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13 February 2021 | Dele Oke

How to study the Bible with SOAP

open bible with glasses on top

SOAP is an acronym that stands for

S – Scripture
O – Observation
A – Application
P – Prayer

SOAP has been around and used to study the Bible (also known as scripture) for many years. It provides a structured and balanced approach to studying the scripture.

Let us take a closer look at how we can use SOAP in our day to day Bible study.

S – Scripture

Scripture is the main foundation. Select the passage or verses that you want to study.

For practical purposes take complete set of verses to make a complete unit or thought – otherwise known as a pericope.

For example, Luke 24:13-35 gives us the account of two of Jesus followers walking to Emmaus shortly after Jesus death.

Although this is part of a larger story, it is still a complete episode. A set of verses that provide a coherent account of something that happened.

In many of our Bibles it would appear as a paragraph. A paragraph is a coherent set of thoughts. In this case it is a complete account of an incident of what happened.

If you wanted to study the whole chapter 24, you would be dealing with several pericopes.

Note: select a pericope, a selection of verses from the scripture that form a coherent unit or thought. An example of this is Luke 24:13-35.

O - Observation

The next step is observation.

Here is where you start by reading through the whole scripture with an open mind. Let the word speak to you.

Note what type of literary form (genre) you are dealing with.

In the case of Luke 24 it is a historical narrative. An account of what happened during the time Jesus walked on this earth.

It is a different literary form from what you get in Proverbs 24. This is written in poetic form and is full of wise sayings. In Proverbs two verses could form their own pericope.

When reading a narrative play close attention to historical context – what was the occasion? What was happening? Who were the main people in the story?

Furthermore, read the account in its literary context. In Luke 24 two men were walking to a village called Emmaus. This is to be understood literally – exactly as it is stated.

Whereas in Proverbs 24:16 it reads ‘for the righteous falls seven times and rises again’. This poetic language simply means ‘many times’ and each time he gets back up. It is not saying accept defeat after seven falls.

Observations can be common sense. Having basic things pointed out to us helps a lot.

The following will help you in observing the scripture

  1. Read the verses – let the Bible speak to you
  2. Note the genre (Luke 24:13 & Matthew 18:22)
  3. Note the people involved
  4. Observe what is happening
  5. What are the natural highlights?
  6. What jumps out at you
  7. Note the historical context

NOTE: Read the scripture carefully and attentively with the aim of understanding clearly what is being said.

Continue with Application and Prayer


keywords: SOAP, Bible study, scripture, observation, application, prayer