Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Student, the Fish, Agassiz and the Tablet

Inductive Bible study is surely one of the best means of understanding God's word, and I am a strong advocate of it. Formerly, my primary study tools were a typed page of the section I wished to study and a pencil. I did use a good Bible dictionary as a secondary tool. My Tablet has changed all that.

My primary tools now are a typed page of the section I wish to study and a pen.

The typed page, of course, is now electronic and the pen spreads digital ink. Actually, several of my Bible dictionaries are electronic, too, though I do still use a couple of paper editions. Plus, I can use colored highlighters and pens easily without having them strewn around my desk.

If you aren't familiar with inductive study, it is a technique in which you approach the Bible itself as the primary source of information. (Inductive study isn't limited to Bible study, of course.) A wonderful treatise describing inductive study is "The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz", which I would encourage everyone to read. It is not only instructive, but it is an enjoyable read. The entire short article is on the website linked and a PDF version is available for download there. Highly recommended.

In brief, the key activities in inductive study are: observation (the vast majority of time is spent on this), interpretation, and application. All three parts are critical, as is the order. There are various techniques to aid in the process, possibly best described in Irving L. Jensen's classic Independent Bible Study (ISBN 0802440509). I think it is out of print, but used copies are available. lists four available as I write this. There are numerous links about inductive Bible study on the web, too. I haven't thoroughly reviewed any, so I won't make any blanket recommendations, but if you would like help finding some, leave me a comment.

The format for the text under study that I have found works best is double spaced text with large margins all around, and with all chapter, verse, and even paragraph breaks removed. Because you will be circling words, drawing lines, and making other notations right in with the text, this amount of space (or even more) between lines of text is important.

I usually pick a section no longer than will fit on a single 8.5 by 11 (or A4) piece of paper. It is a large enough body for context and meaning, yet small enough to not be overwhelming. You can work through an entire book in chunks this size, and fit the sections together for further study after you have completed them individually.

There are a number of ways to set this up and do the study. A very low cost way is to use WordPad to type in the text (or copy verses from e-Sword and paste them in) and get it formatted the way you want. (You will have to manually double-space the text.) Then print it to Journal with the Journal Note Writer virtual printer. You can use Journal to mark it up. Your text isn't searchable, but your ink is.

A better, albeit more costly, way in my opinion is to use Word for both text entry and markup. This leaves your underlying text fully searchable, but not your ink. A lot of your ink will be markings rather than words, though, so this is probably not a big issue. Since I am typing the books of the Bible into Word during my quiet times, I am building quite a collection of scripture in this format for study. (Now if I could only get the time to do the study...)

One could do the same in GoBinder, PlanPlus for Windows, or OneNote. These also allow for searching of the text as well as the ink. If I hadn't already started my texts in Word, I would probably use OneNote for this.

For those who don't want to or can't type in the passages, there are some good options. Rob Bushway runs a site called TabletBible that distributes a few translations already formatted for GoBinder and PlanPlus for Windows. You can also use e-Sword to get a number of translations and languages for copy and paste into another tool. The Bible Gateway has quite a number of translations on-line. They also have the Bible in several different languages. I looked around and couldn't find an acceptable use policy, so I am assuming that copying a section to a local file for study would be acceptable. I do suggest asking specifically before doing this and I wouldn't do large sections as many of their translations are copyrighted. You might also consider making a contribution if you do this regularly, as it is supported by donations. TabletBible also accepts donations, which go toward the medical expenses of Rob's daughter who has cancer.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." By helping us to study God's word, our Tablets can help us to fulfill this command to accurately handle His word.


Blogger Joel said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful article, Mark! I have shared it with four of my grandkids who are pursuing engineering degrees.

God bless you!


8:36 PM  

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