How to Study the Bible eCourse #7

Making Observations

There is a simple step in the process of interpreting God’s Word that will give you a lot of insight into a passage without needing to use outside resources, and it is this: the power of observation.

The act of observation is not applying or drawing conclusions. It is simply gathering the facts and asking, “What do I see in the text?”

We often read through a passage of Scripture without absorbing a lot of what it is saying. Careful reading and observation within the text will help you to note details. Being familiar with the details of a passage enable you to draw better conclusions. The more informed you are from the beginning, the more accurate your interpretation in the end.

Ask A Ton of Questions

When in the observation phase, focus on the facts of the passage, grammar, and sentence structure. This step will require you to carefully and repeatedly read a passage to glean as much information as possible.  You can start with the basics like ‘What? When? How? Where? Why?‘ and move ton to more detailed questions such as:

What are the repeated words, phrases, or themes, in this passage that may emphasize a concept or point?

Are there any noteworthy lists?

What is the tone of this passage? Does the author seem to be joyful? Angry? Mournful? Afraid?

Are there any figures of speech that the author is using to convey a certain image or idea?

Is the author comparing or contrasting opposing ideas to make a point?

Does the author use passive verbs, or strong active verbs?

Does the author express himself by using descriptive adjectives and adverbs?

Write it Down

Write down your observations in an organized way to help you break up the passage. Read and re-read the passage until you are confident that you are very familiar with it.

An Observation Example

Let’s observe the facts about 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

Using the questions above, what observations can we take away from this passage?

  • God is noted to be both the Father of Jesus, and also the Father of mercies, as well as a God of comfort.
  • “Comfort”/”Comforted” is used nine times
  • “Affliction”/ “Afflicted” is used three times
  • “Suffer” / “Sufferings” is used three times
  • “Abundantly” is used twice
  • Both the author and the audience seem to be acquainted with trials and suffering
  • The tone of the passage seems to be hopeful and consoling, as the words/phrases “Blessed”, “Father of mercies” , “God of all comfort”, “able to comfort”, “we ourselves are comforted by God” , “patiently endure” , “Our hope for you is unshaken”, and “You will share in our comfort” seem to indicate.
  • The author is bent upon God’s comfort despite the affliction that affects both himself and his audience
  • The verbs are in the present tense: “comforts”, “are comforted”, “share”, “are afflicted”, “experience”, “endure”, “is”, “know”. This indicates that the ideas being presented are happening in the here and now. Most of the verbs seem to indicate things happening to either the audience or author, things that may be out of their own control.

After examining the passage and writing down some of the basic facts it is made up of, we are more set up to understand what it is trying to communicate.

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