are the Rules?
There’s no right or wrong way to pursue verse mapping from a structural standpoint, but here is an example pulled from the NIV Verse Mapping Bible:
While these elements comprise one way to pursue verse mapping, what matters isn’t what your map looks like—that’s up to you. What does matter is what you discover in each verse. Here’s a good rule of thumb: everything is fair game in studying and verse mapping as long as God said it first. Once you’ve gathered the tools and gained the confidence to apply what you’ve learned, it’s up to you how your journey will look . . . how in-depth you study . . . and how much time you spend with God each day.
What are the Tools?
You probably already have all you need to get started. Gather up a few tools, and you’re all set:
• A Bible in your preferred translation—An NIV Verse Mapping Bible, your own Bible, or a Bible app on a smart device.
• A journal—A Verse Mapping Bible Study Journal with template maps or a notebook with blank pages.
• Markers or pens—I use a different color of marker for each section, but going to that extent isn’t required. Remember—your study, your choice! Make it yours and you’ll stick with it.
• A concordance with Hebrew/Greek dictionaries—I recommend The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance, Third Edition from Zondervan, but you can also find the information online.
• Time—The time you block on your calendar is up to you. Study time is on the honor system between you and God. If you have five minutes today and an hour tomorrow, dedicate what time you can, when you can. It’s all about communion with him.
What are the Steps?
This is a Holy Spirit-led study; we can’t take a step without him leading the way. So first . . . pray. Talk to God. Listen to worship music and praise him for as long as you need to. Do whatever works to invite him into your study space. This should be time that you spend together, with him revealing more of who he is to your heart. This time is meant to be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with him.
Once your heart is ready, dive in! We’ll walk through the steps together:
What key themes or specific words are speaking to me today? Select and write your verse(s) to map. The benefit to this is that writing verses down plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply reading them.
What different translations make up the design for this verse? Write your verse(s) in 2-4 different translations. Pick out key words or phrases that stand out. The reason why is because different translations have different philosophies behind them: some are more word-for-word based on the original languages, and others are more thought-for-thought. Multiple translations provide a fuller picture of the intent of the original authors. (Note that BibleGateway.com has a function that allows you to see a particular verse in nearly all English translations.)
What is the Hebrew or Greek meaning for the underlined phrases or words? Look up key words or phrases in Hebrew/Greek. Write down definitions, synonyms, and root words that further develop the context for the verse. Discover and note underlying meaning in verse(s). This kind of digging reveals the underlying meaning behind the English translations. Gaining a better understanding of the original languages allows for a more fully formed understanding of the passage
What makes the story come alive? Research and document what tells the story in this verse(s) through the people, places, and context referenced. As you do this, take the time to draw connections to other similar concepts in Scripture.
What is God saying to me today, and how do I apply this to my life? Document what you’ve learned in a 1-2 sentence summary of the mapping journey, making it the anchor to your life application.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
The best advice I can give to you as we walk through a verse together is this: don’t be afraid to start small. Pick a short verse to start or focus on one word across translations. If you step away from this study time having learned just one new thing, it’s worth it. That one thing will be enough for God to build on.
I’m Ready to Get Started – What Now?
Start now. Today! Grab a Bible and a pen and just give it a try. Knock down the barriers of not knowing as much as you’d like or of carving out time in your schedule by taking that first step. Study on your own, gather with a study group, or round up the kids and study as a family at the kitchen table. Just BEGIN—and don’t be afraid to start small. God will meet you where you are, every time, on every step of the journey. You’ll soon find that before you know it, you’re indeed on the road to being made new—through him.
What Can I Expect?
Remember the Bible that I mentioned I had at the beginning of this verse-mapping journey? I still have it and I use it every day. The binding is a bit worn. The pages have notes and prayers scrawled in the margins. I even taped in homemade tabs for each of the Bible books—my own version of speeding up my verse mapping study time! That Bible has been in my possession for only seven years, but it’s well on the way to answering that first prayer I had the day I walked into Bible study: I wanted God’s Word to be well-traveled in me.
Here’s what you can expect when you take the time to verse map: your life is about to change.
If our Bibles weren’t worn before—well-loved and learned in our hearts—they will be now. Verse mapping trains our minds to read, and think, and use Scripture like a Bible researcher. What’s more, our hearts are reawakened as we schedule time to spend with God, and we begin to find the answers that we were looking for at the start of the journey.
My hope and prayer is that your relationship with God will deepen as you move toward him through the study of his Word. I also invite you to connect with me and others for support, helpful tips, and freebies.
Kristy Cambron is a Christy Award-winning author of historical fiction and Bible Studies. She’s served as a Women’s Ministry Leader and speaks at events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. Her work has been named to the Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, has received multiple INSPY Award nominations, and received a 2020 Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction. Learn more about Kri