A Simple Guide To Inductive Bible Study
A simple guide to Inductive Bible Study, perfect for beginners or others whove been too afraid to try. You can study the Bible for yourself!
Many women miss out on the treasures of studying Gods Word because theyre intimidated. Social media abounds with colorful images of Bibles filled with study notes and artful markings. It sounds too complicated. It looks too time-consuming.
It doesnt have to be this way.
Im not special. I dont have a theology degree or any degree, for that matter! I just have a hunger for more of Gods Word. Ive learned from other women and various resources. Ive learned by doing, by practice. And I continue to learn.
My life was forever changed when I learned how to study the Bible for myself. Thats why I started Wield The Word. I want to do everything I possibly can to get as many women as possible into Gods Word. Read it for yourself and be transformed!
So Ill keep it simple.
What Is The Inductive Bible Study Method
The inductive bible study method is a transformative tool that will positively impact your study of the scriptures. It is an investigative approach to Bible Study where the reader observes the text, they then interpret the text and then close off their study by seeing how the text applies to their life. The application of this method will provide a wholesome understanding of scripture with regards to the intent and the context at the time it was written and its application in present times. As, the reader looks at the intended meaning of the text by understanding it in context . It gives readers a deeper understanding of the scriptures and enables them to walk away with a practical application.
Read The Bible Patiently And Precisely
Weve already addressed several obstacles to effective personal Bible study: busyness, distraction, aimlessness, and prayerlessness. One other subtle challenge we face is familiarity. Many seasoned Christians have read the Bible for years and heard numerous sermons or Sunday school lessons. Its easy to fall into bad habits or allow personal Bible reading to become routine because we are already familiar with the story and content of the Bible. We need to slow down and read patiently, lingering and meditating on Gods Word. We must also read precisely, noticing the details, logic, and nuance of the text. We need to be stirred up and reminded afresh of what Gods Word says as we seek to believe Gods promises, fight against sin, and follow Christ each day . When we look or observe what Scripture says, we want to know exactly what the text says and to see more than weve seen before.
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Make A Manuscript Of The Book And Read It Twice
Create a manuscript by printing out the book double-spaced with section headings and paragraph formatting removed. You can use a website like Biblegateway.com to locate a digital copy of the book. Read the book from beginning to end. Try to approach it as if you had never read it before. Then read it again from beginning to end, looking for the aim of the letter and overarching themes.
Hear Inductive Bible Study
- Highlight – Highlight each verse that speaks to you. Note the name of the book, the passage of Scripture, the chapter and verse numbers that especially speak to you, and create a title to describe the passage.
- Explain – Ask simple questions to determine what the text means. Why was it written? To whom was it originally written? How does it fit with the verses before and after it? Why did the Holy Spirit include this passage in the book? What is he intending to communicate through this text?
- Apply – Everything you have learned and noted so far culminates under this heading. Answer these questions to uncover the significance of the passage for you: How can this help me? What does this mean today? What would the application of this passage look like in my life? What is God saying to me?
- Respond – Here you can write out a call to action, describe how you will be different because of what you read, or indicate what you are going to do because of what you learned.
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Inductive Bible Study: A Step
Why do you study the Bible? What motivates you to crack open your Bible and read the Word of God? Is it to find a word to help you through your day? Do you want to grow in your relationship with God? No matter your reason, one of your goals should be to understand and make application of what youre reading. There are lots of Bible study methods and teachings out there that will help you to that end. One of the best ways Ive found to do this is with a method called inductive Bible study.
The inductive Bible study method is a great approach to study Scripture and its the focus of this weeks Bible study tip. Well be using Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. & Andreas J. Köstenbergers fantastic book titled Inductive Bible Study as the general outline for this tip. In addition, we will take a look at a great new resource that will enhance your inductive Bible study. So, lets dive in!
Inductive Versus Deductive Study
To study the Bible inductively means to use information in the passage to reach a conclusion about what the passage is saying. This might sound obvious, and we probably assume this is what were doing when we read the Bible. But, whether aware of it or not, we all come to passages of Scripture with conclusions already made.
For example, if you have concluded that a certain brand of clothing is high-quality and fashionable, then you may assume each item of that brand is high-quality and fashionable, without looking closely at each item yourself.
When we study a Bible passage inductively, we try very hard to make our conclusions about what the text is saying from evidence within the text, rather than from information or opinions outside of the text.
