Session 2


Bible study consists of three main parts: observation, interpretation, and application.

Observation: Answers the question What does the passage say? Good and thorough observation is the foundation for accurate interpretation and proper application of the text.

Interpretation: Answers the question What does the passage mean? The author had an intended meaning and we want to discover that meaning through careful observation.

Application: Answers the question How should I respond to the passage?  The goal of Bible study is not just knowledge but a transformed life and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Observing the details

  1. Read the text using the reading strategies we discussed last week.  Read prayerfully, repeatedly, patiently, purposefully, and expectantly.
  2. Remember the context. Keep the overall message of the book in mind as you observe the passage.  Ask- How does this verse or passage fit into the overall theme of the book?
  3. Interact with the text– ask questions, circle key words, draw pictures, etc.  It is helpful to have a copy of the text that you can mark up.  
    1. Ask the 5 W’s and H- Who, what, when, where, why, and how? Some examples of the kind of questions you can ask are-
      • Who is this about? To whom is this being said? Who are the people mentioned?
      • What are the main events, ideas, or teachings? What does the author talk about the most?
      • When was this written? When did this take place? 
      • Where was this done or said? Where will this happen?
      • Why was this mentioned? Why does the author emphasize this?
      • How is it done? How did the author communicate this?

Write the 5 W’s and H in a column on piece of paper and then write out the answers you see in the text.  Answer the questions with the exact words from the text. 

    1. Mark up the text- Circle or highlight key words and ideas.  Put a question mark above things you don’t understand.  Draw arrows to related ideas.  Note important truths by underlining or starring.  Number items in a list. 
    2. Compile your observations from the text into lists, charts, diagrams, or pictures.   For example, if you noted a key word in the text, make a list of everything you see about that word.  For the book of Colossians, it would be beneficial to keep a list of everything you learn about Christ.  Or you could make a chart listing who He is, what he has done, and what we have in Him. 
    3. Evaluate the grammar- Look for and evaluate –
      • Transition words- Words and phrases like “therefore”, “likewise”, “but” “in the same way”, “for this reason”, “however”, and “if/then” statements, are key transition terms.  When you see them, look back to see what thought or thoughts are being connected. You also might want to circle the word and draw an arrow back to the connecting thought.
      • Sentence structure- look for the subject, verb, modifying phrases, etc.  Dissect longer sentences and examine them phrase by phrase.
    1. Summarize the main point of each paragraph and write it in the margin.   Again, it is helpful to use words from the text.

Helpful practices for interpreting Scripture

  1. Remember context- Context always rules in interpretation. We want to understand the author’s intended meaning.  Ask yourself-
      • Is my interpretation consistent with the theme and purpose of the book in which it is found?
      • Is my interpretation consistent with other passages in the Bible about the same subject?
      • Am I considering the historical and cultural context of what is being said?
  1. Read other translations – A helpful resource for reading a verse in different versions is
  2. Define words-Use a dictionary or a Bible dictionary to look up the meaning of words you don’t know and key words in the text.  
  3. Look at cross-references- Cross-references are the verses noted in the margins of your Bible which point you to other passages in the Bible with related content. Different bibles use different cross-referencing systems.  But, in general, the bold number indicates the verse to which the entry applies, and the lowercase letters refer back to a phrase or word in that verse marked with the same letter.  
  4. Pray and meditate- We can wrestle with the meaning of the text as we pray and seek understanding from Him.
  5. Review reliable commentaries- Commentaries are books, written by scholars, that explain the meaning of passages of Scripture.  Consult the resource list for help in finding a commentary.


Day One: Study Colossians 1:1-8

Suggested tools:

  • Observation- 5w’s and H.
  • Interpretation- Use a commentary to learn more about Colossae and how the gospel came to that city.

Day Two: Study Colossians 1:9-14

Suggested tools:

  • Observation: Examine the sentence structure of Paul’s prayer.
  • Interpretation: Evaluate how Paul’s prayer relates to the purpose and theme of the book.

Day Three: Study Colossians 1:15-20

Suggested tools:

  • Observation: Compile what you learn about Jesus into a list or chart.
  • Interpretation: Look up the cross-references for the verses or phrases that need more clarity or the ones you want to learn more about.

Day Four: Study Colossians 1:21-23

Suggested tools:

  • Observation: Mark up the text- for example, use different symbols or colors to mark the words and phrases that describe us before Christ versus after being reconciled, circle transition terms, etc.
  • Interpretation: Define words such as holy, blameless, stable, and steadfast.

Day Five: Study Colossians 1:24-29

Suggested tools:

  • Observation: Summarize the main point of the paragraph.
  • Interpretation: Read this paragraph in another bible translation and note any thing that gives you a greater understanding of the passage.

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