Saturday, May 11, 2013

Inductive Bible Reading

Many Christians have their own different way to studying the Bible. Some people have methods where they may read their selected Bible passage one time, then pray for God to "inspire" them to live a Godly life. I know some people study their Bible through the method of osmosis: they figure if they stare at their Bible for long enough, maybe even place it under their pillows when the go to sleep at night that the message of the Bible would seep into their minds so they can live better. Trust me, I have personally tried both of those "methods" of studying the Bible, and neither of them worked. Recently, I have been taught by someone older and much wiser than I am how to study the Bible. The blog post that I posted last week, "Are You Ashamed?", was as a result of the approach of studying the Bible I have learned. Many Christians tend to study the Bible by inductively reading the Bible.

In the past few weeks that I have been using this approach, these are the steps that I have been taking:

Observation: 
  • Of course, you have to read whatever passage that you're studying. Instead of isolating one single verse at a time, it's best that you group verses together. To make things clearer for you, most Bibles now have groups of verses clustered together in paragraphs. To start, read and study those verses in that "paragraph" together. Context is key. When any Christian is reading the Bible, you don't want to add or take away anything that God and the author of the book wasn't trying to express. 
  • Find out who's talking, who they are talking to, what time period was the text written, and what land region or country was it written for.
  • After you read the passage, read it again! Again, context is key. Look for repeated words, phrases, and also keep in mind where or what time period this fits into the Bible. 
  • Some key words to look out for: 
    • For (meaning: in view of what was previously stated, or an explanation of what was previously stated) 
    • But (meaning: in contrast to what was said, an exception to what was previously mentioned). 
    • Also be aware of commas, because they can also be used to describe the person or thing that is mentioned before or after them.
Interpretation
  • Unlike the next step, which is application, whatever passage that you are reading only has one interpretation. Many people get themselves caught up with this step when reading the Bible because they either want to add or take something away from what that author of the book was trying to say. If we interpret the Bible incorrectly, we'll apply the Bible to our lives incorrectly. 
  • Some things to keep in mind and ask yourself:
    • What is the author's intended meaning? Is he specifically talking about what he is mentioning, or is he trying to address something deeper than what is even mentioned? Sometimes to find this out you may have to look into a Biblical commentary or some other Biblical reference that correctly interprets the passage that you are reading.
    • I don't think I can mention this enough, but I'll say it again: context is critical! If you try to interpret the text in terms of the society that we live in today, you'll never be able to understand the text that you are reading. Keep in mind that the Bible was written thousands of years ago, and to interpret the Bible outside of the time period that each book was written can lead to misinterpretation and distortion of the Bible to conform it into something that it's not. Don't do that.
    • Be aware of "timeless truths", or key things about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or promises of God that are expressed in the passage.
Application
  • The application step may be different for different people. For some people, the passage may call for the person to repent and turn from their sins, or the passage may call for rejoicing and thanksgiving. Whatever the Holy Spirit is leading you to do, it is your duty to respond to it and do it. The whole process of studying the Bible would be pointless if you just read the Bible like it's any other book. 

Set apart some time during the day, morning, noon or night, to study the Bible. Even if you don't complete these three points in one sitting (I never do!), you are gaining insight to the things of God and intimacy with Him.