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.
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.
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
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
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
Dictionaries of Theology
Tapes about Bible Topics
Friends, teachers, pastors, etc.
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Direct Bible Discovery copyright © by Ronald W. Leigh. All rights reserved.