Holy Spirit Interactive
Friday, June 22, 2018
Inside Holy Spirit Interactive

Direct Bible Discovery

Chapter 4 - The Direct Procedure

The name Direct Bible Discovery is carefully chosen to call attention to two fundamental aspects of this approach to personal Bible study. The first fundamental aspect is the direct or independent aspect, which we discuss in this chapter. The second fundamental aspect is the discovery or inductive aspect, which we discuss in the next chapter.

The Indirect Approach

If you want to find out something about a Bible book or a Bible topic, where should you go? The best place to go, of course, is directly to the Bible itself. But many people do not go to the Bible to find out what the Bible says! Instead, they go to books and other sources about the Bible. Their approach to the Bible is indirect.

The indirect (dependent) approach

We call the approach illustrated above the indirect approach simply because the person does not go directly to the Bible. He or she goes to the Bible indirectly through interpretive aids. Interpretive aids include annotated Bibles, Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Christian tapes, and local authorities such as the pastor, Bible teacher, or seminary or Bible College professor. In other words, rather than examining the biblical text itself, he examines books and other sources about the Bible. The only time he directly contacts the Bible in this approach is when the Bible is quoted in the aid, or when he bothers to check on the aid by reading the passage in his own Bible.

Notice also that the interpretation is taken primarily from the interpretive aids and only indirectly from the Bible itself. Thus, he is neither studying the Bible nor interpreting the Bible. He is studying the aids and interpreting them! Often this indirectness becomes more than just one step removed from the Bible. Sometimes, for instance, one commentator will discuss the interpretation of a particular theologian who is discussing the relevance of a certain creed to the passage under consideration. In cases like these the indirectness of the approach becomes three or more steps removed.

If any source other than the Bible is your main target of study and your main source of interpretation, then you are using the indirect approach.

The Direct Approach

In the direct approach the person examines the Bible directly, and his interpretation comes directly from the Bible. This is firsthand interaction with the Bible. The person studies the Bible largely independent of other sources about the Bible. It's like seeing a parade with your own eyes rather than seeing a videotape of parts of the parade on a news broadcast. It's like feeding yourself rather than being fed by someone else.

The direct (independent) approach

This emphasis on going directly to the Bible is not meant to reduce the value of interpretive aids. Interpretive aids have a very important place in personal Bible study. Commentaries and the like can be very helpful. For example, they can provide important background information on a book of the Bible, a location, a historical event, a linguistic fact, a custom, etc. They can also be used to compare the commentator's interpretation of a particular passage with the interpretation you have already arrived at directly from the Bible.

You should remember that interpretive aids serve their purpose best when they are used as aids. You should focus your primary attention in the Bible and not become dependent upon commentaries and other interpretive aids. At the same time, do not neglect the wealth of facts and ideas that can be found in the aids. After you have arrived at your own interpretation from your own direct study of the biblical text, it is wise to compare your interpretation with the interpretations of others. Read whatever interpretive aids are appropriate and fully consider their viewpoints and interpretations. These aids may point out a fact from the text that you had missed, or a way of putting the facts together that you had not considered. When you find that someone's interpretation differs from your own, it should drive you right back to the Bible for more direct study and contemplation. In this way interpretive aids can perform a very valuable service for you, if you do not become dependent on them and do not use them as a crutch or as a substitute for your own direct Bible study.

Attitudes toward the Bible

Unfortunately, many people think of the Bible as though it had an aura of mystery around it. This mind set about the Bible makes a person believe that he cannot approach it or understand it. However, the Bible was not written to hide information or to create mysteries. The Bible was written so that we could know about God and about ourselves. Many passages throughout the Bible show that we are expected to read the Bible, understand it, and responded to it.

You shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. . . . that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. And their children . . . will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God. (Deut. 31:11-13)

These have been written that you may believe. (John 20:31)

We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand (2 Cor. 1:13)

There are many more passages throughout the Bible that state the same idea. The Bible is to be read and understood.

