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The SOAP Bible Study Method

Posted by Matt Postiff February 16, 2021 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

In the medical community, "SOAP" is an acronym that is a helpful guide for a doctor-patient interaction. The letters stand for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. The patient comes in with some complaint, the subjective. The doctor looks him or her over very well and makes observations for the objective part. Then the doctor makes an assessment and sets out a plan of treatment. All of this is documented in summary fashion in the SOAP note retained in the patient's chart.

The SOAP Bible study method uses the same acronym, which in this case means Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. An example can be seen here. Basically, you determine the Scripture passage that you will study. It would be good to even write it out. Then you can write down everything you observe about the passage, including questions and relevant leads to other portions of Scripture. Then you can think about how to apply the passage to your own life situation, and pray to ask God for help in following His word.

I think the SOAP method can be very helpful. However, it often leads to superficial Bibles study, as pointed out in this article.

To remedy this deficiency, we should think about the SOAP method as the sOap method, with an emphasis on the letter O. The observation part needs to be much more careful and deep than the example linked above. Without proper observation--in other words, exegesis--you cannot arrive at correct interpretation. And you need a correct interpretation before you can determine the appropriate application.

We have previously discussed the Swedish Method and the COMA Method of Bible study.

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