In my first semester at Asbury Theological Seminary (Fall 1991), I had the privilege and good fortune to sign up for David Bauer’s Gospel of Matthew. This course served to introduce me to Inductive Bible Study methodology (then called English Bible). I went on to take 5 Inductive Bible Courses with Professors Bauer, David Thompson, and John Oswalt.
Inductive Bible Study (IBS) revolutionized the way that I read Scripture. David Bauer was my primary mentor. Bauer remains a master teacher. He demonstrated in class a passion for in depth Bible study and modeled diligently and systematically an approach to Scripture that allowed the text to speak on its own terms. IBS freed me to listen to Scripture carefully and deeply based on a close reading of the text. I will testify that my course in Inductive Bible Study was worth the price of my entire Master of Divinity degree. I would not be the person that I am today (or probably be a professor of Biblical Studies) without learning Inductive Bible Study.
Inductive Bible Study is a comprehensive methodological approach that allows a reader of Scripture to move from initial encounter with a text all the way to appropriating/applying its message to our contemporary contexts. IBS teaches learners to study Scripture by making observations of the text, asking questions based on those observations, and then answering the questions first by gathering evidence within the context of the passage itself before turning to outside resources. IBS also teaches one to understand the theological meaning of a text in light of the Canon of Scripture and in light of our present world. This allows one to move from the past historical meaning of a passage in its original context to a biblical theology of the Old and New Testaments to transformative personal and corporate formation through teaching, writing, and preaching about the message of the text.
When I started in IBS in 1991, we used Robert Traina’s seminal work in the field Methodical Bible Study. Traina’s book remains a classic but it is not user friendly for the first time reader. Once you learn the IBS method, Traina’s work becomes more valuable and I’ve read it profitably close to twenty times. It is one of those texts that rewards you every time you reread it.
For beginners, David L. Thompson’s Bible Study That Works is an excellent introductory text. It goes in and out of print but there are plenty of copies around for sale. Bible Study that Works can be read quickly and its overview of IBS method is straightforward. Thompson’s book is based off of presentations that he used to do for local churches to train non-specialists (lay people) to read the Bible well.
For those interested in learning IBS method well, there is no better book available than the joint work of Traina and Bauer Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics. This is a full revision of Methodical Bible Study that engages the modern field of hermeneutics and includes the refinements that David Bauer brought to the instruction of IBS. This is the text book that all Asbury Seminary students use for learning IBS and will be a classic for years to come.
David Bauer has published much IBS teaching material here. This website includes audio lectures by Robert Traina and a host of sample studies and instruction.
My own brief thoughts on IBS method may be found here: Skills for Reading Scripture, Suggestions for a Close Reading of Scripture, Reflecting on a Text's Implications.
Also I consider my work in missional hermeneutics to be a contribution to the appropriation/application part of IBS.
I've also included a chapter on the application/appropriation process in my book (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World
. The chapter is titled, "Learning to Speak Human: Methodology and Missional Hermeneutics."
© 2015 Brian D. Russell. Updated and revised 2/29/16 and 7/26/17.