Have you heard of verse mapping and wondered exactly what it was?
When I got saved people told me how important it was to read the Bible. Now, as a list-making, rule-following perfectionist, I really tried to spend more time actually reading the Word. But Y'all, the Bible is hard to understand!
It wasn't until I started approaching the Bible differently than other books that I finally fell in love with the text and verse mapping is a part of that story.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.
What is Verse Mapping?
To be honest, when I started verse mapping it wasn't popular enough to have a cute name. I called it an in-depth word study, but it really goes much deeper than that.
Verse mapping is a process of understanding what a verse or passage of the Bible means so that you can apply it to your life in practical ways.
There are many methods available to get started with this form of Bible study, but the basic idea is that you will spend time dissecting the Bible to understand it better.
Why Spend Time Dissecting the Bible?
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”Isaiah 55:11 NASB
The Bible is clear that God's word will always accomplish what He wills it to accomplish. You might be saying, “Dissecting the Bible sounds complicated and time-consuming. Why would I want to spend time doing that?”
“Why not just read a verse a day and hope it keeps the devil away?” is another resonance I've heard to Verse mapping. My answer is simple.
God is relationship-driven. He longs to speak to You, hear you speak to Him, and grow that relationship. Yes, just reading the Bible alone will grow you a bit, but don't you long to grow deeper in faith?
Spending time better understanding scripture will help you grow in faith, grow spiritually, and nurture your relationship with Christ. Verse mapping will help you accomplish all of those goals!
Before we learn how to break down scripture I want to share a simple method that I use every time I open the Word of God to help me focus.
The P.R.A.Y Bible Study Method
In my early 20's a mentor encouraged me to begin reading the Bible like no other book I read. I am an avid reader – you could say a bibliophile – so that struck me as odd.
Other books are read to learn something or escape from something. You start the book with a goal in mind and you plod along through it until that goal is accomplished.
The Bible is not a book to conquer, it is instead a love letter to be cherished, understood, and applied.
Remember, God is relational, so when you read the Bible you are starting a conversation with Him. I follow this method to remind myself of the relationship involved in my Quiet time and to avoid the habit of turning it into a ritual or a to-do list item.
P.R.A.Y stands for Pray, Read, Apply, and Yield.
- Pray to begin your time with God.
- Just like you would start a conversation with, “Hello,” start your quiet time with prayer. It keeps your mind focused on Him through the reading.
- Read the passage.
- Take your time reading it to be sure you understand it. This is where verse mapping comes into play.
- Apply what you read.
- Ask contextual questions about what you read. Understand what God said and how the original audience would have understood the passage.
- Yield to God's voice.
- When you read the Bible, God is speaking to You. Once you understand what the passage means, spend time being still with God to understand what He is saying to you today. Then do what He said.
There are many Bible study methods available to use. This is just the one that works for me. It is simple and easy which means I can stick with it.
Other Bible Study Methods:
How to Get Started with Verse Mapping
Verse mapping is really about dissecting the Bible. There are many methods for approaching the dissection process. Consider this the beginner’s guide to Verse mapping or verse mapping in 6 steps.
- Write the verse.
- Ask good questions.
- Define the words.
- Check cross-references.
- Apply the verse.
- Yield to God.
I've shared mapped out 1 Corinthians 13 on my site and hope it helps you better understand what the finished product could look like:
Step 1. Write Out The Verse
Scripture writing is a big part of the processing of understanding and retaining the verses you study. I always begin by highlighting the verse or verses in my favorite Bible and then writing then it out in my journal.
We retain what we write so I strongly advise you not to skip this step.
Step 2. Ask Questions About The Verse
Remember that the Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) as you study the verse. It is very tempting to skim over passages we have read before or heard preached many times. Asking questions as you study will help keep the passage fresh and alive.
Through the process of verse mapping, you will ask questions about the context and setting like:
- Who is speaking?
- Who is the audience?
- When was this written?
- Who is the verse about?
- What is the subject?
- Where was this written, or where did the audience live?
- What did this word mean to the original audience 2000+ years ago?
- How did they interpret the message?
Step 3. Define Keywords in The Verse
The Bible was written in a different language. It is important to remember when you read a word in the Bible today, the word we use may have had a different meaning 2000+ years ago. To better understand the verse you will need to define the keywords of the text.
