Book Review: "Inductive Bible Study" by Bauer and Traina

 David Bauer and Robert Traina have written an excellent volume entitled “Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics.” It is my opinion that this book lives up to the expectation set by its subtitle. The book features an introduction that explains the importance of the inductive bible study method. The book itself is divided into five different parts, each covering one aspect of the inductive bible study method. 

The first part of this book deals with the theoretical foundations of the inductive bible study method. It encompasses both an introduction and the first ten chapters of the book. The introduction to the first part of this book explains the idea of method. The authors write that “Our English word method is really a transliteration of the Greek methodos, which literally means a ‘way of transit.’”1 It also spends time explaining that applying the principle of suitability involves the Bible, the student, and the relationship between the two.2 Chapter 1 deals with the distinction between an inductive method of bible study and a deductive method of bible study. Chapter 2 deals with what the authors call “transjective study.” In it, the authors state that “The word transjective reflects the fact that the relationship between the Bible and the student involves the dynamic combination of objective and subjective dimensions.”3 Chapter 3 deals with the intentional and rational aspects of the inductive bible study method, making clear that studying the scriptures involves “conscious decision”4 about what to do, as well as engaging the human mind.5 In chapter 4, the authors address the methodological issues surrounding the implied author of a text. Chapter 5 stresses the importance of firsthand study of the text over against isolated study of materials about the text. Chapter 6 talks about the importance of an integrated and holistic approach to bible study, which the authors define as “one in which the various aspects of study are all directed toward, and together contribute to, the meaning of the biblical text in its final form.”6 In chapter 7, the authors argue that the study of Scripture should be both individual (done as an individual before reference to outside sources) as well as communal (“giving attention to the community’s role in interpretation”7). Chapter 8 centers on the idea that “The basic literary unit in the Bible is the biblical book.”8 Chapter 9 deals with the concept of the bible as a collection of canonical books. Finally, chapter 10 deals with the principle of flexibility, which argues that “method in Bible study should be flexible in the sense that one should make allowances for individual differences.”9 

The second part of this textbook deals with observation and asking questions. The authors argue that “Because an inductive approach fundamentally entails the movement from evidential premises to inferences, students must become acquainted with the evidence, and this acquaintance is accomplished by means of observation.”10 The second part of this textbook encompasses chapters 11 through 13. Chapter 11 covers the topic of book surveys, ultimately arguing that ”Book survey has a broad versus a narrow focus.”11 The idea is that book survey has to do more with the overall message of the book than it does with the finer details of a particular text. It is in this chapter that we are introduced to what the authors call ”major structural relationships.” These are relationships that ”control all of the book or at least the bulk (more than half) of the book.”12 These relationships include, but are not limited to, recurrence, contrast, comparison, climax, causation, particularization, generalization, substantiation, and summarization. Chapter 12 addresses the study of what the authors call ”parts-as-wholes.” These are further divided into divisions, sections, and segments. Divisions are ”the main units of the book.”13 Sections are the ”main units within divisions.”14 Segments are subdivisions of sections. This chapter also contains useful examples of what a survey of divisions, sections, and segments look like. Chapter 13 addresses to major topics: detailed observation and detailed analysis. Each of these are typically done on a small portion of Scripture rather than something like a division. In detailed observation, ”one makes specific and descriptive observations about every significant detail in a (brief) passage.”15 Detailed analysis, on the other hand, ”is essentially an outline of the passage that emphasizes structural relationships and contextual connections.”16 While these are separate activities, they are both methods that can be used to understand the text. 

The third part of this book helps “students interpret the text by answering questions they have raised in the observation phase.”17 This section covers chapters 14 through 16. Chapter 14 deals with answering questions. The authors argue that ”Answering the question involves two broad elements: (1) identifying relevant types of evidence as the basis for formulating premises; and (2) drawing proper inferences from the evidential premises, which are possible answers to the question raised, and adjudicating among the possible answers to determine which has the best and weightiest evidence in its favor.”18 In order to accomplish this purpose, the authors explore several types of evidence that are helpful in answering the questions raised. Chapter 15 raises the question of what can be inferred from premises. It covers the analytical and synthetic interpretive models, as well. Chapter 16 is entitled ”Implementing Interpretation,” and deals heavily with spotting fallacies in our interpretation.  

The fourth part of this book deals with what the authors call “evaluating and appropriating.” Concerning these steps, they state, “Having interpreted the text, readers must ascertain what values for thinking, character, and behavior they may derive from the interpretation of the text for the formation of contemporary personal and community life.”19 Part 4 covers chapters 17 and 18. Chapter 17 deals with the concepts of evaluation, biblical analysis, and appropriation. The authors describe evaluation by stating, ”one might say that to evaluate is to assess the worth of something, to appraise its excellence, relevance, and usefulness.” Biblical analysis ”is the process of assessing biblical statements or teachings in order to determine the legitimacy, scope, force, and degree of concession of those statements or teachings for contemporary appropriation.”20 Appropriation ”involves the correlation of the biblical truth with the contemporary situation in order that the biblical truth might profoundly inform the contemporary situation.”21 Chapter 18 examines several fallacies that could be made during the process of evaluation and appropriation. 

The fifth and final part of this book deals with what the authors call “correlation.” According to the authors, correlation “is the process of bringing together, or synthesizing, the interpretation (and appropriation) of individual passages so as to arrive at the meaning of larger units of biblical material.”22 This part covers chapters 19 and 20.  Chapter 19 describes correlation and explains why it is important. It also addresses the difference between internal correlation and external correlation.23 Chapter 20 explains in its opening section that ”correlation is so critical for understanding the biblical message that one must give serious attention to correlation from the very beginning of scriptural study.”24 It goes on to explain the difference between formal association and informal association. Finally, it lists several fallacies that a person could commit as he or she goes through the process of correlation. The book closes with an epilogue and some helpful appendices.  

Overall, I think that this text is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to study the Bible, although it may be a little technical for Christians who are newer to bible study. “Inductive Bible Study: A Comprehensive Guide to the Practice of Hermeneutics” would help the average lay person grow in his or her study of Scripture by providing a clear, step-by-step guide to studying the Bible. This book will also help pastors and seminary students sharpen their skills in the study of the Bible. It is by far the most in-depth book that I have found yet. 


[1] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 13

[2] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 14

[3] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 28

[4] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p.38

[5] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 39

[6] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 54

[7] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 60

[8] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 63

[9] Bauer and Traina, “Inductive Bible Study,” p. 71

[10] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 75

[11] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 81

[12] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 94

[13] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p.143

[14] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 143

[15] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 159

[16] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 171

[17] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 177

[18] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 180

[19] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 279

[20] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 288

[21] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 319

[22] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 337

[23] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 343

[24] Bauer and Traina, ”Inductive Bible Study,” p. 344


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