Inductive Bible Study

Posted by on 09/14/2016 in: ,


As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question.  Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second.  Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.

The Two Travelers and the Farmer

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tail (Source uncertain)

This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak.  We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood.  To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.

After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.

The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:

Observation – What the text actually says.

Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.

Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?

Text first, original audience second, our perspective last.  The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.

Tom Possin is the director of the School of Biblical Studies in Lakeside, Montana

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Look Inside: LifeConnect Study Bible

Posted by on 09/13/2016 in: ,

Black ipad on old wood table background

By Olive Tree Employee: Harold Coleman

How do we move from reading the Bible to applying it to our lives?  For many the idea of “studying” the Bible is overwhelming and questions soon follow: What commentary should I use? Do I need to know Greek or Hebrew to really understand Scripture? Does it take college-level training to understand Scripture? For the vast majority of Christians, these things aren’t necessary. Most of what is necessary to know God is simple to understand in a normal reading of the Bible, regardless of our education.

I recommend the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes as a companion to learning to apply the word of God to our lives because of the simple S.O.A.P. method that it uses. Pastor Wayne Cordeiro believes it shouldn’t be so hard to apply Scripture, and he provides simple-to-understand examples of this method that has us read Scripture, make Observations about the text, consider Applications to personal challenges we see in the Scripture, and finally Pray for God’s help in applying the Scripture to our lives.


With the Olive Tree Bible App, the S.O.A.P. method can be applied to any verse or part of a verse by creating a note for that verse. I will use Ephesians 4:29 as an example of using this method. I first highlight the verse by touching number 29 and selecting Highlight. Then I copy the verse by tapping the verse number again and selecting Copy. Finally, I make a new note, again by touching the number 29 and tapping Note. When the note is open, I paste the copied verse by holding down my finger in the text box and tapping Paste.  I add the S: before the verse section, then the O, A, and P on new lines before I add my thoughts. I often choose specific words or phrases from the Scripture that are meaningful to me at the time.

Here are the results:lifeconnect2

S: Let no corrupt word proceed out …
but what is good
for necessary edification
… impart grace to the hearers.
O: Context Eph. 4:20-32 Put off the old Put on the New
Let no – this means it is my responsibility to not talk or act out of my old ways. I may need the Holy Spirit’s help but God expects me to stop the wrong action before it comes out.
No heat of the moment emotion justifies letting the old self out. It is opposite of good and tears down rather than edifies (builds up).
The verse doesn’t say to immediately follow up not speaking ill with speaking good. I may need to walk away, pray, think it through, or even come back another day to be able to speak good and edifying words, once my way of thinking is more like that of Christ. It needs to be full of grace, the same grace I receive from Christ.
A: This has implications throughout my life. With my spouse, my children, my extended family and friends, with co-workers and supervisors, and with strangers driving cars in ways I don’t appreciate.
P: Lord this seems so overwhelming to me but neither Paul nor you expect it to be that way. My hope is in the working of the Holy Spirit that assists me in putting to death the deeds of the flesh and allowing Christ to be glorified though my putting on the renewed nature. Help me to stop before my thoughts become words or actions. Help me to anticipate your love flowing through me until I can see ways of building up and giving grace to those you put in my life.
Along with the 70+ S.O.A.P. notes from Wayne Cordeiro that can be used both as short devotionals and as examples of this method, the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes also include:

  • Over 50 articles that bring truths to life written by Wayne Cordeiro
  • Introductions to each book of the Bible, which includes timelines, and outlines of the book
  • Thousands of verse by verse notes providing background to Scripture
  • Insightful quotes for reflection
  • Maps related to various time periods of the Scriptures.


These resources can be found through the table of contents in the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes and by using the Resource Guide as you read through your Bible on your own.

Follow the link to find out more about the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes!

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Look Inside: New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Posted by on 09/12/2016 in: ,

The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is a revised and expanded edition of the original TSK. It adds over 100,000 new cross-references, and supplies many more key words to the Bible text, making this the most complete collection of biblical cross-references ever published. Using it with the Olive Tree Bible App you’ll save tons of time and effort.  No longer do you have to leave your original text to search for a reference.

From the publisher:

An incredible 1-volume Bible reference library, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is a unique resource for Bible study, teaching, or preaching. Dozens of special study aids help you develop powerful lessons or sermons – straight from the Bible itself! No other tool better helps you interpret Scripture with Scripture. Unlike any tool you’ve ever seen – loaded with helps not available anywhere else.

More flexible than a concordance, more thorough than a topical Bible, more discovery-oriented than a commentary, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge opens windows, doors, and connecting passageways into every fascinating book of the Bible. Whether you have minutes to prepare a devotional or hours to devote to in-depth study, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge maximizes your study of God’s word.

