By: Mark McGee / GraceLife Ministries

Methodical Bible Study

The steps to methodical study are simple, yet profound and life changing. I'll outline the course for your information. Please study it further. It will do you very well throughout your life. The college text is titled Methodical Bible Study: A New Approach to Hermeneutics by Dr. Robert Traina.


The first step of methodical study is Observation.

Observation is "the act or faculty of ... taking notice; the act or result of considering or marking attentively." It is "the art of seeing things as they really are." It entails "seeing impartially, intensely, and fearlessly." "Truly to observe is to be mentally aware of what one sees. Observation transcends pure physical sight; it involves perception." "Observation, then, is essentially awareness."

Observation begins with "the will to observe." "Willed observation, vision with excutive force behind it, is full of discernment, and is continually making discoveries which keep the mind alert and interested."

Observation is "exactness in observation."

Observation is "persistence in observation."

The four main constituents of any Biblical passage are: terms, the relations and interrelations between terms, or structure, the general literary form or forms, and the atmosphere.

Term is a given word as it is used in a given context. It has only one meaning in that context. It is the duty of the Bible student to determine that meaning in any given context.

Structure involves all of the relations and interrelations which bind terms into a literary unit. "In a more restricted sense "structure" may be used to denote the framework or skeleton of a passage, that is, its more essential relations."

The various structural units are: phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, segment, subsection, section, division, and book.

General literary form is the type of literature used by an author. It could be discoursive and logical, prose narrative, poetry, drama and dramatic prose, parabolic or apocalyptic.

Atmosphere is the underlying tone or spirit of a passage. It is the mood of a passage.

Here are some suggestions to help you observe better during Bible study:

  1. Use a pencil while observing. Write down your observation as you make it. Writing is a great aid to memory.
  2. Start your observation with a detailed noting of particulars and proceed to the observing the whole.
  3. Use underlining or encircling to indicate your major observations. "Find ways of organizing your observations so that they will be accessible with the least possible effort."
  4. Avoid simply copying the words of the text. Indicate something about them.
  5. Observe every passage as if you had never seen it before. "Let every approach be a fresh one."
  6. See how many different observations you can make on a given passage. It's a discipline.
  7. Look for what, where, when, how, why and who.
  8. Note any significant omissions as well as the events and ideas which are included. Sometimes what's not said is as important as what is said.
  9. Compare and contrast observations. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell said to Observe! Remember! Compare!
  10. Compare and contrast different translations of the Scriptures.
  11. Understand the geography of your study. Make rough maps to help your understanding.
  12. Study the people of the Bible. See them in the light of "real life."
  13. When studying epistles (letters), note the following: the identity and characteristics of the writers; the location, characteristics, and problems of the recipients; the answers given to their problems; the occasion and purpose of the letter; its literary features, leading ideas, and central truth.
  14. Note marginal readings.
  15. Look for the concepts of God, Christ, man, sin, and redemption. These are the primary themes with which Bible authors are concerned.
  16. Be able to distinguish between an observation, an interpretation, and an application. "Avoid application altogether in the observing process and keep interpretation to a minimum."


The second step of Methodical Bible Study is Interpretation.

"The first aspect of interpretation is that of discovering the basic meaning of the particulars of a passage." It is the definitive phase. It's where we discover the basic meaning of the components of a passae.

After finishing with definitions, we move on to the rational phase. We want to find the general reasons why Biblical statements are made--"wherein they are true and necessary." We also want to know the immediate reasons or purposes for their expression--"their relevance to their literary context and specific historical situation."

The third phase is implicational. "A statement always implicates more than it says explicitly, for it is the outgrowth of certain presuppositions for other ideas. Facts are so intertwined that a person cannot accept one without accepting many others with it."

That's a basic overview of interpretation. Now let's look at the steps to doing it: interpretive questions, interpretive answers and interpretive integration and summarization.