Wednesday, July 28, 2021

IBS-7 Investigative Reporter: the five "w"s and an "h"


The Big Idea: Asking investigative questions leads to a better understanding of the Bible.

Five "W"s and an "H"

Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? 

These interrogative questions are timeless. Aristotle the first one on record to teach them. Journalists have used this to write news stories. Doctors have used it to narrow down diagnosis. Pastors have used it as a preaching tool. Here's a poem penned by author Rudyard Kipling in 1902 (The Elephant's Child).

0I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

As a scripture spy, I carefully investigate the Word of God and write down my findings. First I pray over the text, then I launch my investigation. I examine the context, the words, and obvious things. I ask myself these six questions and write down my observations. It is an excellent place to begin!

Not every question will apply to all Bible passages. But these questions are a good framework for a starting point for serious and simple investigation.

Who?    Who are the people, or groups of people, mentioned? Who is the author? Who is the author speaking to? Who seems to be the main character? Are families or couples involved? Write the facts. Begin with just the facts.

What?   What is going on in the passage? What is the event? What is the subject? Is it a drama or a discourse? Are there instructions or is it historical? Is there action/movement?

When?    Are there any words that describe time of day, season, festival? Are there words that show movement of time, such as "a little while later"? Does it talk about the past or the future?

Where?  What is the location? Is it a town or in the country? Is it another foreign country? Does it refer to the land or mountains? The temple? A cave in the desert? Was it on a hill, on the lake, or by a well? These markers give perspective.

Why?    Is the why included? Is there an explanation? A reason for a command or a sinful action? Is there a natural lesson why consequences followed sin? Why does it suggest prayer?

How?     The one "H" in the bunch. Is there an illustration? Are there instructions? How did Jesus heal? How did the disciples feel? How did the father of the prodigal son greet him? Sometimes the how is by adjectives and adverbs.

Sergeant Joe Friday, detective on the fictional TV series, Dragnet, gathered facts in a calm no-nonsense manner. "We're just looking for just the facts," he'd explain.

Find out all that you can about God's Word. Don't make it say what you want it, or hope it, to say. We're looking for just the facts! 

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21



This is seventh in a series called Practical Starter Guide for Inductive Bible Study.

Up next: Mark Up Your Bibles
Previous Post: The Power of Observation
Table of Contents 


1. Have you learned about the five investigative questions before? In what context? How might you compare it to looking at the Bible?

2. Does this appear to be a useful tool for you in studying the Bible? Why or why not?

3. Try this passage from Acts as an example. Acts 17:10-12

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.








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