In this blog I”ll demonstrate how to use it with the Bible App running on an iPad.

First, select your preferred Bible translation in the main window. Then tap and drag the split window to access the Resource Guide in the App. The Resource Guide takes your downloaded material and connects it with the text you have open in the main window.


Under the ‘Related Verses’ section you’ll see resources listed along with a number badge. The number indicates how many entries there are in that resource for the text that is open in the main window. Since I have the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge installed, the Bible App has found cross references relevant to the passage in 1 Corinthians that I’m reading. I can then tap on the  New TSK to see all 6 entries that are indicated.


The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge organizes these cross references by topic and by verse making it easy to do further study on the particular themes found in 1 Corinthians 13.

I can then tap the reference in the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and view it as a popup, or even split it out into a new window without leaving my original text.  This feature alone saves me valuable time that I’d otherwise spend flipping back and forth between references.


As you can see, having the New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge  in the Bible App will help you broaden your biblical understanding of specific themes and enable you to quickly study large portions of scripture.

You can add this great resource to your account HERE!

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Four Steps To Your Ultimate
Study Bible!

Posted by on 09/06/2016 in: ,


If you’re ready to take the next step in your study of the Bible than this blog is for you. Read on to find out how to build your own custom study Bible!

Step 0: Use the Olive Tree Bible App

We don’t want to assume anything here but the foundation is important and the building blocks of your ultimate study Bible start with our Bible App.  You can search resources in a matter of seconds, quickly look up cross references, and study anywhere. You don’t have to worry about flipping pages or having a large desk so that you can open all your books at once. Instead, carry your entire library on your phone, tablet, or laptop. There is no steep learning curve required to use the app and all the features are intuitive. So, download the app & let’s move to Step 1.

Step 1: Add a Bible Translation

A lot of people don’t think about Bible translations and how they can help their Bible study. For many, they use whatever Bible translation they were given when they became a Christian and never give it a second thought. Yes, the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV may be quite poetic, but what good is it if you cannot understand what you’re reading? In many respects, the Bible is already a difficult book to study, so why make it harder with a difficult to read translation? There is nothing wrong with owning a Bible written in a modern translation.

When choosing a Bible translation, you should find one that works for you. One helpful idea is to get a translation that is word-for-word in its translation of the original languages and also a second that is more thought-for-thought or a balance between the two.

Once you have your Bible translations, you’re ready to build the rest of your ultimate study Bible library.


Step 2: Add Study Notes

Next to the Bible, if you had to spend money on one resource, hands down it would have to be a study Bible. These are great tools because they are an all-in-one resource. You get commentary, introductions, and a wealth of other useful features. With so many study Bibles on the market, wisdom is needed when making a purchase. You want to make sure you’re buying something that will help you understand what you’re reading and keep things in their proper context.

A good study Bible should contain: thorough study notes, book introductions, maps, charts & illustrations, and Bible chronologies. A few worth checking out include: the ESV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, NKJV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible, and the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible.


Step 3: Add Key Reference Tools

As you expand your library beyond Bibles and study Bibles, you should start by adding key reference tools. This is a broad category that ranges from single volume commentaries to Bible dictionaries and atlases.

Bible commentaries come in many flavors and vary in their target audience, which is often reflected in the price. Because of their depth, commentaries can quickly become the most expensive tool in your library. A good place to start is with a single volume commentary since they cover the entire Bible. While single volume commentaries may not be as thorough as their single-book counterparts, they do take time to cover all passages in general and are sure to explain the more difficult ones, making them useful additions to your library.


While study Bibles and commentaries are good at explaining the text of the Bible, they don’t always give enough detail about some of the Bible’s concepts and words. This is where a good Bible dictionary comes into play, which is, in effect, an encyclopedia for the Bible. To illustrate it’s usefulness, let’s say you’re reading the gospels and you encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who are these guys and where did they get their authority? A Bible dictionary will explain who they are so you’re not left clueless about their role and purpose in the Bible.


Atlases are a fantastic tool to have in your library. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t familiar with the geography of the lands from Bible times. Not to mention, it’s difficult to find many places mentioned in the Bible on a modern map. Atlases provide you with extensive maps that help you get a lay of the land so that you can make better sense of the Bible’s narrative. Many atlases also provide relevant commentary on the Bible that corresponds to the map or picture.


Many of these tools you can add to your Olive Tree library at minimal cost and they will go a long way in helping you study the Bible.

Step 4: Add Advanced Reference Tools

Most people could stop at Step 3, but if you’re the person who wants to dive deeper into God’s Word you can buy more advanced reference tools. Resources that fall into this category would include: single book commentary sets, Greek & Hebrew lexicons, and more extensive versions of the tools found in Step 3. These are the tools often used by pastors, seminary students and others. This is an area where you can spend a lot of money, but each resource is well worth the cost.


