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Observation 5
Posted on August 27, 2010

You may remember that I have said that observation is key to Bible study; really it is key to life. You may have read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes. One of the remarkable things about Holmes is the ability he cultivated of observing all of the detail around him. He used those observations to unravel the problems he was presented. While Doyle characterized Holmes’ method as deduction, it was based on inductive reasoning. Holmes remarked to Watson, "You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles." (Sherlock Holmes, in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery.") With Holmes, the accumulation of the “trifles,” led to the clear understanding of the presenting problem. That is what we are striving for in observation.


So how does one move from the collection of the “trifles” to the unraveling of the problem, in our case the core content of a passage? The answer is twofold. First in understanding what the “trifles” are revealing about the problem, and second asking the right questions about what is being revealed.


First, we have talked about structure before; structure reveals some literary laws that are in play in a passage. As we stated in an earlier post, contrast is one of those laws. In contrast the author contrasts one thought with another. We need to ask why? What does the contrast add to the argument of the author? What are the differences between the elements contrasted? Why are these differences important? What are the implications? You may not have answers to the questions as you work through them but what I have found, is that by asking them, I am led to further observation.


These questions and literary laws are covered in detail in Robert Traina’s book, Methodical Bible Study. It is a really great resource; however it takes strong effort of will to read. I had the opportunity to spend a week with Traina when he was at Asbury. I have modified some of his handouts and use them to help others to more effectively use observation. Click here for a list and description of the main literary laws. Click here for questions based on the main literary laws. Using these will slow you way down in your Bible study; however, the discipline will increase by several orders of magnitude the quality of your observations.


PS. One of the things that we really covet is your prayer for this ministry. We send out on Mondays a weekly intercession request. If you would commit to pray for us please click here to join our intercession team.


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