Details of Observation

  • OBSERVATION IS LOOKING AT WHAT THE TEXT SAYS. Observation is not determining what the text means but simply looking for the "facts" without interpreting them.


I. Noticing

II. Examining

Reading through the text you "notice" things, for example that a word is repeated. Then you continue to "examine" that repeated word and ask further questions like "How often is this word repeated?", " How is this word used?", "In what context is it used?". Examining will help you to thoroughly observe and analyze the text.

  • LOOK, LOOK, LOOK...Take time for observation. Reading a passage for the first time you will notice a few things. When you read it a second time you will see more... In order to do good observation you need to Look, Look, Look...until looking becomes seeing. (Howard Vos, Effective Bible Study Methods)

OBSERVATION What does the text say?

♦ On the following pages you will find:

▪ List of observations: things you can look for and observe.

▪ List of example questions for examining.

♦ For examples of noticing and examining see section on "Building".



1. Find repeated words.

- Gal: grace, law

2. Find repeated ideas and themes.

- 2 Thess: Suffering, Second Coming

3. Observe key words.

They are key because their meaning is essential in understanding a passage. Sometimes repeated.

- Gal: justification

4. Observe who.

▪ Main characters, people, people groups,  author, audience.

- Titus 1:10-12: Circumcision Party, Cretans

- Titus 1:1: Paul, a servant of God

5. Observe pronouns.

▪ I, you, she, they, mine, yours, his, their, who, me, etc.

- Mark 13: Interchange between you and they

6. Observe what.

▪ Events that are taking place.

▪ Order of these events.

7. Observe geographical locations on a map.

- Titus 1:5: where is Crete?

- Acts: Follow Paul's journeys.

8. Observe where.

- Eph 2:6 "...and made us sit with him in the

heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."

9. Observe when/time element.

▪ Before, after, during, while, then, until, when, etc.

- Eph 1:4 "...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world...",

- Matt 27:63: "After three days I will rise again."

10. Observe verb tenses.

- Eph 2:4-5 "But God...made us alive together with Christ" (Past tense)

- Col 1:24 "Now I rejoice in my sufferings..." (Present tense)

- 2Tim 4:4 "...will turn away from listening to the

truth" (Future tense)

11. Observe contrasts.

▪ Simple contrasts can be identified by the  conjunction "but".

▪ Broader contrasts of ideas, people, events.

- Philemon 14: "...not by compulsion but of your own free will."

- Col 3:5-17 Put to death/Put on.

- Titus 1:5-16 Character of elders/character of

circumcision party.

12. Observe comparisons.

▪ Often comparisons are introduced by

Also look for comparisons of ideas, events, attitudes, etc.

- Phil. 17 "...receive him as you would the words like or as. receive me."

- Ezek 16:48 "your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done."

13. Observe conditional statements.

▪ If... (then...)

- Gal 6:3 "For if any one thinks he is something,when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

14. Observe connectives that reflect reasons, results, and conclusions.

▪ Therefore, yet, however, likewise, so then, nevertheless, so that, because, for, etc.

- Phil 2:8-9 "...and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore

God has highly exalted him..."

- Phil 2:25-26 "I have found it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus..., for he has been longing for you all..."

15. Observe:

▪ Commands

▪ Advice

▪ Promises

▪ Warnings

▪ Predictions

- Phil 2:14: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning..."

- 1Tim 5:23: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."

- John 4:14: "...but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst..."

 - Phil 3:2: "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers..."

- Mark 13:26: "And then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds..."

16. Observe the author’s logic in his argument. (see also "Progression")

- Hebrews: Jesus is superior to prophets, to angels to Moses, etc.

17. Observe progression.

▪ Does author move to a climax?

▪ General to specific?

▪ Question to an answer?

▪ Statement to an illustration?

▪ Teaching to application?

▪ Problem to solution?

- Mark 2:1-3:6 several confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees ending with the climax that they want to kill Jesus.

- 1Cor 12:7-11 "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit" followed by the different gifts.

- Luke 10:29-37 "Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers with parable of the good Samaritan.

- Gal 3:23-4:7 statement "We were confined under the law" followed by several illustrations.

- Eph 1-3 = Teaching,

Eph 4-6 = Application

- 1Cor 5:1-13 Vs 1 gives the problem, rest gives the solution.

18. Observe laws of composition the author uses.  

(see section on "Laws of Composition")

- Mark 11:11-33 Interchange between

Temple/Fig tree

19. Observe beginning and end of passage/book.

- Eph 1-3 Theology passage begins and ends with praise.

20. Observe questions and answers.

- Mark 10:2-9 Pharisees asked Jesus "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" followed by the answer.

- Gal 3:19 "Why then the law?" followed by the answer.

21. Observe illustrations.

▪ Illustrations from Scripture,everyday life situations, personal experiences, etc.

- Gospels: Parables

- Prov 6:6-8: Ants.

22. Observe Old Testament quotes.

- Gal 3:6 "Thus Abraham 'believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'."

23. Observe Figures of Speech.

(See section on "Figures of Speech")

- Matt 23:27: "You are like whitewashed tombs" = Simile

24. Observe summary statements the author makes.

(not writing your own summary statements)

- Num 1:45: "So, the whole number of the people of Israel...was 603,550"

25. Observe emphatic statements.

▪ Truly, behold, indeed, I tell you, I Paul, verily, etc.

- Mark 12:43 "Truly, I say to you..."

26. Observe lists.

▪ A list has 3 or more elements

- Gal 5:22-23 "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol."

27. Observe atmosphere, moods, and emotions

▪ Gentle, joyful, angry, rebuking, etc.