Compare Bible Translations And Write Down Any Questions And Observations
Using the parallel tab, Im going to compare the ESV with the NIV and NKJV. Im also going to generally observe whats going on and ask questions:
- When was the sixth hour?
- ESV+NKJV says housetop but NIV says roof
- Whose house was it?
- Peter was hungry
- ESV+NKJV the heavens and NIV heaven. whats the difference?
- The sheet had four corners
- ESV animals, NIV+NKJV four-footed animals
- The voice was telling Peter to eat all kinds of animals
- ESV+NKJV common, NIV impure. Is there a difference?
- Peter went back and forth with the voice of the Lord three times
A Few Recommended Resources To Help You Learn Inductive Bible Study
This section is optional. I dont benefit in any way if you use any of these resources. I just wanted to share with you some of the resources that have helped me learn to study the Bible for myself.
I first learned about Inductive Bible Study many years ago by watching Precepts for Life. Its available to watch online for free either on the website or as a podcast. Each program has a corresponding study guide which you can download for free.
When my children were all young, I used this half-hour program as my morning coffee time. Sometimes the kids would be sitting at the table eating their breakfast while I was digging deep into Gods Word! Other times, I waited till they were having naps. It was a manageable and enjoyable way to learn.
Shortly after I started following this program, I bought the Inductive Study Bible published by Precept Ministries International. This is still the Bible I use today. Its well-used, yet not even close to falling apart. It has wider margins than a lot of Bibles and includes study helps and useful tips and charts throughout. It even has an overview of Inductive Bible Study at the beginning, along with a specific Inductive Study Guide for each book.
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Study Repeated Words And Key Themes
One of my favorite inductive Bible study strategies is color-coding repeated words and key themes in a biblical book. Reading with colored pencils and a notecard in hand has several benefits. First, it makes us slow down and be more attentive and careful as we study the text. Second, it prompts us to look for new words and themes that weve not previously highlighted each time we work through a book. Third, color coding repeated words, phrases, and themes helps us to better appreciate a biblical authors emphasis.
In my own personal study, Ive chosen to focus on words and themes particular to each biblical book. For example, for Isaiah, I use one color for holy and the Holy One of Israel and another for salvation. In Jeremiah, I trace the imagery of judgment and restoration introduced in the prophets commission to pluck up and to break down. . . to build and to plant . In Ezekiel, color-coding led me to identify the seventy-two times that God declares that people will know that I am the LORD. In Daniel, I highlight the themes of wisdom and understanding as well as kingdom and dominion. In Hosea, I underline the repeated references to whoredom, adultery, and related expressions.
The Value Of Inductive Bible Study
An Inductive Bible Study will challenge your assumptions, which is a good thing! It will also force you to dig into the text to find the interpretation, the big idea, and the application. This is not a surface-level type of Bible study method.
The Inductive Bible Study method also typically studies verse by verse in a complete context. Even better, with this method, you are encouraged to study whole books of the Bible at a time! This gives the best interpretation of passages, as you get a more complete view of what the author intended.
You might think that this Bible study method sounds too hard for kids! But its not! Ive taught my own kids, as young as 4th-5th grade to study passages using this method. And it makes for much deeper conversation that just topical studies.
Want to learn how to help your kids study the Bible in this way? You can find a free Bible study guide that will give you the basic outline of the method and you can apply it to any passage.
My resource-library also has a 5-page ebook called Inductive Bible Study Introduction that will walk you through the steps in greater detail.
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Hermeneutical Approaches Vs Inductive Bible Study
Inductive Bible Study teaches that you observe, interpret, and then apply scripture, and has lots of specific things you should observe such as word repetitions, structural elements such as comparisons and contrasts, etc. .
How does that technique compare to various hermeneutical approaches?
I’m pretty certain application goes beyond the scope of analyzing the text, but it seems like a lot of overlap in terms of techniques for analyzing the text and its meaning.
Howard Hendricks, in Living by the Book, identifies three questions that form the foundation of most approaches to studying the Bible. These are:
- What does it say?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for me?
Inductive Bible study would seem to address all three of these, while hermeneutics is primarily focused on the first two.
Another difference is in the language of study. Hermeneutics frequently involves study of the original languages in trying to answer “what does it say/mean?”, while an inductive study is frequently done in the native tongue of the one doing the study.
