Bible Study 101 part 2 – Observation, what does it say?

Bible Study 101 part 2 – Observation, what does it say?

In this second part to our introductory bible study series we are going to look at the first step in the inductive bible study process, observation. One of the first mistakes bible students make when trying to engage in personal bible study is moving too fast in anticipation of discovery. What I mean by that is, we tend to quickly read through the text looking for something familiar or hoping that something will pop out at us that we will understand or need. The truth is, we have it already engrained in our heads that the text is too hard to understand. The act of slowing down and carefully dissecting the text doesn’t even cross our minds when we approach the Word with this attitude. We will see however, that if we take our time and prayerfully ask the right questions, the riches of God’s word will become available to us. We just have to first and foremost be right with God through Christ, then we have to slow down, read carefully, ask the right questions.

5 Ws and an H

The key to getting all we can out of the scriptures is to ask the right questions. The 5Ws and an H format is the best way to get to the bottom of things and really root out the truths of any passage, Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. If we ask these questions as we study a passage we will uncover a storehouse of information not available to us before. For this study we will use a passage we all know and love, John 3:16. We will see just how much information we can get out of this passage. At the same time we will start to use some of the bible study symbols in the print out below and mark up our bible a bit (note: if you don’t like the idea of writing in your bible you can go to  and print out the section of scripture you are studying to mark on). Remember, the purpose of marking in our bible is engaging with the text. We tend to pay much more attention when we engage with the Word in this way and we get to see the product of our study time.

A Bit on Marking

Let me take a minute and talk about bible marking. I personally enjoy the art of bible marking. I like to open my bible and see where I have underlined favorite passages and written notes where the Spirit has shown me answers to questions I’ve had about different passages. However, it has to do a  there is a point where you can mark too much and your bible becomes cluttered. It can add much value to your bible but it can also turn you off to it if its too cluttered. The point is, the marking suggestions are just that, suggestions. You have to determine what you will and will not mark for yourself based on your own personal preference.

Asking the right Questions

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16. The first question we will ask the passage is the who.

Who wrote the passage? John the Apostle

Who is the passage for? All of the World, whosoever will believe 

Who is the passage about? God and his Son Jesus Christ.


If we ask all the who questions that apply we will not leave anything untouched. You should always have a bible study notebook or journal with you to take down all this information. Then you will have a reference you can always come back to during later studies or when you need clarity. We continue to ask all the who questions we can think of that apply to the passage and then proceed to the next set of questions, what.

What is the key word(s) in the passage? only begotten son, so loved the world, whosoever

What is the main theme of the passage? Gods love for the world 

What is the main subject? etc. Christ

After answering all the questions that are relevant to the what of the passage we then continue through the rest of the questions until we have answered all the questions we can that are relevant to the passage. Once we have completed all the observation questions, we can use this information to interpret the passage which is what we will focus on in the next segment of this series. Remember, observation answers the question “what does the passage say?” Once we know what it says, then we can determine what it means. Happy Studying!