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How to do an Inductive Bible Study
Rightly Divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
How does one go about “rightly dividing the Word of truth”? For many, many years I had no idea how pastors and teachers study the Bible in order to preach what they believe. In fact, I also wondered why what was taught seemed contradictory, depending on who I listened to. This was confusing, and more and more I see many “teachers” even on HubPages that are obviously born-again Christians, yet differ in doctrinal beliefs. It is no surprise, then, when I ask if they have studied “inductively”, they don’t know what that is.
So, I would like to just do an inductive Bible study with you to show you how to study anything that appears confusing, whether it’s what you read or what you hear. All you will need is a Strong’s Concordance (with the Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries incorporated) and a Bible.
Seven Steps to Inductive Study
Let’s say you’ve heard all kinds of weird things about hell. Let’s go step-by-step, so you can do this study with me.
1. Look up the word “hell” in the first section of the Concordance.
2. Underneath the word “hell”, you will see a list of scripture references, showing you every verse that contains the word.
3. To the right of each scripture reference, you will see a number. You will note that the numbers change, depending on the verse.
4. If you’re using the Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance, the numbers you will see are as follows: 7585, 1067, 86 and 5020. Note that the non-italicized numbers are Old Testament scriptures, meaning they are Hebrew words, and the italicized numbers are New Testament scriptures, meaning they are Greek words.
5. Now go to the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in the back of your Concordance.
a. Look up 7585 in the Hebrew dictionary: she’owl (sheh-ole’); or she’ol, (sheh-ole’); hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), includ. its accessories and inmates:-grave, hell, pit.
b. Look up 1067 in the Greek dictionary: geenna (gheh’-en-nah): of Heb. or [1516 and 2011]; valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerus, used (fig.) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment:-hell.
c. Look up 86 in the Greek dictionary: hades (hah’-dace); from I (as a neg. particle) and 1492; prop. unseen, i.e. “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls:-grave, hell.
d. Look up 5020 in the Greek dictionary: tartaroo (tar-tar-o’-o); from Tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hades); to incarcerate in eternal torment:-cast down to hell.
6. Now that you have the definitions, you need to look up the verses that correspond to each definition. Go back to the word “hell” in the Concordance. Let’s just list one verse for each here. I use the International Inductive Study Bible/New American Standard Bible because it actually puts in some of these Hebrew and Greek words for you:
a. 7585 sheowl: Deuteronomy 32:22 “For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.”
b. 1067 geenna: Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
c. 86 hades: Luke 16:23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.”
d. 5020 tartaroo: 2 Peter 2:4 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;”
7. The next thing to do is cross-reference each verse you've just looked up in the Bible. To the inside margin of the page each verse is found, you will see the verse number, referencing notations and/or other confirming scriptures. It is important you read the context of the chapters in which the cross-reference verses are found:
a. Deuteronomy 32:22: “a. For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of 1. hell, b. And consumes the earth with its yield.”
- Cross Reference: [a. Numbers 15:33-35; Psalm 18:7-8; Lamentations 4:11 / 1. i.e., the nether world / b. Leviticus 26:20].
- Because we’re studying hell (Sheol), look at side-note “1. i.e., the nether world”.
b. Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather a. fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in 1b.hell.”
- Cross Reference: [1. Gr., Gehenna / a. Hebrews 10:31 / b. Matthew 5:22; Luke 12:5].
- Because we’re studying hell (Gehenna), look at side-note “ 1. Greek Gehenna” and “b. Matthew 5:22; Luke 12:5”.
c. Luke 16:23: “And in a. hell (hades) 1. He lifted up his eyes, being in torment…”
- Cross Reference: [1. Lit., having lifted up / a. Matthew 11:23].
- Because we are studying hell, look at side-note “a. Matthew 11:23”.
d. 2 Peter 2:4: “For a. if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (tartaroo) and b. committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment”.
- Cross Reference: [a. Jude 6 / b. Revelation 20:1f].
- Because we are studying hell, look at side-note “a. Jude 6”.
Rather than look up all the cross-reference verses for each of these here, let’s just do the last one (d). What does Jude 6 say? “And the angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
One Step Further
Are you curious as to what "torment" means? Anti-hell followers get really bothered to think that there's any such thing as torment, and go so far as to say, "God would never torture anyone in hell". Let's answer this question inductively.
Luke 16:23 "And in hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment...". Continuing to read this passage, verse 28 reads, "for I have five brothers--that he may warn them lest they also come to this place of torment."
In this verse, the word torment is the Greek word basanos (bas'-an-os); perh. remotely from the same as basis (through the notion of going to the bottom); a touch-stone, i.e. (bay anal.) torture:-torment.
Now, in Revelation 14:11, regarding geenna (the Lake of Fire) we read "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
This word "torment" is the Greek word basaismos (bas-as-is-mos'); from basanos; torture:-torment. And, based on the fact we read "forever and ever" and "they have no rest day or night", this is not a temporary state or an annihilation.
Looking at the definitions, we can deduct that Sheowl (Sheol) and Hades are the same hell (Hebrew/Greek). This is a subterranean world of the dead (human souls) that involves torment (torment, based on the scripture references). We also can deduct that Tartaroo is the deepest part of Hades and is where the angels who sinned are incarcerated. Finally, through reading all the applicable scriptures, we can deduct that Geenna is the Lake of Fire, the final hell for all evil, which is after the Great White Throne Judgment.
Please feel free to read my hub called HELL: Sheowl, Hades, Tartaroo, Geenna to see how I came to the deductive teaching presented there.
I hope this study experience was helpful to you. While we started out just studying the word “hell”, we were able to conclude a doctrinal belief grounded in inductive Bible study. Likewise, you can study on almost anything using this method. May God bless you as you “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Amen.