- Gal 3:1 "O foolish Galatians!"

28. List things you do not understand.

- Col. 2:18: self-abasement.

- 2 Thess 2:2: man of lawlessness.


In completing your assignments you will automatically do the following observations:

▪ Paragraph Titles (reflect main idea of the paragraph)

▪ Paragraph Points (main points of the paragraph)

▪ Main Idea of the whole book

▪ Types of Literature found in the book (see section “Types of Literature”)

▪ Structure and Composition (used for Horizontal)


Example Questions for Examining


How often repeated?

In what context is it used?

What is said about it?


What is said about the theme?

What are the different aspects?

(E.g. "Suffering" Who is suffering? When are/will they suffer? How? What kind of suffering? Reason for suffering? Result of suffering?)


Does the author define it?

4. WHO

What is said about the person/people group in the text?


To whom does the pronoun refer?

Is a certain pronoun repeated often?

Is there a change of pronouns?

Does the author include himself?


What events are taking place?

What is the order of events?


What is said about it in the text?


What is said about it in the text?


Is it past, present, future?

Does it show an order of events?


When do certain events take place? (Past, present, future?)


What/who is contrasted?

Is the contrast throughout the paragraph/section/book?


What/who is compared?

Is the comparison throughout the paragraph/section/book?


What is the condition?

What is the result?


What is being connected?

What does the connective refer back to?

Does it show a reason?

Does it show a result?

Does it show a conclusion?


Who is giving the command, advice etc.?

Who is it directed to?


How does the author show his train of thought?

What laws of compositions does he use?


Does the author move to a climax?

General to Specific?

Question to answer?

Statement to illustration?

Teaching to application?

Problem to solution?


What law of composition is used?


Are they addressing the same subject?

Are there repeated phrases or ideas?


Who is asking the question?

Who is answering?


What is illustrated?

Is it from everyday life/personal experience?

Is it a quote from Scripture?

Is it a quote from other sources?

22. O.T. QUOTE

How does the author use the quote?

To support his argument? As illustration?


What F.O.S. is used? (see “Figures of Speech)

How does the author use it?

What is the mood that goes along with it?


What is author summarizing?


What is the author emphatic about?

26. LIST

What is the list about?

Are there categories within the list?

Is the list complete/exhaustive?

What is missing in the list?


What atmosphere words are used?

Is there a change of atmosphere?


What does the text say about it?

Figures of Speech

A Figure of Speech is a literary mode of expression in which words are used out of their literal sense to suggest a picture or image.

SIMILE - A direct comparison of two things that are essentially different. Characterized by use of: like, as, and Example: James 1:10-11, S.o.S. 2:2-3, Matt. 23:27

METAPHOR - An indirect comparison of two things. Asserts that one thing is another. Substitution of the name of one thing for another. Like a simile but the connectives of like, as and so are left out. Example: Gal. 2:9 - "pillars", Prov. 23:27, Matt. 3:7 - "you brood of vipers"

ALLEGORY - An extended metaphor that has the form of a story. Example: Literature - Pilgrim's Progress, Screwtape Letters. Scripture –Gal. 4:21-31

ANALOGY - A rather full comparison showing several points of similarity between unlike things. Example: John 15:1-9 - "vine and branches"

IRONY - Implies something different, even the opposite of what is stated. Used for the effect of humor or sarcasm. Example: I Cor. 4:8 and 6:5

PERSONIFICATION - The attribution of life or human qualities to inanimate objects. Example: Prov. 9:1-3, Prov. 8, Gal. 3:8

APOSTROPHE - Addressing or speaking to things, abstract ideas or imaginary objects. Example: I Cor. 15:55 - "0 death, where is

thy sting?"

HYPERBOLE - Exaggeration, not with the intent to deceive but to emphasize and intensify an impression. Example: Gal. 4:15 - "You would have

plucked out your eyes and given them to me." Mark 9:43 - "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off..."

RHETORICAL QUESTIONS - These are questions posed for which the author doesn't expect an answer. Example: I Cor. 1:13 - "Is Christ divided?

Was Paul crucified for you?" Matt. 7:16 - "Are grapes gathered from thorns?"

LITOTES - The use of understatement. It is the opposite of hyperbole and is often used as irony. Example: Acts 15:2 - "no small discussion"

METONOMY - The substitution of one term for another. Example: Rom. 3:30 - "Circumcision" for

"Jews", Gal. 3:19 - "Seed" for "Jesus"

SYNECDOCHE - Part of something is mentioned but the whole is meant. Example: Gal. 1:16 - "Didn't confer with flesh and blood", James 4:8b

EUPHEMISM - The substitution of a mild, indirect or vague expression for a harsh, blunt one. Euphemisms are used to indirectly discuss such topics as bodily functions, anatomy or unpleasant topics. Example: Gen. 4:1, Is. 7:20, Deut.28:56,57.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM - The practice of describing God in human terms as if he has hands, feet, a face, etc. Example: Ex. 24:10, John 10:29, Matt.18:10.

TYPES - A type prefigures something or someone to come. A prefiguring symbol such as an Old Testament event prefiguring an event in the New Testament: the Passover foreshadows Christ's sacrificial death (I Cor. 5:7). It is best to have the type explicitly mentioned in the New Testament. Example: Romans 5:14,1 Cor. 15:45, John 3:14,15.

SYMBOLS - Something that stands for another meaning in addition to its ordinary meaning. It is usually a visual image that represents an invisible concept. In interpreting symbols one is not free to impose his own interpretation but he must discover the author's intention by taking into consideration the culture, principles of interpretation, the overall message of the book and in many cases the author's own specific definition. Example: Rev. 1:12,20.