The Art of Observation
"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear." Sherlock Holmes -A Scandal in Bohemia
Famous sleuths such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot use their skills of observation to crack their impossible detective cases. Though these characters are fictional, they can teach us that a proper interpretation of scripture requires training the mind to make keen observations.
Incorrect interpretations begin with faulty assumptions. One of the obstacles all responsible readers of the Bible face is the wall of assumptions we bring to the text. We assume we know the whole story, we assume we understand the author's original intent, we assume it fits into our denominational doctrine perfectly, and we assume one read through is good enough.
The first step to helping your students become keen observers is to reveal to them their need to work on their observation skills. Below are a few suggestions for revealing how easy it is to overlook the obvious.
2- Bring in an item that is easily overlooked but with lots of detail. For example, a plant is simple but when observed closely the eye notices features that were not seen before the exercise. Have the item in front of the student and have them list 20-50 different observations. Then have students work in small groups and create a list of all their observations, eliminating any duplicates.
Compile a list of all the observations from the class, this will help the students realize how easy it is to miss details.
3-Pick a Psalm or a paragraph from a passage of scripture. Have the students write down 20-50 different observations that help them understand the text better. Once again have them work in groups, compile a list, and have them share it with the rest of the class.
4- Pick a short book of the Bible such as Jonah. Have them each take out a sheet of paper and have them list everything they know about the book. Then have them each read through one chapter at a time listing 20-50 observations per chapter. They can then get into groups to share their observations and write out a master list. Have a person from each group share the list with the class.
Through these activities your students will see that it is easy to become unaware of important details in the Bible. They will notice the assumptions they bring to the text and how to seek truth by becoming more observant.