An Introduction to the Inductive Method 

A Definition of Hermeneutics: Hermeneutics is the art and science of Bible interpretation and application. As an art, hermeneutics provide for us a method to follow in interpretation and application (the “how to” of Bible study). As a science, hermeneutics provide for us principles which direct our practice of doing Bible study.   


The Need for Hermeneutics: The need for hermeneutics (and the inductive method) stems largely from the fact that the Bible is an ancient book (rooted in human history and written by men) and a divine book (inspired by God). Because we are far removed from the occasion and circumstances behind the writing of Scripture, not to mention the supernatural realm that Scripture often deals with, there is a “distance in understanding”. This can be illustrated by the following “gaps” in understanding:


  • Time Gap: We are far removed historically from the dates, people, and events of the Bible.


  • Geographical Gap:  We are far removed geographically from the places and lands of the Bible.


  • Cultural Gap: We are far removed socially from the cultures of the Bible.


  • Language Gap: We are far removed linguistically from the original languages in which the Bible was written.


  • Literary Gap: We are far removed in understanding from the literature and the literary techniques employed within the Bible.


  • Spiritual Gap: We are far removed inherently from the God of the Bible.


Hermeneutics in a sense “bridges the gaps” between the reader and the Word, thus allowing for the student of Scripture to better understand the Bible as to its historical occasion and its eternal relevance as the Word of God for today.


As a science, hermeneutics seeks to guide the reader of the Bible with sensible principles which may in turn instruct the believer in how to think well through Scripture.  As an art, hermeneutics provides a process by which those principles may be implemented into a lifetime of fruitful study.  This process is known as the inductive method.


·        The Deductive Method – With a deductive approach to Bible study, one begins with certain assumptions or beliefs and turns to the Bible to find support for those beliefs.  This leads to a tendency to read into the text things never intended by the author.  A deductive approach presupposes a conclusion before the evidence is gathered.



·        The Inductive Method – With an inductive approach to Bible study, one studies the Bible and arrives at conclusions only when the evidence is compiled.  Induction leads to an objective discovery of the meaning of the text, a meaning based in an ancient context but having relevance for today.     



The Dual Nature of Scripture: Two Levels of Meaning


  • Historical Particularity – Because the Bible was written by human authors within the context of history, the first step in Bible study is to discover what the original author intended his original recipients to understand through the words of the text.  This involves the modern reader in the task of placing himself back into the time and occasion of the biblical autographs.  This is the exegetical level of meaning, seeking to understand what God’s Word meant to them back then.



  • Eternal (Contemporary) Relevance – Because the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and intended for all generations of believers, the second step in Bible study is to discover how the text relates to us today, and ultimately, how the text relates to me today.  This involves the modern reader with the tasks of transference and deciphering issues of cultural relativity.  At this level of meaning, the reader is seeking to understand what God’s Word means to us today.


*** What the text means to me must have its foundation securely based in what the text meant to the original author.


The Four Steps of the Inductive Method


  • Observation – (Know the facts) Observation seeks to establish a foundational knowledge of what the text says.  Good observation may not put all the pieces together in seeking to solve the interpretive puzzle, but good observation will provide that all the pieces are available.



  • Interpretation – (Understand the facts) Interpretation seeks to understand the meaning of the text at its exegetical level.  Sound interpretation is only possible once the process of thorough observation is completed.  



  • Application – (Apply the facts) Application seeks to apply the text to today in a universal sense as well as a personal sense. Valid application must find its basis in an accurate interpretation of the text.



  • Correlation – (Systematize the facts) Correlation seeks to systematize the teachings of the Bible derived through a lifetime of inductive Bible study.  While every step of the inductive method involves process, correlation ultimately is the process by which one understands Scripture through a lifelong pursuit of study.