Common Approaches to Reading the Bible

People read the Bible in different ways and for multiple reasons. Some turn to the Bible when they encounter difficulties, while others look to the Scriptures to find answers to perplexing questions. Whatever your reason, I believe that the Inductive Bible Study method of reading the Bible can be quite useful.

Most people approach Scripture in one of the following ways:

  1. Devotional reading
  2. Topical reading

Devotional Reading

The Bible is the world’s most popular religious book and most people approach it with reverence. They read a fixed number of verses, feel a kind of peace in their hearts and postpone their reading for the next day. Most of us are like that.

We challenge ourselves to read the Bible in 40 days (during Lent) or a year. We believe that the mere act of reading will bring us in communion with God. Although the intentions are noble, the results are not always tangible.

Like a ritual, reciting the scriptures may bring you a peace of mind but it may or may not help you converse with God. For that you need to stop reading and start studying. Confused? Read this blog to learn the difference between reading and studying.

Topical Reading

This is probably the most common method of reading the Bible after devotional reading. People who prefer this method think about a subject — money, ethics, family life or anything that crosses their mind — and search the Bible (modern tools are used sometimes) to find references for it and see what it has to say on the topic.

Topical reading is enjoyable, but it comes with its own perils. Unless you study the context, focus on the words and their meanings, you may end up discovering what you wanted to see in the Bible. Many people do it. Some cite the Bible to support slavery and racism and others show passages in the same book to support their ideas of humanism and piety. You do not have to be like them. Study the Bible using the Inductive Bible Study method and you will see what God really says about a subject.

To sum up, the Inductive Bible Study method promotes good study habits, irrespective of your personal study method. Everyone should try it!

Originally published at on March 16, 2016.