Welcome to the Book Survey Method: (Peter Rhebergen):
This Bible study method, accompanied by resources, will allow you to do a Bible study in your
own way. It is an example of some of the most effective Bible study methods found and discussed
more fully in the following book, which is unfortunately now out of print:
Warren, Richard, with William A. Shell, 12 Dynamic Bible Study Methods,
Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1987.
All the material that follows has been taken exclusively from this book and summarized for
this course. I had the privilege of studying this material under William (Bill) Shell in a class
on Biblical Interpretation at Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1988 – 1989
and found both him and his teaching very beneficial as his heart was dedicated to the equipping
of the saints. If there is any copyright infringement I am solely to blame and plead the excuse
that this material is simply too valuable not to share with others.
In each method described here, a basic outline of the method will be given and some useful
tools for this method will be listed. The studies begin with the basic method types and progress
toward studies that are more in depth and require greater allocations of time but which will also
yield greater results. Each method of Bible study presented here is accompanied by a chart, which
has been reproduced from the above book.
-- Peter Rhebergen
The Book Survey Method of Bible study is the first of three methods of Bible study that,
together, will give you an extremely comprehensive view of each book of the Bible. These three
methods will require the greatest effort on your part but will ultimately yield the best results.
Each of the three emphasizes a different aspect of one overall process of study:
Survey (Method 9 - Book Survey Method)
- obtain a detailed overview of a particular book of the Bible.
Analysis (Method 10 - Chapter Analysis Method)
- study each chapter of the book in great detail.
Synthesis (Method 11 - Book Synthesis Method)
- take what you learned in the previous two study stages and put it all back together, drawing
conclusions as you go and gaining an appreciation of the whole of the book.
The basic goal of the Book Survey Method of Bible study is to gain a detailed understanding
as to why the book was written, its context, its theme, its structure, and its content.
9.1 - Tools
9.1.1 - Bible and several additional modern translations
9.1.2 - Bible dictionary and / or Bible encyclopedia
9.1.3 - Bible handbook, such as Unger's or Halley's
9.1.4 - Old and New Testament surveys
9.1.5 - Cultural contextualization tools
9.2 - Hints
9.2.1 - If you have already done a Book Background Bible study on the book
you may wish to refer to it for background information useful to you in this study.
9.3 - Steps
Step 1 - Read the book following the suggestions below:
188.8.131.52 - Read through the book in one sitting. After Psalms, Isaiah is
the Bible's largest book and the average reader can read through it in a few hours. Reading
the book in this manner gives you a good overview of its contents. For the larger books you
may wish to divide it into two more manageable sections, which you can then read with a break
184.108.40.206 - Read through the book in a recent translation so that the language
usage is current and will not distract from the contents of the book.
220.127.116.11 - Read through the book as though the verse and chapter divisions
are non-existent so as to get the flow of the book and the relationship of its ideas to one
18.104.22.168 - Read through the book several times, you will be surprised at
what you notice in a second or third reading that you missed originally.
22.214.171.124 - Read through the book without referring to any external notes
of any kind, it is important to concentrate upon the text of the book itself without using
any interpretive device.
126.96.36.199 - Read through the book with prayer, asking God to speak to you
through this study and open your eyes to the lesson(s) the author wants you to learn.
188.8.131.52 - Read through the book with pen or pencil in hand and begin to
take notes and make observations on what you are reading on the second or third time through.
Step 2 - Make notes on what you read, this step actually begins toward
the end of step one. Write down your impressions of the book and important details that you
discover. Use the following list to guide you:
184.108.40.206 - Is the book written in one of the following genres: historic,
poetic, prophetic, law, biographic, correspondence, narrative, etc.?
220.127.116.11 - Note your first impressions as you read the book. What do you
think was the purpose of the author?
18.104.22.168 - What words does the author use frequently? What words does the
author consider important or significant?
22.214.171.124 - Is there a key verse to the book or a key statement?
126.96.36.199 - What is the literary style of the author? How does the style
of writing relate to the message of the book?
188.8.131.52 - Does the author reveal his emotions? How would the readers have
responded to this emotion? How do you respond to this emotion?
184.108.40.206 - Make note of what you believe to be the main theme(s) of the
book. Is there a major thrust to the book?
220.127.116.11 - How is the book structured? Remember that our chapters and
verses (and often our paragraphs) were all added centuries after the original authors
completed their work. Around what aspects of reality (people, geography, events, time, etc.)
is the book centered?
18.104.22.168 - How do people fit into the book? Are there central characters
and if so what part(s) do they play in the book?
Step 3 - Do a background study of the book. In this step you will
essentially be following the outline given in the
Book Background Method of Bible study.
Step 4 - Make a horizontal chart of the book's contents. A horizontal
chart is a pictorial representation of the book on one or two sheets of paper and which
allows you to visually grasp the general details of the book. Follow these steps to make
a horizontal chart:
22.214.171.124 - On a single sheet of paper, or at the most two, make as many
vertical columns as there are chapters in the book you are studying.
126.96.36.199 - Re-read the book and note the major divisions, usually similar
to the chapter divisions though not always, and make headings relating to these divisions
in as few words as possible.
188.8.131.52 - Read through the book again, yes this will be the fifth time
you read the book, and think of a short title for each chapter and record them just below
the divisions of the previous step, above each of the columns. Some characteristics of
good titles are that they are:
- short, usually one to four words.
- picturesque, helping you visualize the chapter contents.
- from the text if possible.
- unique and not used as chapter titles of earlier studies.
- able to show where in the book the chapter falls.
184.108.40.206 - Read through the book again and create a series of titles for
Step 5 - Make a preliminary outline of the book from all that you have
done before. You are concentrating on the major points of the book as later you will be
using the Book Synthesis Method in which you
will make a detailed outline of the book. Some helpful points:
220.127.116.11 - Make an preliminary outline of the book, concentrating on the
18.104.22.168 - Have your outline organized in sequence of descending
importance. List major points first followed by the minor points.
22.214.171.124 - Use paragraphs will help with the outline as they are generally
grouped around major ideas.
126.96.36.199 - Compare your outline to those done by others to see where they
differ and where they are similar.
Step 6 - Write out a personal application and remember to return
periodically to this step so that you can evaluate your progress.
Chart for the Book Survey Method of Bible study
Number of Chapters:
Number of Times Read:
2. Notes on the Book:
Reference Works Used:
3. Book Background:
4. Horizontal Chart (use blank sheet of paper and attach):
5. Preliminary Outline:
6: Application / Evaluation:
Peter Rhebergen, was raised in a Christian home and currently
attends Westney Heights Baptist Church with his family. He is a volunteer in several of its
ministries and has served as assistant pastor, youth leader, adult Sunday School teacher and as
pulpit supply at various churches and Bible Camps in Southern Ontario. He has been married since
1989 and together with his wife has three wonderful children who have introduced them to horses,
hermit crabs and numerous other creatures they would not otherwise have met. He is an avid
photographer and poet and has held a life-long interest in astronomy thanks to Psalm 19 and an
uncle. You can visit's Peters website at
This material can be freely used by anyone desiring to bring honour to our God - Peter Rhebergen