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How to do an Inductive Bible Study

Updated on March 11, 2010

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.

Deductive Conclusion

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.

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    • abbaelijah profile image

      Abba Elijah aka elijagod 3 years ago from Nigeria

      thanks !

      you are welcome Judah's Daughter

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 3 years ago from Roseville, CA

      I'm glad this hub blessed you, abbaelijah (love your handle)!

    • abbaelijah profile image

      Abba Elijah aka elijagod 3 years ago from Nigeria

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub !

    • Dian'swords4u profile image

      Dian'swords4u 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you. I am new but a quick learner. My goal is to just get the gospel out to anyone and everyone. thanks again.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 6 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Hi sister Dian'swords4u! Welcome to HubPages! I couldn't wait to become a fan, as your profile just shows what a servant's heart you have for our Lord. Thank you so much for your comment ~ I'm so glad we've connected. God bless you!

    • Dian'swords4u profile image

      Dian'swords4u 6 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a very in depth method of study. I find it to be quite authoritative in Bible interpretation. thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Hi jamesbrownbete ~ thank you! Let me know how inductive study works out for you! God bless you!

    • jamesbrownbete profile image

      jamesbrownbete 7 years ago from Philippines

      I like this hub. I used to attain a lot of bible studies, maybe we can try out to use inductive method.

    • Habby profile image

      Habby 7 years ago from College Station, Texas

      Judah's Daughter, to be perfectly honest, I LOVE the inductive method. I wish that more people (dare I even say women) were interested in digging into studying the word of God.

      So I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to meet another like-minded lady. Bless you right back, sister!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Habby, that sounds awesome! I typically do topical studies, such as this example. As I go, when I feel so led by the Spirit to study on other topics or questions, I go that direction next...Just the fact that your church teaches inductive study is absolutely fabulous!! The observation, interpretation and application approach is outstanding. This will certainly keep the sheep who study more protected from the false christs and false prophets that are so rampant out there. Bless you!!

    • Habby profile image

      Habby 7 years ago from College Station, Texas

      Our church does Inductive Bible Study with our youth, college students, and adults. We study a book of the Bible at a time and begin with an overview or "survey" of the book. We then take small portions and do observation, interpretation, and application. A part of doing interpretation is a word study like you described above.

      Is this what you do, too, when you follow an inductive method. Just curious. :)

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Praise God, drpastorcarlotta! I'm glad you enjoyed this inductive study on the word Hell...quite an unpleasant subject, but all the more reason study is so important to grasp the concept to the best of our ability. I'm surely glad somebody taught me, and I'm thankful if others are encouraged to dig in to the mysteries of the gospel, leading them to more accurately divide the Word of Truth. Love you so much, and thank you!! God bless you!!

    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 7 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      I LOVE THIS HUB!!!! You were performing a Bible Study as we are reading this Hub! Well written, well presented! I'm loving it!!!! Thank you once again for your talents from God above!! I LOVE YOU SIS!!! And missed you!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Yes, once you know how to study, then sit under the teaching of someone who doesn't study, but just teaches whatever they think makes sense to them ~ or just what has always been taught by their teachers...God teach us!! Teach us to teach! Teach us to preach! Help us to be disciplined disciples ~ AMEN!! God bless you, Royal Sister!

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      Royal Diadem 7 years ago

      Thank you for this teaching. You do not know how many bad sermons and teaching I have had to suffer through, because most do not know how to exegetically break down words and subjects in the Bible. This is the type of teaching that those who have felt the called of God on their life, needs to read.

      Thank you again for another anointed teaching.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      That's fabulous, coffeesnob! I was in my early 20's before I even learned about inductive study. Thank God! I really hope those who take on teaching and preaching wouldn't do so without it ~ what is mis-taught is serious business and God's holds pastors and teachers accountable for the sheep. I knew we bonded so quickly for a reason ~ sound study, sister!! God bless you!

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      coffeesnob 7 years ago

      the inductive Bible study method teaches people the how of study -I love it! We started using this in Sunday school classes beginning with 1st grade. It makes a difference!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Porshadoxus, I wouldn't say what you were taught in Bible school (was this a Bible college or Bible school through church?) was the best advice (to never use a concordance for word definitions?) ~ biblos.com includes a Lexicon tab and still refers you back to the Strongs dictionary number (i.e. 5020 for Tartaroo). 5020 in the Lexicon is defined as: (a Gr. name for the abode of the damned). This doesn't even give us as much information as the Greek Dictionary in the Corcordance. Either way, there will not be contradiction in the results. Here's the link to biblos.com Lexicon: http://biblelexicon.org/2_peter/2-4.htm

      Glad you stopped by to share about the use of a Lexicon as well. Can't ever study too much to confirm the word!! Several tools are available on biblos.com (tab by tab).