Build Your Ultimate Study Bible Today

By following the above steps, you will have built your own Ultimate Study Bible and have all the essential tools needed to study the Bible. Start building yours today with our Build Your Ultimate Study Bible sale!

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Who was ruling the universe when Jesus died?

Posted by on 08/30/2016 in: ,

The following excerpt is taken from the newly released book
No God but One:  Allah or Jesus? By Nabeel Qureshi


In the summer of 2012, I spent eight weeks in Oakland, California, studying Arabic through Middlebury College. I had just graduated from Duke University, where I had focused on the Gospels and the Quran for my master’s degree. Even though my mother had taught me in my childhood how to recite Arabic, I could not use the language to communicate, so I knew that greater familiarity with Arabic would go a long way in my future graduate studies. I entered Middlebury just beyond the introductory level, which meant I would be prohibited from communicating in any language other than Arabic for the entire eight weeks. The program was so serious about this rule that we had to sign a contract the day we arrived. No English whatsoever, at any point, for two whole months. Not even during the evenings and weekends!

Until that time, I had not realized just how important language is for relieving stress. No jokes, no storytelling, very little fellowship—just a lot of hand gestures and listening to upperclassmen jabber away. It was a very trying time, but it forced us to quickly learn how to get by. Within a month, we were able to communicate with one another in what I am sure was horribly poor Arabic.

Thankfully, I had a friend near Oakland who was also a student of Arabic, and she regularly reached out to immigrants in the area. She asked me if I would be willing to meet a Muslim friend of hers from Saudi, and I gladly agreed. Anything to spend time with a friend and get away from the campus! That afternoon, I met a lively young student named Sahar. She told me about life as a woman in Saudi, including that the government required her to get her younger brother’s permission so that she could study in America. When I asked what would have happened if he had refused, she replied, “He knows better than to say no to me!”

Soon the conversation turned to religious matters. Sahar indicated that she was resolutely Muslim and was not considering conversion, but she had questions about what Christians believed. After asking many questions, she at last asked me one that seemed to have been the most problematic for her. “How can you believe Jesus is God if he was born through the birth canal of a woman and that he had to use the bathroom? Aren’t these things below God?”

This question is a very common one, but we should now be able to see why Muslims ask it: Allah does not enter into this world in Islam, whereas Yahweh has repeatedly done so. Allah remains behind a veil and sends messengers, whereas Yahweh is intimate and walks among us. When we remember that Yahweh is different from Allah, and that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, the answers to many similar questions become readily apparent.

How Can God Die, And Who Was Ruling the Universe When Jesus Died?

These two questions were the first ones I asked David about Jesus’ deity when I was a Muslim, and they are the most common ones that Muslims ask me now. Since Islam does not have a concept of divine incarnation, these are understandable questions. Truly, they are ques- tions that Christians should ask themselves at some point, but they are not difficult to answer when we keep in mind what we have learned in this chapter.

 When someone asks me, “How can God die?” I ask for clarification, because the question can be asked from multiple angles. Almost always the questioner says something along the lines of, “God is immortal, so he cannot die.” To that, I respond with a question in turn. “I see what you mean, but let me ask you a question: When humans die, do our souls stop existing?” Of course, Muslims respond, “No, our souls do not die,” to which I respond, “So even when we die as humans, it is the body that dies. It is not that we stop existing altogether. So it was with Jesus: He was killed with respect to his earthly body, but God did not stop existing.”

Sometimes, though, by asking, “How can God die?” Muslims are essentially asking, “Who was ruling the universe?” There are many possible responses to this question, but the one I prefer is the simple one: the Father. This is why, if Muslims wish to engage in these kinds of questions, it is essential that Christians adequately explain the Trinity to them. The Father is not the Son, and the Father did not die on the cross.


This leads to another kind of question, one which even well-informed Muslims will ask. During the closing statements of my 2015 debate, Dr. Shabir Ally used the most caustic terms I have ever heard to challenge the gospel. He said that if the Father sent the Son to die for the sins of the world, then this was “cosmic child abuse.” What kind of a Father is God if he punishes his son for the sins of others?

