Observation in Detail:
In the process of observation, you need to look for four things.
A term is more than just a word. It is a key word that is crucial to what an author has to say. For instance, in the gospel by John, the word believe appear no less than seventy-nine times, always as a verb and never as a noun. Do some investigation, and you will discover that John uses believe very purposefully. It is a term that unlocks his meaning. In fact, the book would be altogether different without it. Therefore, terms are basic building blocks with which one construct meaning.
Bible is a collection of masterful writings that has come together in an amazing way. There is a coherence that brings it all together. A careful observer will see two basic kinds of structure in the Bible. These are the grammatical structure and the literary structure. As hard as it is to come to terms with the study of grammar, one cannot do meaningful Bible study without it. The more you know about grammar, the more you will get out of the Bible. Know the subject of the sentence, the object, the main verb and the modifiers. The quality and color of your study will take interesting and exciting turns. The literary structure deals with the style of writing. There are questions and answers. There is climax and resolution. There is cause and effect. Knowing this enhances your keenness in interpretation.
We all have a tendency to treat the genre (style) in a monotonous way. We treat all the books the same. However, there is vast difference between the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms and the tightly argued epistles of Paul; between the grand sweeping narratives of Genesis and Exodus, and the simple, poignant stories of the parables. There is allegory and love poetry, satire and apocalyptic, comedy and tragedy, and much more. The Holy Spirit used these forms to communicate His message.
Reading for atmosphere involves picking up and setting feelings from the biblical text. What was it like to be in the authorís shoes? For instance, Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." (Phil 4:4). Sounds good. But where was he? In a five star hotel? Not exactly. He was in a foul smelling Roman prison, cold and damp without much light. Life ought to have looked much different from behind bars. Yet, that is not what we see in his statement.
You want to transport your senses into the passage. If there is a sunset, see it. If there is an odor, smell it. If there is a cry of anguish, feel it. When you study the epistle to Ephesians, join the Ephesian church and listen to Paul as he goes down on his knees to pray (Eph. 3:14-21). This is an exercise for the imagination, not just the intellect. Therefore, it does not take professional training to recapture the atmosphere of a passage of Scripture.
Questions for review