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Get your colored pencils ready!

February 3, 2010

Welcome to the introduction for our new Inductive Bible Study series! 🙂

Today we will be reviewing the basic components of the inductive study method for those who might be unfamiliar with this approach.  There are lots of different ways to do a great Bible study – word studies, topical studies, devotional studies, etc.  but I really like the inductive method because it’s so much fun for me to set aside all my prior ideas and dig into the scriptures to mine out the overarching themes and ideas.

It’s great to learn from people who have studied the Bible much longer than I have and I can gain from their knowledge, but I also want to be like the Bereans who studied the scriptures for themselves to make sure the new revelations they were being taught matched up with the scriptures they already had (Acts 17:11).

God rewards those who set themselves to study His words.  I look at the example of Daniel who learned what God was going to do in the future by diligently studying the writings of the prophets (Daniel 9:2).  I think of those who were slow to recognize (or who totally missed) the Messiah because of their unbelief in the words of scripture (Luke 24:25-27).

So, what exactly is an Inductive Bible Study?

First of all, you are probably already familiar with inductive vs. deductive research methods.  In a deductive method you form your theory first and then test your theory by making hypotheses, which are tested by observations which serve to either confirm or disprove the theory.  This is referred to as a “top-down” approach and looks like this:





The inductive method works in the reverse and is alternatively called the “bottom-up” approach. Starting with observations first, hypotheses are then formed from patterns that emerge from the observations.  The hypotheses are tested until a theory is developed.  The inductive method is diagrammed like this:





When we approach the Bible deductively we can sometimes end up pulling scriptures out of context to support our own preconceived biases instead of submitting ourselves to the Word as learners.  In an inductive study, the goal is to set aside our prior assumptions and come to the text with an open mind and a willingness to have our false thinking corrected by what the Word actually says.

There are three basic steps in an Inductive Bible Study:

Observation, Interpretation, Application

Similar to the “bottom-up” approach of the inductive research method, we begin by making observations about the passage we are studying.  The goal is to look for repeated words, phrases, and ideas in order to understand the main ideas and overarching themes.

The first step can take a long time (depending on the size of the text), but it’s also the most fun!  I like using colored pencils, pens, or crayons to mark up my text.  I’ve also created charts, outlines, or diagrams to observe the logical connections between themes.  I read a section or book multiple times in order to figure out what is going on and what the author is trying to communicate.  The goal in the observation stage is to answer who/what/where/when/why questions such as the following:


1.  Who is writing this? (original author)

2.  Who are the intended recipients? (original audience)

3.  Why did the author write this? (purpose of the book as a whole and the individual sections)

4.  What is the author seeking to communicate to the original audience? (look for repeated words/ideas or the author’s logical sequence of thought)

5.  How does this section relate to the larger context of the book and/or the rest of the Bible?

There are lots of alternative questions you can ask in this step.  You can google “inductive Bible study methods” online and probably find some really great questions!  The more detailed you are about the specifics, the more “spot on” your generalizations will be when you start to chart the big themes and ideas.

Once you have completed the observation step, you are ready to move on to the interpretation phase – determining what the text means and forming your conclusions.  We will go into more detail on this later.  If you stay true to the inductive method you will draw your interpretation straight from the ideas and themes you drew out of your observations.

After proper exegesis of the text, you are ready to draw out personal applications for your own life.  We will also learn more about this step later.  This post is already plenty long!  But I am getting really excited!

And I will be sure to bake some cookies and make hot chocolate for you while we are having the Bible study! 🙂


Photo taken from some blog somewhere.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 5:10 pm

    Sounds fun, count me in! I also LOVE your new theme.

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