Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The New Inductive Study Bible

We've said it before; Bible study is hard.  I was a good student in school, but nothing I did there really compares because there is no other book like the Bible.  Written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different men, each book is unique.  Yet the Bible is also a unified story of the redemption of mankind.  The Bible is steeped in ancient eastern culture, yet it is totally relevant to us today.  God wrote it.  It is spectacular.  And we can't always use simple reading or memorization of facts to really dig deeply into the word! 

I've mentioned before that I am always looking for Bible study tools that will allow me to study the Bible using the Bible.  I don't always want to know what the celebrated commentary says about the Scripture, although commentaries can be helpful at times.  I want the Bible to speak for itself.  In my search, I have found a great study Bible.  

The New Inductive Study Bible (NASB) is a Bible that has a study method included within its covers.    Along with the text of the Bible, this study Bible helps walk you through the Inductive study method. At its core, this method entails three different skills: observation, interpretation, and application.  Observation asks: What does the passage say?  Interpretation asks: What does the passage mean? Application asks: What does it mean to me personally?

By far the biggest step is observation. This is where the Inductive Study Bible really shines. For each book of the Bible, there are instructions for the student to follow to help her really know what the text says.  Most of these directions involve marking directly in the Bible with colored pencils.  For example, the directions for every book of the Bible I've studied so far had me color each reference to the author one color and the recipient another color.  Each book also has a list of key words.  As the student, I can choose how I want the key word to be marked.  These markings helped me to find key words when I was given the instruction to make lists.   Another benefit to marking key words like this is that I had to read the book (or at least skim it), several times, once for each key word, in order to mark them all.  Multiple readings really help the book to "sink in."  

Another part of the "observation" step is to develop themes for each chapter.  It's kind of like putting your own headings on each chapter, letting the text do the speaking.  This is another place that the key words really help, as well as the lists.  These themes are also recorded at the end of each book in the "at a glance" section.  This section is a place where you fill in not only the themes, but the author, date, and purpose of the book.  None of the information (besides perhaps author and date) is given.  The student uses the study tools mentioned here, as well as some others, to find them for herself.  

Completing the "observation" step of Bible study requires multiple readings of the text and a good understanding the context.  With such a good background, the second step, "interpretation,"  becomes easier.  The Study Bible gives some basic principles like: remembering the context, looking for a single meaning for the passage, and seeking the full counsel of the Word of God when trying to interpret a passage. The instructions for each book also have some questions that will gently guide the student in interpretation.  For example, in Ephesians, the directions include comparing Ephesians 6:10-20 and Ephesians 1:18-23 and noting what the references to "powers" and "rulers" tells you about the importance of spiritual warfare.  

Most of the "application" step of the Bible study for the book is contained in the "things to think about"  section of the instructions for each book.  The book of Philippians has this question: "What have you learned about your own needs and sharing with others in need?"  But by the time I get to that part of the study, I have read the passage many, many times, and I've spend a lot of time in prayer. God's Word is very powerful.  With that much study of a portion of it, God usually has an application ready for me that I don't need help to find.  So far, I've only used the study Bible for a few New Testament books; the application for some of the Old Testament books can be harder to see.  In flipping through, I found this question for the book of Joshua: "Do you consult with the Lord and His Word and then walk in obedience to what He says?" Ouch.

I have really found the The New Inductive Study Bible (NASB) to be a useful tool in teaching me how to study the Bible.  Instead of staring at a page of Ephesians, or reading it with no clear idea of how to study it, I have a set of tasks in front of me.  Each task, from marking key words to finding the theme of a chapter, helps me to understand the book a bit better without having to guess at what it really means. It is a long process, but it is worth it.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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