It may appear at first glance that 2 Peter 1:20 teaches just the opposite of this when it says that "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." However, the immediate context in verses 16-21 shows that Peter is explaining the source of the prophecies. Verse 20 speaks about the origin of each prophecy, not about how to interpret the prophecy after it is written. Notice, in the immediate context, the repeated mention of the prophecies' divine source as opposed to a human source. The point of verses 20-21 is that no scriptural prophecy ever came into being by the clever work of the prophet in either interpreting events or predicting history. Instead, God was the source of the prophet's message. The Holy Spirit moved each prophet to say what he said. Thus, 2 Peter 1:20 does not contradict the idea that the Bible is for us to read and understand. There are, of course, some places in the Bible that, although they can be understood, are not understood easily (2 Peter 3:16; Acts 8:30-31). But even such difficult portions should not discourage us from engaging in direct Bible study. They challenge us to even more intense direct Bible study.

Problems with the Indirect Approach

One very common problem with the indirect approach is that the person is often dependent on, perhaps even addicted to, the use of interpretive aids. He may feel that he cannot do Bible study without them. And this unfortunate feeling of dependence is heightened both when a person is a new Christian and when he is confronted with the unfamiliar language in some older translations of the Bible. (We say more about translations in chapter 16.) When any person becomes dependent on the aids, then the aids are no longer aids at all, but they become all important and actually replace the Bible as the main object of study and the main source of interpretations.

Another serious problem with the indirect approach has to do with the selection of the interpretive aids. How do you know a good commentary from a bad one? Ultimately every commentary, every annotated Bible, every teaching from your pastor, every Bible dictionary, must be evaluated in terms of its fidelity to the Bible. In other words, if you do not go directly to the Bible and check every human interpreter, you have no firm basis for choosing one interpretation over another, or one commentary over another. All you have are the opinions of others.

Different Kinds of Interpretive Aids

Not all Bible study aids are equally interpretive. Some are more interpretive than others, and some are not interpretive at all. Compare the various types of aids on the chart at the end of this chapter.

Noninterpretive aids are aids that are not designed to interpret any Bible passages. They are very valuable in personal Bible study, and you should not hesitate to use them often throughout your Bible study procedure. (We say more about each of the noninterpretive aids in chapter 16.)

Interpretive aids are aids designed to give at least some interpretation of the Bible passage. Again, they are very valuable, but they need to be used wisely. (We discuss their use in chapter 17 and chapter 18.)

The Bereans: A Good Example

Notice the example of the Bereans. After Paul preached to these Jews they were "examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so." They did not merely ask their rabbi or a scribe what he thought of Paul's message; they went directly to the Scriptures. Significantly, Luke labels such direct Bible study as of "noble character" (Acts 17:11). The Bible repeatedly invites and encourages us to come and examine it directly.

If you are a pastor or teacher, encourage your congregation or your class to check on you by evaluating what you say according to their own direct study of the Bible. If they get their information firsthand, they will be more sure of their convictions (John 4:42; 2 Chron. 9:5-6) and will have a greater appreciation of your teaching ministry.

Many pastors and teachers, without attempting to, encourage dependence on themselves and other "authorities" which eventually discourages the individual Christian from going directly to the Bible. If a person does not know how to go about direct Bible discovery, consider it your responsibility to show him how.

If you are a church member, class member, or seminary or college student, you should gain all you can from your pastor or teacher, but you should also examine the Scriptures, as the Bereans did, to see if what you are hearing is true to the Bible. You should form a lifelong habit of going directly to the Bible.

Non Interpretive Aids Interpretive Aids
Slightly Interpretive More Interpretive Most Interpretive
English Dictionary

Atlas of Bible Maps


Harmonies of the Gospel

Topical Bibles such as Naves

Study Bibles such as The NIV Study Bible or The New Scofield Bible

Expanded Translations such as The Amplified Bible

Paraphrases such as The Living Bible or Phillips N.T. in Modern English or Comtemprorary English Version

Bible Commentaries

Bible Handbooks

Bible Dictionaries

Bible Encyclopedias

Systematic Theologies

Dictionaries of Theology

Tapes about Bible Topics

Friends, teachers, pastors, etc.

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