It’s possible (maybe even probable?) to attend a Bible college or seminary – or to take a Bible course in a major university’s religious studies department – without having to actually study the Bible. Background reading isn’t bad, but John Sailhamer says it might make you miss the point:
In speaking about historical events (things), one may easily confuse what an author says about these events with the events themselves. As important as history and archaeology are for understanding the things that the Bible points to and talks about, they sometimes get in the way of understanding the words of Scripture. The Pentateuch may be compared to a Rembrandt painting of real persons or events. We do not understand a Rembrandt painting by taking a photograph of the “thing” that Rembrandt painted and comparing it with the painting itself. That may help us understand the “thing” that Rembrandt painted – his subject matter – but it will not help us understand the painting itself. To understand Rembrandt’s painting, we must look at it and see its colors, shapes, and textures. In the same way, to understand the Pentateuch, one must look at its colors, contours, and textures. To understand Rembrandt’s painting, one must study the painting itself. To understand the Pentateuch, one must study the Pentateuch itself.
– John Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch, p. 19-20