I’m not sure when I was originally introduced to the inductive Bible study method. For sure I learned about it in college but may have been exposed to it earlier than that, having grown up in a Christian home. For one of my classes in college we read the book Living By the Book by William and Howard Hendricks, which covers the inductive Bible study method thoroughly. I also used the Kay Arthur studies which uses the inductive study method.
What does the inductive Bible study method mean? In brief, it is going from the general to the specific using reasoning. Typically, inductive Bible study includes these 3 steps:
1. Observation – this is the stage we want to spend the most time in. In order for interpretation and application to be correct, we need to observe, observe, observe! One of the things that Bible study books on the inductive method suggest is the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Asking these questions of the text helps to get the observations going.
2. Interpretation – here is where we take the observations we’ve made and turn them into asking what it means. The more observation, the better the interpretation can be. It is important in doing this step to determine what the meaning is before referencing others’ views such as through commentaries. Learning to determine the meaning ourselves based on observation is a huge step in doing Bible study.
3. Application – once observations have been made and meaning determined, then comes the application. Too often we want to jump to this step right away instead of taking the time to observe and interpret properly first. Another important thing to remember in the application step is that a passage can never mean what it never meant. In other words, it’s important to determine how this would have applied to the original audience in order to apply it to our own lives. If it didn’t mean or apply a certain way to the original audience, then it won’t mean or apply that way to us either.
These are great tools to use in Bible study to dig into passages and discover what they are saying to us. There are some helpful books that go through this method in more detail for those who want to learn more about this method.