In my re-written verse in my journal, I will underline words that I don't understand or that feel important in the passage to look up.
Some people write the verse double spaced and jot the definitions under the word in a different color pen. That is always confusing to me, so I make a list of words under the verse in my journal, one at a time, and write the definitions there.
Because the Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew you may not get a good understanding of the verse by searching Webster's dictionary. I use a free online tool called BlueLetterBible.org to find the definition of the original language.
I will also often jot down synonyms of the word I am defining from Google.
Step 4. Check Cross References
Does the Bible talk about this topic or use these words in other places? Many times it does.
After you have defined the word and given yourself some notes to help make it clear, right in the BlueLetterBible you will see a section listing cross-references for the same word in other verses in the Bible.
Read the cross-references to understand the word from a different angle and often you will gain a deeper understanding of how the original audience understood the word.
Step 5. Interpret The Verse
Once you have a feel for the context of the verse, have defined the keywords, and read the cross-references you are ready to interpret the verse.
Often I will re-write the verse at this point adding clarity in parentheses (like this).
Under the verse, I will note some specific ways this verse applied to the original readers. Consider these main points:
- Things you want to remember.
- Promises you can claim.
- Truths that impact how you are living.
- Further questions.
I will then summarize the meaning of the verse or passage in my own words.
Step 6. Apply The Verse
Finally, how can you apply what the passage says to your life? Some questions I like to ask as I wind down my time with God are:
- What needs to change in my life based on what God has said?
- Is God convicting me of any sin or idolatry?
- Are there things wrong in my theology?
- Are there promises that can help me in this season?
- Can I turn the passage into a prayer?
This is my favorite time of Bible study. It often leads to a worship song and a time of prayer. When you slow down your time in the Word, you hear God speak into your right now situation. I love that!
Here is an excellent example of Verse Mapping Joshua 1:9.
Supplies Needed for Verse Mapping
It is not expensive to start verse mapping. Most of the supplies I use are things I have around the house, to begin with, so it could be free if you play it right.
I will often pull things out of old scrapbooking tubs. Bible Journaling supplies also come in handy. Honestly, sometimes this transitions to Bible Journaling for me. A keyword will spark an image and I will start doodling in my journal or in my Bible as I meditate on it.
A Bible Version You Can Easily Read
When studying the Bible through Verse mapping you really want a Bible verse that is easy for you to read. If you have a King James Version and struggle to get into the habit, it could be that Old English is just too foreign to you to relate to.
I enjoy the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for my day to day study, but when I am Bible Journaling or Verse Mapping I shift to the English Standard Version (ESV)* Or the Christian Standard Version (CSV)*.
I also keep my *Journaling Bible* on hand in case inspiration strikes and I shift mid-study.
If you aren't quite sure which Bible to get started with, here are some great Study Bibles for Beginners.
A Note Book
When you are dissecting a verse or passage in the Bible expect it to take space. You need a designated notebook to keep track of your study. Often I will start mapping on one day and not get it finished for several days. Keeping my work in a separate notebook helps keep it all together.
Some people prefer lined paper for Verse Mapping while others prefer blank pages.
I enjoy this pretty watercolor blank notebook.
After you map a few verses you will know what works for you. Give yourself grace that this doesn't have to look perfect, it just has to help you dive deeper into the Word.
Pens or Pencils
I am a colorful pen girl, but it doesn't really matter what kind of writing instrument you use. You could use one pen or one pencil. You may prefer to use different colors.
My favorite is this multicolored set from Pembrook. They are cheapest on Amazon but can be picked up from Walmart.
Earlier I mentioned BlueLetterBible.org as a great free online tool for getting definitions and cross-references. I love this tool but it does have some limits. You may prefer to have a good Bible dictionary on hand to help you go deeper.
There are also many times I need to go deeper than definitions and cross-references to understand a passage. Commentaries are great tools to go deeper.
Will You Start Verse Mapping Today?
Verse mapping is a great way to refresh your quiet time. Whether you struggle to understand the Bible or you are just going through a dry season, this Bible study method can bring value to your life.
Will you start verse mapping today?
If you need help deciding on which Bible Study Method works best for you, be sure to checkout Arabah Joy's Bible Study Methods: 7 Ways in 7 Days.
in HIM, Tiffany