By this point, we should be able to readily see the problem with this assessment: Christians do not believe that God is punishing a random victim. Jesus is God. The Judge is himself voluntarily paying on behalf of the criminal. Against Dr. Ally’s caricature, a more apropos illustration is shared by Brennan Manning in his book Ragamuffin Gospel.1 In 1935, Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York, presided over a court case in which an old woman had been caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. Although LaGuardia wanted to offer her mercy, the shopkeeper demanded justice. LaGuardia judged her guilty and imposed a fine of ten dollars, but in the same moment he took ten dollars from his own wallet and paid the fine on her behalf. Acknowledging the woman’s guilt, the judge himself paid the penalty and let her go free. This is a beautiful illustration of mercy and justice, but if we tweak one minor detail it will accord better with the gospel: if LaGuardia had not just been the judge but also the shopkeeper from whom the woman stole. When we sin, we sin against God. He has to judge us guilty, but then he pays for what we have done. It all makes sense when we remember the Christian view of Jesus: He is God.


Many Muslims have asked me how Jesus could be God if the Bible says “no one has ever seen God” (1 John 4:12). It makes sense that Muslims would ask this question, interpreting John’s epistle in light of tawhid, a monadic view of God. But John the disciple, the man through whom God authored this Bible verse, is also the author of the Gospel of John, and he interprets it for us in John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (my trans.). In other words, when the Bible says “no one has ever seen God,” it is referring to God the Father. Jesus, who is God and at the Father’s side, has made him known. That is why Jesus is able to say to his disciple Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Seeing Jesus is seeing God, tantamount to seeing the Father. So although no one has seen God the Father, people have seen God the Son. This means that every time someone in the Bible saw God, they were seeing the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. When we remember that Jesus is the second person of the triune God, this otherwise problematic verse is easy to understand.



Sahar’s question to me that summer afternoon in Oakland intuitively captured a sentiment that I think many Christians can learn from: God is King of the universe, unimaginably holy, and it is far beneath his majesty for him to be born on this filthy earth. So I affirmed her question, but then asked her one in turn. “Sahar, let’s imagine that you are on your way to a very important ceremony and are dressed in your finest clothes. You are about to arrive just on time, but then you see your daughter drowning in a pool of mud. What would you do? Let her drown and arrive looking dignified, or rescue her but arrive at the ceremony covered in mud?”

Her response was very matter of fact, “Of course, I would jump in the mud and save her.”

Nuancing the question more, I asked her, “Let’s say there were others with you. Would you send someone else to save her, or would you save her yourself?”

Considering this, Sahar responded, “If she is my daughter, how could I send anyone else? They would not care for her like I do. I would go myself, definitely.”

I paused for a short moment before continuing, “If you, being a human, love your daughter so much that you are willing to lay aside your dignity to save her, how much more can we expect God, if he is our perfectly loving Father, to lay aside his majesty to save us?” She considered this for a moment, and the conversation moved on. As the dinner ended, my friend returned me to my immersion Arabic program, where the idea of drowning was perhaps a bit too real for me.

During my last week in Oakland, as the program was coming to a fruitful and merciful end, I received another text message from my friend inviting me out to dinner, this time to meet a new Christian from a Muslim background. When I arrived, I was met by a beaming Sahar! The message of God’s selfless love had overpowered her, and she could no longer remain Muslim. A few days after our dinner, she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Now it was time to rejoice with her, share stories about our amazing God, and point the way forward for her discipleship.

Taken from Chapter 11 of  No God but One:  Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam & Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi
Copyright © 2016 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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Over 10,000 Titles!

Posted by on 08/29/2016 in:

From our beginnings as a Bible app on some of the first mobile devices our mission at Olive Tree has always been to connect people to God’s word, enabling people to read the Bible wherever they are. As technology changed we began to offer additional resources to aid people in their study of the Bible such as commentaries, maps, and eBooks. Just recently we crossed a significant marker that we wanted to share with you.

We now have over 10,000 titles available to use in the Olive Tree Bible App!


As you can see we actually have over 11,000 titles. Once we hit 10,000 we were so excited that we just kept going.

What does this mean for you?

Over 10 years ago we started adding different types of resources to aid you in your understanding of God’s word. As digital books began to be more readily available and widely used, it was our desire to make them available to help people grow in their understanding of God’s word and by extension their faith.


Today within the Olive Tree Bible App you can access devotionals, maps, dictionaries, Bible commentaries, Christian eBooks and more. With your smartphone, tablet, or computer you can have access to a library of resources wherever you go. We’re committed to continue to provide the best Bible reading and study experience and are excited about the months and years ahead!

With so many titles available browse by category or use the search button HERE.

As part of our celebration we’ve also put over 230 titles on sale!

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Look Inside: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Posted by on 08/23/2016 in: ,


You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many behind-the-scenes details are you missing? Sometimes a little context is all you need to discover the rich meaning behind the stories of Scripture. That’s what the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of Bible times. These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus. Discover new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar Bible passages as you take a behind-the-scenes tour into the ancient world.

Watch the video below for a quick glimpse at how NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible looks in the Olive Tree Bible App.

For more information or to add this title to your Bible study library go HERE!

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