That said, I’m not sure that they’re really all that different – they do seem to be subsets or supersets of the same set of tools.
I agree with GalacticCowboy’s answer that there’s a good deal of overlap between the approachesespecially when it comes to observation and interpretation. Roughly speaking the difference amounts to nothing more than who is doing the work.
Apply This Verse To Your Life What Does This Verse Mean For You How Should You Respond Pray About It
Sometimes I feel like Peter, who went back and forth with the voice of the Lord three times before accepting His words. I can be stubborn and set in my ways. When Im doing the wrong thing, this makes it hard to change. I learned that this stubbornness is actually a gift because it helps me stay firm in my faith. I may scoff at Peter for not accepting the Lords voice after the first time, but how many times have I ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit? How many times have I been stubborn against God rather than for Him?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for sometimes considering others unclean or un-savable. Forgive me for being unwilling to break social norms to share your revolutionary Gospel. If I followed you every step of the way, I know there were many opportunities I wouldnt have missed to encourage and lead others to You. Thank you for providing a way for anyone to become your son or daughter, even a sinner like me. Thank you for having my best interest at heart, even if its uncomfortable or difficult. Help me internalize this story of Peter and give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone I consider unclean . Amen.
I want to close with this poignant application from the Gospel Transformation Study Bible:
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The Three Steps That Make Up The Precept Inductive Study Method
Observation: See exactly what the Bible says
- Begin with prayer
- Ask who, what, when, where, why and how? questions as you read
- List what you have marked
- Look out for and mark expressions of time and locations, terms of conclusion, contrasts and comparisons
While observation leads to an accurate understanding of what Gods Word says, interpretation goes a step further and helps you understand what it means.
Interpretation: Understand what the Bible means
- Remember that context rules all interpretation
- Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture
When you understand what God is saying, its time to believe the truth and live by it!
Application: Apply the meaning of the text to my life
- Know God deeply. Live differently.
For a more in-depth understanding of inductive study, for a free downloadable PDF.
How To Do An Inductive Bible Study
If youre like me, then you have one major roadblock keeping you from studying the Bible: disorganization. Whether youre overwhelmed by the massive amounts of Bible study tools or you just feel like theres a more efficient way, you can use this simple framework to get the most out of your study time: the inductive study method.
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The Bible Is A Library Of Books Not Random Books
The Bible is a library of books and not just a random collection of separate documents. The Bible describes a continuous history from the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 to the end of history in Revelation 22. And the Bible presents a consistent message throughout. A core of unity exists within the whole Bible, along with some differences of perspective among the individual biblical books. To use a musical image, the Bible is not so much a simple melody as it is a harmony, with each part making its contribution to the song. Therefore, we should consider how each biblical book, and indeed each passage, contributes to the message of the whole Bible. And we should explore, too, how the witness of the entire Bible may inform the meaning of individual passages.
Trace The Flow Of Thought Of The Biblical Authors
Inductive Bible study requires us to be good readers, who seek to follow the biblical authors flow of thought. The words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs in each passage do not come to us as isolated statements of truths, but they are linked together in a clear logical order. Good readers must distinguish between main clauses and supporting clauses and must pay particular attention to conjunctions in order to locate the authors main point and supporting points. For example:
- And links two parallel statements together.
- But introduces a contrast with the previous statement.
- For and because introduce reasons for what precedes.
- Therefore introduces an inference based on earlier material.
- If introduces a conditional statement.
- As introduces a comparison.
- In order that or that introduce purpose statements.
In my seminary classes, sermon preparation, and personal study I regularly use the methods arcing and phrasing to trace the authors flow of thought, particularly when studying the NT letters. For explanations and examples of these approaches, see biblearc.com.
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Simple Step Huge Payoff
For example, the most famous verse in the Bible takes on a whole new light when you answer these questions about John 3:115.
Who? Jesus speaks these words to Nicodemus, a Pharisee .
What? This is a private conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus.
Where? This conversation took place where Jesus was.
When? This conversation took place in the middle of the night.
Why? This was a private conversation because Nicodemus was afraid of the Jews.
How? Nicodemus walked to where Jesus was under the veil of night.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life .
You can also take note of the following in the text:
Direct or indirect references to other scriptures
Transition words that indicate a change in time, location or topic
Anything you can put into a list
Words that indicate cause and affect
Answering these questions in each passage goes a long way in preparing you to accurately perform Step 2.