Bible Study #3: How to Study a Chapter

In the last article, we considered a simple and effective method for studying a whole book of the bible. The goal was to gain an understanding of the overall message and purpose of the book, the big picture. But if we want a deeper understanding of the book, we should turn to chapter studies and single-verse studies on verses of significance, or verses we are having a difficult time understanding. We will deal with verse studies next time, but first, we should know at least one effective method for studying a chapter and its paragraphs. Below is one such method.

  1. Divisions and Summaries: Divide the chapter into smaller sections and record the divisions in your notes. Divisions within chapters are usually easy to identify for they are often in line with the paragraphs within the chapter; new paragraphs usually suggest a change in subjects or a new branch of the same subject. Many bibles already have sub-headings that divide the chapter up, which can be helpful for us, especially starting out, but these sub-headings are not perfect and may be ill-placed in your estimation; that’s okay, you do your own study. Record the chapter divisions that you see and summarize what is being discussed in each section with just a sentence or two. I’ll exemplify this later. Also, record any keywords in each section. A keyword can either be a word that is used multiple times within the section or a word that emphasizes the message of the section.
  2. Analysis: An analysis of each section of the chapter is where we dig deeper and ask the necessary questions to fully expose the text to our understanding. Even the simplest and most elementary questions should be asked out of each section, this will keep us from making mistakes in our understanding of the text. The best approach, one that effectively works for any text of the bible is to use the Five W’s. When reading a section of scripture, ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions may seem elementary, but these are the very questions skillfully used by researchers, investigators, and journalists today; and they have been the standard of information gathering and problem-solving since the days of ancient Greece, if not longer. This method is a great way to teach ourselves to gather all the facts found in the text. People often read a passage of scriptures and then begin to conjecture with their opinions; such are not good bible students, they do not know how to study the bible. Asking the Five W’s will force us into seeking all the facts, which will leave little room for speculation. Note that there may be multiple who, what, why, etc. questions, as seen in the examples below. The first example is Hebrews, the first chapter. These examples are for you to see how these methods are put to use, reading over them will not necessarily give you a better grasp of the texts unless you practice these methods on your own.

Hebrews, Chapter One

  • Section One: Verses 1-4.
    • Summary: God has now spoken to us through His Son.
      • Keywords: Spoken, Son.
    • Who? God
    • What? Has Spoken
    • When? “In these last days”
    • How? By His Son
    • Who? His Son
    • Why? He is the heir of all things, creator of the worlds, the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of God’s person, the upholder of all things, the purger of sins, the one sitting at the right hand of God.
    • Where? N/A
  • Section Two: Verses 5-14.
    • Summary: God has now spoken through His Son, who has brought a better word to us than God’s previous messengers.
      • Keywords: Angels
    • Who? Jesus
    • What? Is better than
    • Who? The angels
    • Why? He is the Son, not a messenger; He is worshiped, not the worshiper; He is on the throne, not ministering to the one on the throne.



1st Timothy, Chapter One

  • Section One: Verses 1-11.
    • Summary: Paul reminds Timothy of his purpose in Ephesus, to stop false teachers and maintain the truth in the church.
      • Keywords: doctrine, commandment, love, law.
    • Who? Paul
    • What? Urged Timothy to charge some in the church in Ephesus to not teach a different doctrine or practice.
    • Why? Some in the church have swerved from the truth and have wandered into empty discussions.
  • Section Two: Verses 8-11
    • Summary: Paul summarized the purpose of God’s truths.
    • What? God’s law is good if interpreted and taught according to God’s own design for it.
    • Who? Any person who uses the law lawfully will understand and recognize…
    • What? That the law is not made for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient.
  • Section Three: Verses 12-20.
    • Summary: Paul illustrates the greatest truth of the gospel, that Jesus came to save sinners, using his own experience.
      • Keywords: repeated use of “Jesus Christ”
    • Who? Paul
    • What? Was once an insolent opponent of the truth.
    • What? But Paul received mercy from the Lord.
    • Why? That he would be a foremost example of Jesus’ perfect patience to…
    • Who? Those presently ungodly but who would come to believe in the Lord, too.

As you can see from the last example, there will not always be all Five W’s or a How, that’s no problem, but when we read over a text, we will always ask all the Five W’s and How, and quickly dismiss any of those questions that do not apply. What this method of study accomplishes more than anything is the way it forces us to catch every detail of the text. The interrogative questions, the Five W’s, effectively separate all the facts, all the truths of the scriptures and reveals the whole truth of the text that we can often miss when only reading through a chapter.

Article by Tanner Campbell