Published on
Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Are commentaries cheating? Marlin emphasizes first hand direct engagement with the text of scripture. If used carefully, commentaries can actually help this process. Marlin also discusses free study resources and biblical language tools. This conversation continues themes from Marlin’s essay “The Inside-Out Sandwich.”

Read Marlin’s essay The Inside-out Sandwich: An Approach to Studying and Teaching the Bible | Anabaptist Perspectives

Listen to Marlin’s essay here

See detailed tips for Bible study from Frank Reed's article Studying the Word of God | Anabaptist Perspectives

This is the 156th episode of Anabaptist Perspectives, a podcast, blog, and YouTube channel that examines various aspects of conservative Anabaptist life and thought.

Listen to our episodes on our podcast:

Read essays on our blog:

Listen to the essays as a podcast:

Connect with us on Facebook:

Support us:

About Us:

The views expressed by our guests are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Anabaptist Perspectives or Wellspring Mennonite Church.

Published on
Thursday, May 12th, 2022

What does humility mean for studying the Bible? Can only the educated understand scripture? Vince and Roseanne respond to audience comments from Vince’s prior episodes with Anabaptist Perspectives. How can we grow in our understanding of Scripture? Do we need to have an answer for every question? 


  • books stacked on a table

Authored By

  • Marlin Sommers
Published On
Saturday, April 2nd, 2022

Are commentaries cheating? Or do we need commentaries and study helps to understand and teach the scripture?  I believe using commentaries and study helps is important. Even more important, though, is keeping our primary attention on scripture itself.

What I call the “inside-out sandwich” is a process for bible study intended to keep our primary attention on scripture, while incorporating genuinely helpful attention to commentaries and study helps. The goal is to engage directly and personally with the text of scripture. Study helps should enhance direct engagement with scripture, not substitute for personal study.

The inside-out out sandwich involves three stages.

  • Stage one: Read and study the text without commentaries or other study helps.
  • Stage two: Consult study helps.
  • Stage three: Prepare final teaching notes directly from the biblical text.

A hamburger is flanked by two pieces of bread. The good stuff is in the middle surrounded by less valuable material. When studying scripture, the sandwich should be inside out. The meat of scripture comes first and last, while the less valuable, but still useful, human commentaries and study helps come in the middle.

The teacher must also study his audience as well as his own life and relationship to God. However, this essay focuses on the study of scripture passages.  This simple process applies well to Sunday school lessons, sermons, and other bible teaching.

Stage One: Read and engage the text on your own

The first step is reading the passage without commentaries or study helps. Don’t stop with the first reading. The goal is an overall grasp of the passage, based on your own understanding. Create your own representation of the passage. If you are artistic, you might draw a picture, or sketch a diagram. Of course, jotting notes or making an outline works as well. The point is to put work into your own understanding or mental map of the text. One of my personal favorite methods is to copy and paste the text into a document and then break it into smaller units and rearrange them on the screen. You can see some examples at my website.


Anabaptists like to say that they as Christians should avoid politics, or that Christianity is not political. So a lot of people might wonder what the point could be to studying political philosophy. This is mainly a discussion of Rebekah and Marlin's respective experiences studying political philosophy.

Premium content access available to our special monthly partners. Join for access!


Authored By

  • Dan Ziegler
Published On
Saturday, March 19th, 2022

In my previous essay, we discussed what is behind the conservative Anabaptist way of life and faith.  I shared that after 35 years of study and immersion in this faith community, I have become convinced that the answer is the way we Anabaptists understand and apply Scripture - the Anabaptist hermeneutic.  This hermeneutic is driven by three questions: “What if Jesus is who He says He is?”, “What if He means what He says?”, and “What if He’s talking to us?” 

I observed that we Anabaptists are a people who emphatically believe Jesus is who He says He is. Therefore, most of us come to Scripture through Him.  The 1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith describes this Christocentric approach to the Bible: 

“The message of the Bible points to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is to Him that the Scriptures of the Old Testament bear witness, and He is the One whom the Scriptures of the New Testament proclaim. He is the key to a proper understanding of the entire Bible.” 

With Christ at the center of our understanding of Scripture, there are two more principles that round out the way we non-conformed Anabaptists approach the Bible.  


What is the best bible translation? We refuse to identify one as the best but list several good ones. It's good to use different translations for different purposes. Join Marlin and Jaran as they share some practical advice for deciding how to choose good Bible translations.

Premium content access available to our special monthly partners. Join for access!

Authored By

  • Marlin Sommers
Published On
Saturday, January 1st, 2022

“The chicken showed me where the chickens are getting out,” said my son.  We soon fixed that hole in the fence. (Unfortunately, there were more.) What stuck with me were the words “the chicken showed me”. Those words indicate observation and attentiveness. And, perhaps I push the point too far, openness to learning from the chicken.  

Philosophizing about knowing (i.e. epistemology) may seem arcane or excessively technical. However, what increasingly strikes me is that our mindset toward knowing and the way we think about knowledge ties into our overall stance toward life. Whether or not we study formal epistemology, we all have a functional epistemology: our conception of what knowing is, our ideas about what (and who!) it is worthwhile to know, and ideas about how we can gain knowledge. The first part of this essay highlights epistemological thinkers and themes that I find helpful. The second part notes thinkers and themes I have encountered in various parts of my life that exemplify the approach to knowing outlined in part one. 

What Is Knowing and What’s Worth Knowing? 

Steven Brubaker’s delightful essay, “A Mennonite Thinks about Knowing,” introduces key themes.1 What is worth knowing? God, first and foremost. God’s creation is also important and worth knowing. Humans are a key part of creation we should know and love. As humans, we also exercise creativity through our work, which results in what Brubaker calls “creation’s creation.” If we study history, or writings, or architecture, or carpentry, or any host of other things we are dealing largely with creation’s creation.  

Published on
Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

How can higher education strengthen one’s faith? What about going to college leads people away from Christ? Vince Beiler discusses how his education interacts with his faith. Vince asks, “[W]hen Christians who join academia become agnostic, is the problem with the Christian or with the organization they entered?

Published on
Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

What is the importance of knowing Hebrew? Why would one go to Cambridge to study language? Vince Beiler explains how understanding the original languages of the Bible helps us to understand it better.
“So much [of] what you see in the Hebrew Bible is an open ended discussion, an invitation to think about something on a much deeper level.”

Subscribe to Studying