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Correlation July 7, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Correlation, OICA.
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Hi everybody. We have finished with Observation and Interpretation and are now moving on to Correlation. Correlation is an important step when you are studying a specific passage of the Bible. This step is where you look at other passages to help get a bigger picture of what is happening in your passage. There are basically two types of passages to consider in this step: parallel passages and quoted passages.

Parallel Passages

There are 66 books in the Bible and over 30 different authors all writing about the same thing. Because of this there is bound to be some overlap in content. Sometimes there are entire sections that are repeated in different places, and other times there are stories or characters that are talked about in other books. One of the best examples of this is in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all wrote about events in the life of Jesus. There is a lot of overlap between these books especially between the first three. When you are reading about an event in Jesus’ life or even one of His sermons or parables it is helpful to look at the same section in the other books. Reading how the other authors dealt with the same story can illuminate the distinct emphasis of the writer of the book you are studying.

Paul wrote a lot of letters to different churches and in the same way, he had similar things to say to some of them. The benefit of the Epistles is that for the most part they have a set structure. You can easily compare the introductory comments between the different letters as well as the prayer that is usually at the beginning of the letters. Paul has certain things to say about different aspects of theology such as salvation, or end times or spiritual gifts, depending on which church he is writing to and what problems they are going through. Comparing these aspects can help you understand what is going on in each church and ultimately understand the letters better.

Quoted Passages

Quoted passages are passages that are quoted either directly or indirectly by other passages. For the most part this is OT verses quoted in the NT, but this can be expanded out to characters being mentioned or stories being referenced. This is the main reason why the OT is so important, because a lot of the NT writings either directly quote the OT or make reference to it in some way or another.

Our Old Testament was the Bible that the New Testament authors had. To help explain what they were writing about they would often quote verses out of the OT. This gave more weight to what they had to say. When a verse from the OT shows up in the NT it is for a reason. It is important to go back and read the original context so that you can see what they were referencing. By understanding what the verse meant in its original context you will gain more insight into your current context.

The NT authors were familiar with the OT and as such, would integrate it into their writings. They often mention OT characters, places and events and assume that the reader is familiar with them. This is why we need to be familiar with the OT. But, even if you are not totally familiar with the OT, you can at least read up on whatever story or passage is referenced in the passage you are studying. For instance, if your passage mentions the creation narrative, then you would want to reread the first few chapters of Genesis. For bigger themes, it might be helpful to have a Bible dictionary, if you don’t have the time to read the entire book of Exodus for instance.

Whatever passage you are studying you should always look for allusions to the OT. The obvious ones are the direct quotations, but there are other things to look for as well. Sometimes verses will be restated in the authors own words or only part of the verse will be quoted. Be on the look out for anything that seems like it might be from the OT. Some of the main themes to look for are Creation, the fall of man, Noah, Abraham’s covenant, deliverance from Egypt, the Law, David’s kingship, and the exile. I would recommend at the very least reading up on these main themes if you are unfamiliar with them.

Whatever you discover from the OT contexts, should not override the context of the passage you are studying. It is only there to add to your understanding of the passage. Do your best to interpret these passages in light of their OT context and then see how the NT author is using them. Usually, the NT author is expounding on the OT idea in some way or another.

Reflection

The New Testament is extremely important, but unfortunately, some people only use the New Testament and completely overlook the Old Testament. There are even some preachers who only preach from the NT. What are your thoughts on the Old Testament? What can we learn from it?

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