Seminary classes appear to either be (a) content-based in which one must master a body of knowledge (theology, church history, etc.), or (b) skills-based in which one must master a skill to an academically acceptable level (preaching, interpreting text, Greek, Hebrew, etc.) This spring I spent a semester learning Inductive Bible Study (IBS) skills and practicing on the English text of the Gospel of Mark. It was a lot of work, but rewarding!
If you think about it, no one recorded every waking moment Jesus spent on earth. Even today we do not record every moment of every day, even if reality t.v. shows and Snapchat stories promise you otherwise… everything is edited! So we have four different gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, each by a different author, each telling the parts of Jesus’ life and ministry that they wanted to communicate to their audience. The content of each narrative is absolutely true, simply edited by a different author.
IBS asks the question, “Why did Mark chose to tell this story, to this audience, at this point in his narrative?” IBS presumes that Mark, with the help of the Holy Spirit, arranged the stories of Jesus in a particular fashion to communicate particular truths to his audience. IBS is a bit like bringing AP English Literature skills to the gospel narrative and asking questions about structure, recurring themes, framing, foreshadowing, climax, repeated cycles, and more. Once we understand the structure of a passage, and its context, then we become better interpreters of the text. Single verses, yanked out of context and
applied to a situation, become taboo… After all, no one opens a letter from an old friend, reads only the 5th paragraph, and then puts the letter away for another time!
This is the companion commentary we used which I recommend for anyone teaching on Mark by Mark Strauss:
And just to give you an idea, here are some examples of the introductory paragraph of IBS papers I wrote every week all spring: