Believers who study the Bible will find that they are better equipped to live the Christian life according to God’s expectations. With so many ways to study, there is no reason for any Christian not to be a student of the word. Learning what the Bible has to say will keep believers ready to respond to criticism, follow right paths, and “stay instant in season and out of season,” as Paul admonishes Christians to do.
The chapter analysis method of study goes hand in hand with two other methods – the book survey method (which usually is done before it) and the book synthesis method (which is usually done after this one). The chapter analysis study involves going into greater detail with each chapter.
There are several tools that students need. Of course, one needs a Bible – preferably a study Bible – in the translation of your choice. Some may prefer to use a variety of translations for comparison. A Bible dictionary and a Bible encyclopedia will give insight into meanings and backgrounds. A Bible handbook may provide further assistance in finding meaning and usage in culture. Old Testament and New Testament survey books can be helpful as comparison, but it is recommended to wait until you have finished your own survey before consulting them. A notebook or binder and paper, along with something to write with, will help to keep track of what you are learning.
Start by summarizing the chapter. After having read the chapter several times and taking notes, including general thoughts, use one or more of the following ways to summarize the chapter:
- Rewrite the chapter in your own words, as if you were writing it to make it easy for someone else to understand.
- Make a comprehensive outline of the chapter, including everything possible.
- Rewrite with only the basic information: subjects, verbs, objects. Leave out anything that modifies, distilling the chapter to just the simplest form.
Once this has been completed, re-examine notes taken and go back through the chapter with a closer look at sentences and words. If you need assistance with what to consider, try using the OICA method, briefly summarized below.
- Observation – what the words and sentences are saying.
- Interpretation – what is meant by what the verses say.
- Correlation – how it relates to similar concepts in other Scriptures.
- Application – how to apply the concepts in personal life.
Some of the things to consider in the observation step of the above list include:
- Who, what, when, where, why, and how – formulate questions and write the answers about the passage.
- Most passages have words that can be considered keywords; find these.
- Look for questions, answers, commands, warnings, comparisons, contrasts, and illustrations that occur in the text.
- Notice cause and effect situations.
- Find promises, conditions, and rewards for fulfillment.
- Note lists, advice, and explanations.
- Consider the tone of the context.
- Find quotes from the Old Testament when reading the New Testament.
- Consider the literary forms used.
- Find apparent paradoxes or contradictions.
- Look for exaggeration and hyperbole used for emphasis or example.
- Consider the forms of the verbs and their connotations of force or the lack thereof.
- Look for references to what would have been current events.
Create detailed questions about the chapter. Write down each question that comes to mind and write the answer if it is already apparent. Leave the answer section blank if the answer is not already known, to be filled in later. Note any difficulties that may have arisen in your mind during the study for future research, as well. Here are some things to consider during this portion of the study:
1. Pay attention to the context, referring back to the book survey study, if you did it previously.
2. Define the words and, where possible, the phrases, to be sure you understand the correct meaning of the passage’s structure.
3. Consider diagramming the sentences for a clearer picture of the structure and grammar used.
4. Compare translations when possible, for clarification and better understanding.
5. Consider the background of the passage, including the events that were happening at the time, the culture in which it was written, the geographical location of the author and the audience, the economic situation of the author, audience, and country, and such. This is where a Bible encyclopedia would be handy.
6. Examine other passages that refer to the same concepts. This would be a preliminary, cursory comparison, as the next step will cover this.
7. If it has been difficult finding information, check with a commentary to see what has been determined by a previous scholar.
Find supporting or parallel passages in the Bible. Cross-references, which are found in many study Bibles, will aid in determining which other passages apply. If you did number six in the list above, you will have some of these passages available for further study already.
Determine applications. It is possible that not everything found in this study will apply directly to daily life, but there are likely to be several things that can be written in your notebook that can apply to you.
Write a conclusion section, drawing conclusions from the study above. While formulating these conclusions, additional information may come to attention, and this should be noted.
Choose a practical, applicable one of the applications you have written to work on in your own life. Mark it so that evaluation of your progress is possible over the following weeks.
This type of study can allow believers to work through an entire book, one chapter at a time. This is why it is an excellent follow-up to a book survey study. Following it with a book synthesis study will delve deeper into what you have discovered through the chapter analysis method of Bible Study.