Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Inductive Bible Study

A few years ago, a friend and I started a ladies group to study scripture together. We decided to spend our time doing an inductive style study of various books of the Bible.

I first encountered this type of Bible study in our church in Tennessee, Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. Our pastor taught a Wednesday night series on how to study you Bible. His approach was very much an inductive style of study.

So, what is the inductive style of study? Basically it is using the Bible itself as the primary source of information about the Bible. It is a disciplined way of slowing down and reading the text for what it actually says, not what we have heard in a sermon, or what we assume it says. It takes some serious practice in order to not read our own opinions and assumptions into scripture, especially if you are very familiar with a passage.

A great guide for this style is Kay Arthur's book, How to Study Your Bible. We have used several of her books in our study group, including 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Colossians and this year we are doing the gospel of John. This is not an endorsement of Kay Arthur -- sometimes I disagree with her conclusions and am not inspired by her questions -- but the books bring important structure to our group.

Here is the basic approach to my new style of Bible study:
  1. Read the text (an entire book or letter) in one sitting, normally in a translation I am not as familiar with, trying to read it through the eyes of the original recipients.
  2. Re-read the text, normally a smaller portion like a chapter, and make observations -- who, what, when, where and how -- writing down any unanswered questions or interesting points.
  3. Re-read the smaller portion of the text again, marking key words and main characters in the book, taking notes on what I learn from these observations.
  4. After this groundwork, I begin cross referencing other passages for answers to any remaining questions.
  5. Then I approach commentaries, or other sources of information to bring additional understanding.
  6. Of coarse, through all this, my prayer is to hear what God wants to speak into my life.
I have found it to be very refreshing to study through an entire book, and not study topically (not that this doesn't also have value). And it is a great way to become thoroughly familiar with scripture, so you can better see the big picture when you are studying a topic or person.

As I said, our group is studying the gospel of John this year. I will be doing a series of posts as we proceed through this book.

Have any of you tried an inductive study of Scripture? Or do you have a different style of study that you like? I'd love to hear from you.


  1. First off - yeah for your first post! :)

    I didn't know what inductive meant right away, but once you explained it, I recognized this as how I was raised to (and still do)study the Bible.
    I enjoy reading or hearing what a commentary may say, but in the end Scripture should be the final authority.
    I like what you've said about slowing down and really thinking through what you're reading. Excellent point.
    I'm looking forward to hearing how your Bible study goes.

  2. Hi Christy. I enjoy following your family blog so thanks for starting this one up too. I look forward to your future posts.

    A few years ago, I purchased the Inductive Study Bible as well as the booklet written by Kay Arthur. I got so much out of studying the Bible that way and started with a small book of the Bible so that I could learn the method.

    Your post is inspiring me to get back into that kind of study again. Thanks for sharing about it.

    Love, Amy


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