By: Mark McGee / GraceLife Ministries
The steps to methodical study are simple, yet profound and life changing. I'll outline the course for your information. Please study it further. It will do you very well throughout your life. The college text is titled Methodical Bible Study: A New Approach to Hermeneutics by Dr. Robert Traina.
There are two main approaches to Bible study. One is deductive. The other is inductive. Deductive begins with generalizations and moves for support to the particulars. Deduction is subjective and prejudicial. It produces students who dictate to the Scriptures rather than students who listen to the Scriptures. On the other hand, inductive is objective and impartial. It demands that a student first examine the particulars of the Scriptures and then make conclusions based on those particulars.
This is called direct and independent Bible study. "Such an emphasis on the primacy of firsthand observation enables the interpreter to become acquainted with the spirit of Scriptural authors, makes possible original thinking, and provides him with a basis for judging the validity of various and often conflicting secondary thoughts." There is nothing wrong with reading what someone else says about a scripture (Commentaries), but direct and independent study is the mark of an inductive student.
The first step of methodical study is Observation.
Observation is "the act or faculty of ... taking notice; the act or result of considering or marking attentively." It is "the art of seeing things as they really are." It entails "seeing impartially, intensely, and fearlessly." "Truly to observe is to be mentally aware of what one sees. Observation transcends pure physical sight; it involves perception." "Observation, then, is essentially awareness."
Observation begins with "the will to observe." "Willed observation, vision with excutive force behind it, is full of discernment, and is continually making discoveries which keep the mind alert and interested."
Observation is "exactness in observation."
Observation is "persistence in observation."
The four main constituents of any Biblical passage are: terms, the relations and interrelations between terms, or structure, the general literary form or forms, and the atmosphere.
Term is a given word as it is used in a given context. It has only one meaning in that context. It is the duty of the Bible student to determine that meaning in any given context.
Structure involves all of the relations and interrelations which bind terms into a literary unit. "In a more restricted sense "structure" may be used to denote the framework or skeleton of a passage, that is, its more essential relations."
The various structural units are: phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, segment, subsection, section, division, and book.
General literary form is the type of literature used by an author. It could be discoursive and logical, prose narrative, poetry, drama and dramatic prose, parabolic or apocalyptic.
Atmosphere is the underlying tone or spirit of a passage. It is the mood of a passage.
Here are some suggestions to help you observe better during Bible study:
The second step of Methodical Bible Study is Interpretation.
"The first aspect of interpretation is that of discovering the basic meaning of the particulars of a passage." It is the definitive phase. It's where we discover the basic meaning of the components of a passae.
After finishing with definitions, we move on to the rational phase. We want to find the general reasons why Biblical statements are made--"wherein they are true and necessary." We also want to know the immediate reasons or purposes for their expression--"their relevance to their literary context and specific historical situation."
The third phase is implicational. "A statement always implicates more than it says explicitly, for it is the outgrowth of certain presuppositions for other ideas. Facts are so intertwined that a person cannot accept one without accepting many others with it."
That's a basic overview of interpretation. Now let's look at the steps to doing it: interpretive questions, interpretive answers and interpretive integration and summarization.