      I would just caution about commentaries, however. They are excellent confirming sources, but to rely soley on a commentary without doing your own inductive study can lead to following the commenter rather than the Bible itself. Be blessed :-)

    • Porshadoxus profile image

      Porshadoxus 7 years ago from the straight and narrow way

      Thanx for your effort. I was taught in Bible School to never use a concordance for word definitions. Instead, use a Lexicon which covers the language you need. The word definitions will be more precise.

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      Andy 7 years ago

      Judah’s Daughter,

      The Sadducees were a real problem, don’t think that they believed in “hell, after life, resurrection, angles, or even God” and yet they served in the Temple, (probably even in the capacity of high priest) opposing our Lord to the death. After the Passion they continued to persecute Christians, sanctioning even their arrest and execution. It was all very tidy and legal, (a great system as it were)

      Andy

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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Andy, I've actually been "reasoning" with such a universalist-type group (L. Ray Smith) for many months, who have not provided a single scriptural or concordant argument to "disprove" hell. I'm not sure why you feel it's easy to disprove at a whim. If anything, inductive study establishes sound doctrine.

      This universalist group is now having to re-write the Bible, because what they believe cannot be proven with the Bible written as it is. Now, that's interesting! So, if anyone ever hears about the "Concordant Literal Translation", beware. Sure sounds like an inductive title, but you can't judge a book by its cover, anymore than an "angel of light" truly being an angel of light.

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      Andy 7 years ago

      Judah’s Daughter,

      Usually the inductive method of study is used to gather data to support personal belief systems. What happens is that first your belief system is crystallized and then various techniques are employed to keep the subject matter stable within the chosen system. Truth is a side issue; the real job is protecting a person’s comfort zone. Pick any subject and there is a study system at the ready. The subject of “hell” is easy to prove or disprove at a whim

      Andy

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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      cygnetbrown, AMEN, sister!! How can anyone really study without a Concordance? Likewise, one can test what they've read or heard, as did those in Berea ~ Acts 17:11 "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

      I'd love for you to share the link to the reverse Concordance online. I use biblos.com (10 different Bible Study Resources), where I can type in a word or phrase and all scriptures will pop up so I can not only see where those words or phrases are found, but see several versions of the Bible verse side-by-side. It surely is an awesome tool!! Love you, sister!! Keep shining!!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Quill, I'm so glad you are here to confirm the good word! You love the Lord, and have soundly been a light to so many! Unfortunately, twisted doctrines out there start out without inductive study, and have merely been accepted by those who read or hear, and the longer one believes the twisted interpretration, which leads to the twisting of other verses and further twisted interpretation, it takes inductive study by that individual to undo that coiled Serpent! I think of Apostle Paul's words in Acts 10:13 "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?"

      I'm glad you are inspired to use that Concordance and get into study again ~ the Day of the Lord is approaching and we have work to do!! God bless you and I love you!!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image
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      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Brother no body, I am so appreciative of your wonderful, additional and such inspiriring information about the author of the Strong's Concordance. It surely won him great rewards in heaven and is still doing so every day because of the multitudes of people who are able to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" because of him! I know you are one who does, and this is why the bond has been so "strong" between us. I so appreciate your love and support in this HubPages journey, as well as being my prayer partner and adopted family member! You are wonderful, brother, and I hug you right back!! God bless you richly with so much love you can hardly contain it!!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 7 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      I don't Study the Bible without the Strong's Concordance. I'd be lost without it. I've also used an online reverse Concordance that tells every verse that specific Greek or Hebrew word is used.

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      "Quill" 7 years ago

      Thanks for the Hub Judah's Daughter, hubs such as these create a stirring within that prompts us all to begin the journey to deeper and more intimate study with the Father.

      I have dusted off my Strong's again...thank you and as always...

      Blessings

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Hello kindred spirit. My first Strong's concordance was cheaply bound and fell apart within the first month I owned it. I held together that book for at least 10 years with a shoestring and glue now and then and stuffing pages back into place. It is such a treasure and Dr Strong was used mightily of the Lord to write it. It took his whole life to do. A whole life's work bound in one volume. Meanwhile he was working as a philanthropist and research physician. He founded Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York where I live. When I get sick or need surgery I most likely will be at Strong. I see how the Lord blesses a man that says "yes" to him. Dr Strong worked for years on his Bible reference work and the day he finished it he laid down his pen and died. His work was done and we are able to study more quickly than ever before. Jesus knew the way our lives would speed up. He knew that we would need a shovel to dig into the Word. Dr. Strong gets one big hug from me when I get home. Sometimes I ask Jesus to give him one right now from me. Course I ask Jesus to do that with a lot of people I know up there. I hope Jesus doesn't mind all the hugging. I wish I lived closer to you because I would give you the biggest hug you ever got and because it is the first one that I would be giving you it would be so tight! But for now I pray Jesus to give you one. Get her Jesus!