A key component of Inductive Bible study is observation. Have you learned the secrets of how to observe a Bible passage? Today we’ll look at easy ways to explore the Bible using observation.
Ever wanted to take your daily Bible reading a step further? It doesn’t take much to turn your daily Bible reading into a rich Bible study. All you need is to practice the skill of OBSERVATION.
The video below is taken from our PROSPER Bible Study Method tutorials and covers 13 different ways of how to observe a Bible passage. Grab your pen and notebook because you’ll want to write these Bible study tips down!
Easy Ways to Explore the Bible Using Observation
Start with Your Passage
If you are working with a shorter passage of Scripture, it helps to print it off on a sheet of paper, giving yourself plenty of space in between the lines to make notes, underline, color, write, etc.
You can use a notebook or a journal to write it out also, but again, give yourself plenty of space because you’re going to be marking things up!
The other thing you will need before you get started is a set of colored pencils. If you continue with this method, and you like using the colors, in the future it is a good reference. As you go through the Scripture, it just helps you identify certain things that you’ve looked at in the past. So, it’s very helpful to have that as well.
What Observation is NOT
Before diving in, it’s helpful to understand what observation is and isn’t; let’s review what it isn’t.
- Observation is not interpretation. You are not going to go read this passage and try to figure out how to interpret it. That’s not the point of observation.
- Neither is it making inferences. I know a lot of passages are hard to understand and we have to make inferences to be able to make sense of them. Observation is not making inferences, so refrain from trying to do that. You’re not trying to project any meaning onto the passage at this point.Now, I will say there is a time and a place for all of those things, but this is not it. When we first begin looking at a passage, we simply want to observe what it says.
- Observation is not application either. And again, there’s a place for application. It’s very, very important, but we’re not to that point yet. The first thing we want to do is make observations.
So, what is observation?
Well, you can tell me just as much as I can tell you, lol!
Observation isn’t tricky! It is simply seeing what is. It’s stating facts. It’s observing and noticing. It’s noticing what is there, and it may be noticing what isn’t there as well.
How to Make Observations about a passage of Scripture
So, how do you make observations about a passage of Scripture? Well, a good place to begin is by going back to grade school and remembering what your English teacher taught you when you were preparing to do that book report and you didn’t know what to put in it, right?
You start with the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Easy enough, right? So those six questions are the questions that you want to ask about the passage too.
Who. Who are the people in this passage? Who are the people, groups in the passage? Who wrote the passage? Who is the passage written to? All of those sorts of things.
What. What is the main point? What are the lessons taught? What’s the main theme or the central concept? What’s the thesis statement, so to speak, or a summary of a story if it’s a story?
When. When did this story take place in on the historical timeline? What time of year? What time of day? All of those things you want to look for.
Where. Where in geographical location on the map and then where in terms of say, if it’s in the “upper room” for example. Any sorts of those locations you want to make note of.
Why. Why is a story in Scripture? Why did this happen? What caused this to happen? Any of those why questions that you can see in the passage, you want to look for. Again, we are just observing. We are not making inferences yet. We are not interpreting things. We’re not putting our preconceived ideas into the passage. We are letting the passage inform us. We are not informing it.
How. Then the last question would be how. How does this relate to the story of the book? Or how does this relate to the Bible overall? How does this play into the Gospel, the New Testament? That is how you would start with observation with those six questions.
After the standard six questions above, there are a few more things that I like to personally do when I observe a passage:
One of my chief favorites is looking at the verbs. I love, love, love, looking at the verbs because the verbs will tell you so much. I especially love looking at the verbs when God is the subject. Sidenote: you need to know who the subject is as well when you’re looking at the verbs, lol! But it’s also very insightful when it comes to people and our human nature, and certain people had certain tendencies demonstrated by certain actions.
When you began to see these things through the verbs in the Scripture and the way the verbs are even communicated in the Scripture, you’ll start to wake up to the Scriptures like never before. I recommend going in with one of your colored pencils or just a regular pen even, and underlining or somehow drawing a box around, marking up the verbs because that is going to be super insightful for you.
Another thing, as we’ve touched on before, you want to look at the characters. As you make observations, list everything that the passage says about that person. So if it’s a main character (such as Saul, a character we looked at in our Choosing Confidence study), you want to list out anything related to him, like he was the son of Kish, or he came from the tribe of Benjamin, or any other things that you see.
Another thing to look for is comparisons or contrasts. You just want to look for those and make notes of those.
Same goes for similes and metaphors. For example, in Psalm 1, there’s a simile, “He will be like a tree planted by streams of water.” You want to make a note of that.
One of my favorite things to note are any key words in the Bible passage. If there is a word that’s repeated, then you know it’s going to be a keyword, or if there’s a word that seems to be emphasized or a word the grammatical structure of a sentence seems to be hinged on, you know that’s a keyword.
When looking for keywords, don’t forget transitional words like therefore, verily, or but. Those are oftentimes important words that you want to note. There are many different ways to recognize a keyword, but a lot of times it just comes with practice. The more you do it, the better you can pick up on those things.
The last thing I would say to be on the lookout for is adjectives and adverbs. They’re not always significant, but sometimes they are. For example, in the Psalm 1 passage, there’s the adjective “firmly” planted.
So you can easily see that “firmly” could be important, as opposed to “loosely planted.” What immediately comes to my mind when I consider this adjective is the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus talks about the seeds. When the heat comes, some of these seeds that were thrown on the rocky soil withered because they were not firmly planted, right?
So, when you read, and you’re making observations about certain things, the Lord will bring other things to mind to compare or contrast or to give you even deeper understanding into what you are reading.
If you’ve ever read through a passage of Scripture and gotten to the end and thought, “I don’t remember a word I just read,” observation is your new best friend! :)
If you don’t make observations about the passage you’re reading, then you really have no fodder to meditate on or to study deeper. If you don’t know any of the keywords, and you can’t do a keyword study, or if you don’t know what the theme is, you can’t do a thematic study, or if you haven’t identified a character that’s really significant in a passage, then you can’t do a biographical study. It’s like everything hinges on your ability to make observations about a passage.
If you are looking for those things we mentioned above, however, you’re going to end up with a better intake of Scripture. It’s inevitable. It’s going to impact you, you’re going to remember it, and you’re going to have something to meditate on later on.
Observation is really, really important!
What I encourage you to do today is go ahead and get your passage ready, either with a journal or a worksheet and go through some of the things that we’ve talked about today.
Go through those six initial questions. Mark up the characters. Look for verbs. Look for adjectives or adverbs like the word firmly. Identify any keywords that you can see or anything you want to know more about.
Go ahead and make note of those with whatever passage you are reading today, and you’ll have a really great starting point for learning to explore the Bible using observation!
If you found this post helpful, be sure to check out our PROSPER Bible Study Method workbook and tutorials for the entire set of trainings in this series. You’ll learn how to excavate any passage of Scripture with this method!