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The Inductive Method
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Bible Study Methods
The Inductive Method
Inductive Study Method

What is the Inductive Bible Study method?

A reading method for extracting meaning from a text, an approach that allows the reader to draw out from the text the ordinary, grammatical and contextual meaning available in any normal reading.

The inductive method is a three-step process, involving

Interpretation, and

Observation ============================================

What does the text say?

Read the text several times.
Record your first impressions.
Record who, what, when, where.

Interpretation =======================================

What does the text mean?

Some principles to adhere to while interpreting:

Interpret words in their primary, ordinary, usual, and literal sense.
Interpret the text in light of the facts in the context.
Interpret Scripture by use of other Scripture.
Determine the form of literature under examination and how that impacts its intended meaning (i.e., historic, didactic, poetic, prophetic).
Be able to distinguish a figurative passage or reference from a literal one. Let the text itself indicate clearly that it should be read in that way, whether figurative, literal, or both.

Warnings while interpreting:

Personal experience: Dan Finfrock (1999) writes, “Interpret your experience by the Scriptures: Do not interpret the Scriptures by your experience” (p. 10).

Methodists use the priority list of Scripture, Reason, Tradition, Experience as a way to express the priority that Scripture and reason must have over traditional view or personal experience. What we must be cautious of is allowing personal experience to become “normative,” that is, describing what should be for those listening and studying.

Avoid dogmatism when the text is not conclusive: Finfrock (1999) writes, “There are many areas in which the Bible is not conclusive.

Be careful not to say more than the Bible does. In many issues such as personal experience, style of dress standard of living or church government, a person needs to arrive at his own conclusions, even though the Scriptures are not conclusive” (p. 10).

Avoid rationalizations: Be careful that you do not begin interpreting what Scripture has to say based on contemporary culture, current values, the world’s philosophies, or theories of science. There are numerous instances where ideas that the world considered fact were disproved, shown to be inadequate, or discredited. The wise reader will be careful to allow the Bible to maintain is supremacy in interpretation.

Avoid spiritualizations: Dan Finfrock (1991) writes, “In an attempt to find so-called ‘spiritual truths’ in every verse, many people ‘read into’ a passage a true conclusion that is determined by an invalid process. When a person uses a wrong method to arrive at a true conclusion, he opens himself to being deceived by that same method on other occasions” (p. 11).

Hermeneutics Defined:

“The art of interpreting literature” (Chafer, 1947, p. 115)

“The science and art of interpreting the Bible” (Zuck, 1991, p. 10)

Rhetorical Interpretation defined:

“Process of determining the literary quality of a writing by analyzing its genre, structure, and figures of speech and how those factors influence the meaning of the text” (Zuck, 1991, 124).

“Refers then to the process of determining how the style and form influence how it is to be understood” (Zuck, 1991, 124).

“The Bible is a book and therefore is a literary product” subject to rhetorical analysis.

David L. Cooper (1886-1965). An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (1972), Biblical Research Society, p. 9:

Cooper’s Golden Rule of Interpretation:

“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate text, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.”

Chafer’s “Rules and Principles of Procedure”

in his Systematic Theology, Vol. I, 1947, Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, chapt. 7.

1. The purpose of the Bible as a whole.

2. The distinctive character and message of each book of the Bible.

3. To whom is a given Scripture addressed?

4. Consideration of the context.

5. Consideration of all Scripture bearing on any given theme.

6. Discovery of the exact meaning of the determinative words in the text.

7. Necessity of avoiding personal prejudices.

Chafer’s “Rules and Principles of Procedure”

in his Systematic Theology, Vol. I, 1947, Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, chapt. 7.

8. The purpose of the Bible as a whole.

9. The distinctive character and message of each book of the Bible.

10. To whom is a given Scripture addressed?

11. Consideration of the context.

12. Consideration of all Scripture bearing on any given theme.

13. Discovery of the exact meaning of the determinative words in the text.

14. Necessity of avoiding personal prejudices.

Zuck’s (1991) form/genre categories:

Wisdom literature
Logical discourse
Prophetic literature

Based on the Bible being an inspired document, Roy Zuck (1991, 66-67) describes four basic expectations:

Expect it to be unified: non-contradicting, coherent, and consistent.
Expect it to be inerrant: without error in the original manuscripts.
Expect it to be authoritative: bearing on our lives.
Expect it to be mysterious: in prophecy, miracles, and doctrine.

These four expectations bring about six corollary questions (Zuck, 1991, 66-67):

What did the words convey in the grammar of the original readers?
What was being conveyed by those words to the original readers?
How did the cultural setting influence and affect what was written?
What is the meaning of the words in their context?
In what literary form is the material written and how does that affect what is said?
How do the principles of logic and normal communication affect the meaning?

Application ========================================

How should I respond?

Examples to follow?

Sin to forsake?

Errors to avoid?

Promises to believe?

Commands to obey?

Actions to take?


Cooper, David. 1972. An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, Biblical Research Society.

Chafer, L. 1947. Systematic Theology, Vol. I, Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press.

Finfrock, Dan. 1999. Inductive Bible Study. Mentone, CA: ICM Ministries.

Zuck, Roy. 1991. The Basics of Bible Interpretation. Colorado Springs, CO: Victor.


Other Bible Study Approaches:

Word Study