Bible Study Basics: Historical Background Research

Step 3 Do Historical Background Research

Connecting with the History and Culture of the Gospel of Mark 1:1-8

The Bible is an ancient book. It’s been translated into English so we can read it well enough. But reading it doesn’t mean we understand it. We need to do historical background research for any book that’s been around for hundreds of years. The goal is to understand the manners, customs and geography of the time when the book was written. This is true for Greek literature by Homer, English literature by Shakespeare or the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Bible.

Colosseo - historical background research

Rather than talk about this abstractly, let’s jump right into it. Here are the steps for doing historical background research on Mark 1:1-8.

Step 3 Historical Background Research

  1. Pray: yep, we’ll be doing a lot of this in our Bible Study. Ask God to help you understand His Word to us.
  2. Read: Read Mark 1:1-8.
  3. Background: Read a general introductory article on the Gospel of Mark. Read it in a study Bible or a book like Halley’s Bible Handbook. One website with good information is Here is the link to the background material on Mark.
  4. Read Mark 1:1-8 again and note the people, concepts or customs you don’t understand.
  5. Research the items from #4. Here are some historical background issues I’ve identified.

I’ve given you links to internet resources with information on these. Please keep the following in mind as you do your historical background research.

  1. Don’t be intimidated. Yes, this is a lot of information.
  2. Read only as much as you need to understand the person, concept or place.
  3. If you own a good study Bible or Bible encyclopedia or handbook it will probably have everything you need to know in it.
  4. You do need to do this to be able to read the passage like the people it was written for read it.
  5. It’s okay if you want you can keep reading the blog without studying on your own. You’ll still benefit.

Your assignment is to do some basic historical background reading. Read enough to make sure you have a basic understanding of these concepts or any others you have identified in Mark 1:1-8.

Please tell your friends about this. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. You can go at your own speed. Come back when you’re ready for the next day. We are just getting started. This is going to be fun to discover truth from God’s word!

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have something on your list that I don’t? Is there a book or computer program or website you like that you’d recommend? Do you have another question?