Dr. J's Bible Study Methods
If you have upgraded to Accordance 11, you may have noticed a new title in your Accordance Library: Dr. J’s Bible Study Methods. To acquaint our users a bit better with this brand new resource, I spent some time with Dr. J (our very own Tim Jenney) to ask him about it. Through the course of our conversation, I discovered that the Bible Study Methods book is an outgrowth of his passion to see people better understand the Bible, honed by decades of interaction with his students.
Here is a portion of our interview.
What gave you the desire to write a book on Bible study methods?
I’ve felt for a long time my overall call is to teach people to be able to feed themselves the Word of God—to teach God’s people, actually. I never intended to go into academics per se; what I intended to do was to find out how to study the Bible and pass that on. I’ve been doing it for many, many years, beginning as a campus minister way back in graduate school in 1978.
Since that time, I’ve taught Bible study methods in a variety of seminars and formats; I’ve taught theological research methods on a graduate level. I’ve taught Bible study methods for almost a decade to undergraduates. Along the way, I sort of cobbled together my own method, and it was an opportunity to try it out on students year after year.
Exactly what is Dr. J’s Bible Study Methods?
I’ve written it as something to be easy enough for a novice to understand—somebody who is interested in the Bible and would like to start studying it, but has no idea whatsoever how to begin. Bible Study Methods defines the tools, explains the methods, and it even tells them what kinds of books to get. It defines what a Bible dictionary is, what a commentary is, what a concordance is.
Traditional methods have begun with learning Greek or Hebrew first, and then you learn exegesis. The trouble is, if you do it that way, and you “lose” your languages, then you lose your exegetical skills as well. So long, long ago, New York Theological Seminary had this program to teach exegesis to people in their native language—English in our case. They had people study exegetical method first, and then move on to biblical languages and apply those methods there. They actually began the inductive Bible study method program, which has a long and distinguished history.
While my Bible study method incorporates inductive Bible study method, it’s quite a bit more than that. My method definitely maintains that you should go to the original text first, and I don’t mean Greek or Hebrew, but the primary text: the Bible. You wrestle with it, you think about it, you observe, you write down as much as you can, you come to some initial conclusions; and only then you begin checking the work of other people. And you test your conclusion and initial ideas against that. You don’t simply go to a commentary and slavishly adopt whatever it is that person says.
Where does your book stand in the tradition of similar books on Bible study methods?
When I started teaching Bible study methods, I tried to use Fee’s New Testament Exegesis and Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis. Now Stuart is a much clearer writer than Fee is, but the bottom line is my students were intimidated by both of them. Fee and Stuart were just much, much higher than they were able to handle. On the other hand, my students were very comfortable with the book that Fee and Stuart wrote, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.
So my goal in teaching Bible study methods, and now finally writing it down, is to have something that’s at that level [that of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth] but with the kind of step-by-step approach those guys used with their books for seminary students.
Some people may say that I’ve dumbed it down. I don’t encourage people to translate the text for themselves. As a matter of fact, I don’t have people verify to see if there is a textual variant in the passage or some sort of textual issue. I skipped all of that. I think the translations—if you’re using a good translation, I believe most people just need to put their trust in that translation. If there’s an important enough issue, then some of the secondary sources they consult will bring that out.
How can someone take your method, and using Accordance, end at some kind of practical result when studying the Bible?
As Accordance has moved into the more popular market, we are realizing that people are coming to us, and they’re buying Bible software expecting this is going to help them study the Bible. And, of course, we provide them wonderful resources, but in and of itself, what we have been offering hasn’t been directed at teaching them how to study the Bible. We’ve just offered them the resources.
So, we’ve done several things with Accordance 11. My Bible study methods book is available now; it’s included with every collection. Also, there’s Mounce’s BiblicalTraining.org, which I was thrilled to see. My Bible Study Methods is designed for anyone who has bought the Starter Collection, and then I suggested buying those four How to books from Zondervan.
Basically, if somebody starts with a very small set of resources like I just described and my Bible Study Methods, they can work through the methods step-by step. Here’s how to build a library, here’s what the different tools do, and here’s an assignment: work through this epistle. Each chapter of Bible Study Methods is illustrated with how that technique would look in Accordance; it’s actually tuned for Accordance users. So, if I say, “Search," and you’re going to look up a parallel text, I’ll show that parallel text so you’ll know you’re doing it right. Or when discussing inductive Bible study methods, I’ll show where those symbols are in Accordance. Each chapter ends with a practical assignment or two and a series of 10 to 15 review questions.
At each step, as someone works through the book, they get something from each chapter. Even if they read no further than chapter one, they now know something, and they can do something. The same thing with chapter two. Ideally, once they’ve finished the book, they will actually go through all eight steps with every Bible passage. For instance, they will do an inductive Bible study; then they will go ahead and investigate the event. They will analyze in detail and then define the words. That winds up being a very nice exegetical path.
Is Bible Study Methods complete now, or is it still in progress?
It’s still in progress. Five chapters are complete and published. It will have eight chapters in the end with the last titled “Putting It All Together.” It ought to be complete first quarter of 2015, if not much sooner.
It sounds to me like you’ve created a “practical guide to using Accordance.”
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
When we have training seminars, we go through the different things Accordance will do and offer some examples; but what you’ve done is show how to go from point A to point B, using Accordance to get there.
Right. Mine is more Bible-centered and less Accordance-centered. I’ve discovered in my teaching that it’s really important for people to have take-aways today. Not everyone has the critical thinking skills that it was assumed people had a generation ago. People need to see something in action. Not everyone can easily take a general concept and apply it to their studies, integrated into whatever task they’re doing. And that’s what I’ve tried to address with Bible Study Methods.
“Dr. J,” Timothy P. Jenney, holds a Ph.D. in Ancient and Biblical Studies (University of Michigan, 1993) and additional advanced degrees in History, Biblical Languages, and Near Eastern Studies. He has served as a pastor, campus minister, college professor, and (most recently) producer of the Lighting the Lamp podcast series for Accordance Bible Software. A published author, Dr. J is also an adjunct at Regent University, School of Divinity. He and Gloria, his wife of thirty-eight years, live in Central Florida.
Dr. J's Bible Study Methods now comes with every Accordance 11 Collection.