Mapping Bible verses isn’t new; it’s been a topic of conversation for years. You’ll find endless examples with a simple online search. And you guessed it—Bible journaling images and methods are popping up all over social media. But what is Verse Mapping* and who’s doing it? And can a few steps really help us understand God’s Word more clearly?
First things first…
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 FOR BEGINNERS:
WHAT QUALIFIES ME TO 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. Verse mapping will inspire you to dig into the Word of God in individual study, and in a group setting like never before.
The Holy Spirit is your teacher and companion in this study; it’s not the what you bring to the table that qualifies you—it’s Who. And He’s going to make sure you learn no matter where you begin.
WHAT ARE THE RULES? There’s no structural right or wrong way to verse mapping—working from right to left (a documentation page on the right, notes page on the left), and top of the page to bottom is how this study is structured. But once you’ve gathered the tools and mastered the confidence to apply what you’ve learned, it’s up to you how your journal will look… how in-depth you study… and how long you’ll spend time with God each day.
To make it easy, there’s just one rule for verse mapping:
If you can back up your conclusions with Scripture, then you can write them down. Everything is fair game in studying, as long as God said it first.
To make it personal, be YOU in verse mapping:
Make it personal. This is your journal, and your study time with God. And more than anything, make it YOU… and God will meet you in that unique and intimate space.
To make learning stick, keep to your preferences for verse mapping:
Highlight or underline… Use specific marker/pen colors for Greek or Hebrew words… Circle key words and phrases that speak to your heart… Just do what feels intuitive for you. That way, you’ll come back to these journals time over time, and keep applying what you’ve learned.
GATHERING & GETTING STARTED
GATHER YOUR TOOLS
Whether you’re at a desk in your home office, at the local coffee shop, or on the go, verse mapping is a study method that will move with you. In fact, you probably already carry everything you need just about anywhere you go:
JOURNAL—Verse Mapping Journal with blank maps -or- a notebook with blank pages
MARKERS/PENS—Specific colors of markers or pens aren’t required.
BIBLE—or a Bible App on a Smart device (to look up various translations)
CONCORDANCE—[OPTIONAL] Select a Concordance with Hebrew/Greek dictionaries (I recommend The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance, Third Edition from Zondervan Publishers, but you can also find the information online). If you don’t have one -or- you’re not able to carry one with you, you can also find this information on your Smart device.
TIME—[VARIES] While it’s a requirement, the time you block on our 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.
This is a Holy Spirit-led study; we can’t take a step without Him leading the way. So pray. Talk to Him. Listen to worship music and praise Him for as long as you need to. Do whatever works to invite Him into your study space (listen to worship music, close the door, turn off all sound).
This should be time that you spend together— with Him revealing more of who He is to your heart. It’s meant to be personal, and wholly unique to who you are.
Here’s your HOW-TO to change-your-life study time with God. The process is simple. Here’s what we’ll do:
(1.) VERSE—Select and write your verse(s) to map.
(2.) DESIGN—Write your verse(s) in 2-4 different translations. Pick out key words or phrases that stand out.
(3.) DEVELOPMENT—Look up key words or phrases in Hebrew/Greek. Write down definitions, synonyms, and root words. Discover and note underlying meaning in verse(s).
(4.) ACTIONS—Research and document what tells the story in this verse(s) through the people, places, and context referenced. Draw connections to other concepts in Scripture.
(5.) OUTCOME—Document what you’ve learned in a 1-2 sentence summary of the mapping journey, making it the anchor to life application.
STEP 1: SELECT your VERSE
Everything in your map will hinge on what verse(s) you select. Whether you’re reading through an entire book of the Bible, or moving around through verses of a specific theme, this is where you choose what your path will be for your study time.
A few questions to ask as you read: What grabs you when you read it? What themes do you see? What question(s) do you have about what you just read?
STEP 2: DESIGN
The DESIGN of this verse will dig deeper into what it really says. Notice similar word choice, phrases that stand out, and/or aspects of grammar usage that are of note across multiple translations. Anything here could trigger a question or path of further investigation.
Write your verse(s)—or selected phrase(s)—in 2-4 additional translations. Underline or highlight key phrases, or words that may be repeated across multiple translations.
STEP 3: DEVELOPMENT
If the DESIGN tells us what the verse is saying, the DEVELOPMENT digs deeper into why.
This is also where you may note word choice, part(s) of speech, and certainly dig deeper into definitions, Hebrew/Greek translations—and find some seriously cool context around your verse.
STEP 4: ACTIONS
If you’re a storyteller like Jesus was, you’ll be drawn to the story behind a scene. That’s what the ACTIONS record. Anything is fair game here as long as you can back it up with Scripture.
Research the context and customs of what life would have been like for the characters in your verse(s). Looks up maps. Open history books. Read about what happened, why, and how it’s relevant to your life today. This is where you find the story connects to YOUR story with God. Research it, and write it down.:
What’s 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?
What are the topics, themes, dates of significant events and/or theological elements of the verse(s) you’re researching?
Let the Spirit loose in your heart in this section — God will give you some #WOW #facepalm #mindblown #jawdrop #IlovetheBible #intheWord moments if you let Him!
STEP 5: OUTCOME
The OUTCOME is a quick-hit summary of what you’ve learned. One or two sentences should do it. Summarize, jot it down, and come back later to find it’s where the Holy Spirit has confirmed His promises to you.
We should be able to sum-up what the Holy Spirit has taught us into one or two lines of teaching that we can immediately apply to our life.
Don’t be afraid to start small.
If your first maps are one or two pages with lots of white space, then that’s okay. Other maps (depending on what you need to hear from God that day) could turn into four pages of study that digs deep into your 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 even 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.
Be sure to use the hashtag #VerseMapping 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 add you to the community board to see more sample maps.
KRISTY CAMBRON is an award-winning author of historical fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of nonfiction, including the Verse Mapping Series Bibles and Bible studies. Kristy’s work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations, and has been featured at CBN, Lifeway Women, Jesus Calling, Country Woman Magazine, MICI Magazine, Faithwire, Declare, (in)Courage, and Bible Gateway. She holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing and lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a peppermint mocha latte and a good read. You can connect with her at: kristycambron.com and versemapping.com.