A method and apparatus for displaying three dimensional surface images includes the utilization of a case table for rapid retrieval of surface approximation information. Eight cubically adjacent data points associated with a given voxel element are compared with a predetermined threshold value or range to generate an eight bit vector. This eight bit vector is employed to rapidly produce vector lists of approximating surfaces. An interpolation operation is performed so as to more closely approximate the desired surface and to provide more accurate representations of vectors normal to the desired surface. The accurate representation of these normal directions provides means for accurately representing shading information on a display screen. The method and apparatus of the present invention are particularly useful for the display of medical images both, from x-ray generated data and from data generated from various other sources including magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. The present invention provides a means for rapid generation of three dimensional images so as to enable interactive use by medical practitioners.