We recently featured Inductive Bible Study as our Book of the Week for its use in the classroom and the church, as well as its unique approach to teaching people basic hermeneutics. One of the co-authors, Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr., took some time to answer questions for us about Inductive Bible Study that will be useful for you as you use this book or use it to teach.
There are a lot of books out there on how to study the Bible. Why did you think there should be another one, and what does yours offer that is unique?
Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr.
Yes, there are many books on the market on how to study the Bible. However, the traditional approach to the inductive method (a model that presents steps of observation, interpretation, and application) is most often depicted in popular level titles. The one notable exception to this is the Bauer and Traina book, Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics. However, this volume, while excellent in many ways, is beyond the reach of most readers, including the typical undergraduate college student. We wanted to write something following the traditional model that was somewhere between a popular introduction that skimmed the surface and a scholarly treatment that was too dense for most readers.
One title that has been out for several years is the popular Hays and Duvall textbook, Grasping God’s Word. This book was written with the college student in mind, yet does not present inductive Bible study through the traditional model of observation, interpretation, and application. We believe that there is tremendous value to learning Bible study following this traditional framework, and so we wrote our book with a mid-level audience in mind (college students, entry level seminarians, and interested lay people), following the traditional model.
What makes our book unique is that we have incorporated the concept of the hermeneutical triad into the traditional model of inductive study. The hermeneutical triad is simply the idea of approaching the Bible through the lenses of history, literature, and theology. In the presentation of individual steps of observation, interpretation, and application, it is amazing how often informed study involves an awareness of these three elements (history, literature, and theology).
As I read through the book, I was thinking that a lot of the terminology and concepts seemed a bit advanced for many laymen. Did you envision that this book would be used for laymen, and if so, how would you suggest using it to its full potential in the church?
Our vision was to provide a serious yet approachable work, one that was intended primarily for the academy, and secondarily for the church. Yet we trust that the style is engaging enough that those in the church who are interested in more serious study of the Bible will be able to manage the concepts in the book without too much difficulty. When original language vocabulary is found in examples, informal transliteration is used, and we provided a glossary in the back for some of the more technical terms used in the book. Those who have a general knowledge of the Bible and who are led and taught well within the church should be able to grasp most of what we present in the book. But our intention all along was to go a bit beyond what most popular level titles do in terms of presenting an approach to Bible study.
I think that this book will reach its greatest potential for impact within the church when pastors and teachers model the concepts of an inductively studied Bible in their preaching and teaching. With that said, I can see pastors and teachers using this book in workshops and classes within the church where laity purchase the book and work through it under the guidance of a more experienced teacher. The style of the book is not so advanced that it is beyond the reach of those who are instructed by capable teachers who can boil the concepts down and illustrate them well. Also, the book itself uses a vast array of illustrations that hopefully make the concepts clear to the average reader.
In the final chapter on application, you distinguish between biblical and systematic theology and advocate for the priority of biblical theology because it is more in line with inductive Bible study. How would you respond to someone who would claim that both are equally useful and that they are symbiotically related?
We would agree wholeheartedly that both are equally useful, and they are certainly related (both rely on an accurately interpreted Bible!). Furthermore, the church has historically depended upon systematic theology as the grounding for its doctrinal affirmations. Yet we do present biblical theology as the more natural outflow of the inductive method. In some sense, we wrote the final chapter knowing that most students of the Bible learn basic systematic theology before they learn an applied hermeneutical methodology (in this case, the inductive method). Yet most students take their first Bible study course without any awareness of what biblical theology entails. Our desire was to simply introduce the concept of biblical theology and to present it as the natural outflow of an inductively studied Bible without dismissing the necessity of systematics.
After working through your book, what would be next steps you would suggest for those who want to learn more about how to study their Bible?
In our experience, the concepts presented in this book provide the same foundation for beginning students of Scripture as they do for Bible scholars—the difference is not in substance or concept, but in depth and experience. The best thing that folks can do in learning to study the Bible well is to practice. In time, concepts that were once new and challenging become intuitive and habitual.
Beyond the general admonition to implement the concepts of the inductive method into one’s own study, we would advise learning more about the literary diversity of the Bible and how this impacts and informs the observation, interpretation, and even the application of Scripture. The book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology provides a survey of the primary genres of the Bible and how this literary landscape influences how we ought to study Scripture.
This is the second book we’ve featured that you’ve co-authored (the other being The Message of the Twelve). What else can we expect to see from you in the next 10-15 years?
I am currently working on the Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs volume for the upcoming Kerux Commentary Series published by Kregel. This is a significant project and I trust that when the first volumes in this series come available, they will be well received (my volume will not be available for at least another 5 or 6 years).
I have also envisioned a single volume survey of prominent biblical theological motifs that tend to be neglected by modern readers—some of these motifs have been explored by scholars in dedicated works, but to my knowledge there is nothing out there that presents a motif driven biblical theology that highlights neglected yet important motifs in the Bible in one volume. But I am still working through what such a book might entail.
In the meantime, Andreas and I have been thinking about abridging our Inductive Bible Study book into something that is primarily intended for a lay audience. We would essentially cover the same general concepts as presented in this current volume but simply the material and condense it down into about 100 to 150 pages (and perhaps eliminate the weightier concepts that are less central to the overall model of inductive Bible Study).
Our thanks to Dr. Fuhr for his time to help us out with this important topic! Make sure to check out his book Inductive Bible Study at our post or on Amazon.