The Bible is not just a collection of historical documents and a bestseller. It is the most significant way for Christian believers to learn about God’s character and how He has revealed Himself to mankind throughout history. Even though most Christians acknowledge the importance of the Bible, many forget that the Bible was written by people from another culture 2000 years ago. The lack of context and cultural understanding often leaves us wondering what the authors meant and what value the seemingly outdated scriptures should hold in our day to day life. Studying the Bible and its cultural context can help us to discover Biblical principles and how to apply them practically. A great study method is the Inductive Bible Study, which I will introduce today.
Inductive Bible Study focuses on approaching the Bible without preconceived ideas but allows the text to speak for itself. It consists of 3 steps: Observation, Interpretation and Application and includes research on relevant historical and cultural background.
We read the Bible to encounter God and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we start our Bible study by inviting Him to reveal Himself. Throughout our study we turn to God with our questions, struggles and discoveries.
This step of the method is vital as a basis for accurate interpretation.
We start observing the book or passage by reading it from beginning to end in one sitting. This helps us to grasp the overall content and purpose the author had in mind.
We continue observing the text by finding its structure, color coding and finding its main idea and theme.
Based on what we find through our observation we look for topics that could help us understand the text better. These topics will help us understand the cultural aspects and historical background of the books.
Online dictionaries and encyclopedias are great options to find out more about the relevant topics.
In this part of the method we use our findings from Observation to look at how the original audience or original hearer (the people the books of the Bible were written to or the people who first heard the message) would understand the text. We ask open ended questions like why and how. The information we have gathered on important topics can help us to answer the questions, interpreting them with consideration of cultural and historical background as well as other passages of the Bible.
This last step of the Inductive Bible Study builds on our observation and interpretation.
From our interpretation we find a principle about God’s character, His kingdom or Christian life that is true for all times and cultures. When we have found said principle we ponder why it is still relevant for us today. As a last step we find a practical way how we can apply this principle to our own life. This should be something you can achieve in the next week.
Inductive Bible Study is just one of many ways you can go deeper in the Bible and discover more about God. Remember, the Bible is not a riddle. God wants to reveal Himself to us - so let's get reading!
Want to start with something a little simpler?
Pick a book of the Bible and watch the Bible Project overview for the book.
Ask open-ended why and how questions.
And ask what does this teach me about God?
The Inductive Bible Study method and understanding cultural and historical backgrounds of the Bible are two main components of the 9-month School of Biblical Studies at YWAM Nuremberg.