In the last post, we discussed how to get started studying the Bible with the inductive study method. That may have prompted the question, “If that’s what inductive study is, then what’s deductive study?”
Deductive Bible Study
Simply put, deductive study is taking the Bible and pulling from it to study one topic or concept. This is how pastors usually prepare for a sermon, and how some scholars write Bible studies. Word studies usually employ this method as well.
In my personal study time right now, I’m studying the topic of Biblical Holiness. I have a book that guides me through various verses and scenarios in the Bible and as I look up verses from the whole Bible, in their context, I learn from the entire Bible (in contrast to learning from one passage) about this topic.
Word Studies and Topic Studies
You may be interested in studying a word or a topic but not have a book or format to follow and would prefer to use the Bible alone. How does one go about this?
It’s really quite simple. As with most Bible study, you can go greatly in depth, widely broad, or (if pressed for time) answer only the questions that surface. First, choose what to study. For me, I usually have a topic or word that pops out of my daily Bible reading that I want to look into further “when I have time”. I try to write it down or make a mental note to revisit that word or topic. You may find yourself doing something similar, or you may just have a concept that you’ve always wondered about.
Once you’ve chosen what you want to study, there are several avenues for pursuing the subject matter. If you have a good study Bible, then use the concordance in the back to look up passages with the same word or focus. If your Bible has cross references in the margins, once you find a helpful verse, read the cross references that lead you to other verses about the same topic. If you want to go deeper,like looking at broad topics that might not be in your concordance or like looking at the words in the original language, you may try a Bible dictionary (Easton’s is one example that even has a phone app) or Strong’s Concordance. Several websites are helpful to me that offer all of these resources online. BibleHub, Biblestudytools, and BibleGateway are all wonderful aides!
What does this look like?
Let’s use a word and topic from Psalm 1:1 as our example- similarly to the example in the last post.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” (Psa 1:1, KJV)
If reading this verse prompted the desire to look deeply into what else a godly person might do, I might decide to do a word or topic study on godliness. So, I’d turn to Easton’s Bible Dictionary and look up the word “godliness”. That points me to 1 Tim 4:8 and 2 Pet 1:6 and also 1 Tim 3:16. I would look up all of these verses to see what they say about the subject. Then, I would look in my concordance for other verses and look them up. I’d continue to look up verses until my questions were answered and I felt satistifed with my understanding of the matter. I might also do a word study by looking at the original language by using an interlinear translation and Stong’s Concordance. In this example, I might use biblehub.com to look at 1 Tim 4:8 in Greek and see that “godliness” is the word eusebeia which means piety. I’d click on that word for the definition and see the following:
- “2150 eusébeia (from 2095 /eú “well” and 4576 /sébomai, “venerate, pay homage”) – properly, someone’s inner response to the things of God which shows itself in godly piety (reverence). 2150 /eusébeia (“godly heart-response”) naturally expresses itself in reverence for God, i.e. what He calls sacred (worthy of veneration).”
I could then look at a list of all the times this exact Greek word and form is used in the Bible. If I desired, I could look up all of those passages as well.
By the time I felt “finished”, I could potentially have a pretty good understanding of what godliness is. All of this gathering from the whole Bible to expound on one topic or word is part of the deductive study process.
Of course, I could pick any part to dwell on with observation, interpretation, and application and then combine deductive study and inductive study. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Like I said last time, studying the Bible should always be about growing your relationship with God and maturing your faith. And as that happens, the inward changes will result in outward ones.
What is God leading you to study? What topics or words have been standing out to you lately? Do you use deductive measures to enhance your studies?