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Creativity and the Bible September 15, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Application, General Principles, OICA.
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Hello again. This will be my final blog, at least for awhile. I wanted to finish things out with an important and extremely overlooked aspect of reading/studying the Bible: creativity. Everyone is creative to some degree or another. Unfortunately, must of us do not get the chance to use the creative gifts God has given us. I think this is sad, because for me creativity is a way of getting past our logic and reasoning side and tapping into a freedom that allows for true expression of who we are. Through creative expression we can understand ourselves and our emotions/feelings better. Being creative also gives us a way to communicate to others in a way that speaks past a person’s mind and touches their heart.

Reading the Bible is a spiritual exercise. God doesn’t just speak to your mind. He speaks to your heart and your soul. Because God often speaks things that go beyond comprehension, it can be hard to integrate them into your life. There are a few different ways to accomplish this. As I mentioned in a previous post, talking about what God has revealed to you can help you integrate that truth into your life. You can also journal or simply pray back to God what He has shown you. But, what I want to talk about today is finding a creative outlet to express what God is speaking.

Art can be and often is a form of worship to God. We bring glory to God as we represent part of his creation to others through an artistic medium. But we also glorify God simply by exercising the gifts and talents He has given us. Artistic expression revolving around the Bible and what God has revealed is even more glorifying to God, because it allows God to speak directly to others.

How important is drawing, or painting? As I said earlier, creative expression allows you to connect with God in a way that you would not be able to see otherwise. God is spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. Just comprehending truths about God is not enough. There is a second aspect that involves our spirit connecting to His Spirit. I think creative expression is the way to do this.  God is a creative God. He created the entire universe. And although not to the same degree, there is are things which we can create as well. In so doing we are coming in line with our created purpose.

What am I suggesting through all this? We need to take what we have learned from God through the Bible and creatively express it to ourselves and others. Paint, draw, sing, write a song, write a peom, make up a dance, sculpt something, make a collage, take a picture, write a script, write a story, sew something, carve something, build something. Just do something creative! I will leave you with no summary today or reflection. This whole post is actually a reflection on the theme I’ve been building since day one. Instead I leave you with a poem I wrote about the Bible. Enjoy!

The Sword of the Word

let me tell you a tale

without the Bible

we are liable to grow stale

and pale as our spiritual muscles fail

due to atrophy

its a catastrophe how easily

we deny our need for help

and instead rely in our feeble self

we stumble through this life

hoping to get it right

accepting our plight

we have lost our “fight”

We need to get back to the Book

give it more than a look

but instead we are hooked

on feeding our minds

with shows designed to entertain

and drain our desire

for what is good

and although we should

feed our soul

we’d rather feed the hole

that is formed as we dull

our desires and quench the fire

of passion for Jesus.

He wants to free us and make us

mature and complete

I repeat

the reason our lives get off track

is that we turn our back

instead of facing the attack

with the sword of the word

it is absurd

to have a weapon of such power

and then cower with fear

when the enemy draws near

so take the Bible off of the shelf

and get back your spiritual health

as you feast on the abundant wealth

of truth

you may feel weak

or your situation is bleak

let God speak

and let His words wreak

havoc on Satans lies

when he tries to speak doubt or shame

don’t play his game

you have authority in Jesus name

you are free

and when you speak

and believe

Satan has to flee

reading the word is not about being smart or super skilled

it is the humble that see God and it is the hungry that are filled

Sharing What You Know August 18, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Application, General Principles.
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Hello. If you have made it this far, you should have a lot of the tools necessary to understand what the Bible is saying and study it for yourself. The mesage of the Bible is not just for you, though. It is something that needs to be shared with others. If you just keep it to yourself, you are missing the point.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven he left his disciples with some parting words. At the end of Matthew 28 Jesus tells his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” We are called to be disciple makers. Whatever knowledge or wisdom God gives us is not just for us. We need to share what we are learning with those around us, especially those who are new or young believers. Whenever God reveals something to you, do your best to apply it to your life, but don’t just leave it at that. Share what you have learned with someone else.

Your Uniqueness

You are unique. Not only do you have a unique blend of gifts and talents, but you also have a unique way of understanding the Bible. Even if you don’t have all the skills or tools of a Biblical scholar, you still have a lot to bring to the study of the Bible. In fact sometimes an overly scholarly look at the text can be harmful. It is possible to overanalyze the text and end up missing the point. Sometimes a simple observation or question can bring a text alive. Although it is important to study and try to get at the intended meaning, don’t discount yourself if you don’t have all the tools necessary. God can speak not only to you, but through you!

There is no one person who fully understands the Bible. We all have our own lens with which we view the Bible. We actually need each other so that we can see the different angles. What you gain from your reading of the text may be something that someone else would never see, simply because of how they read the text.

Understanding the Text

There are different ways to learn things. You can hear it, see it or interact with it. Each of these methods will help you to remember what you learn and understand it. The best way to learn something though is to teach someone else. This principle is just as applicable to the Bible. If you share what you are learning it is solidified inside of you and you really learn it. So, not only does it help out the person you are sharing with, but it helps you out as well.


You are awesome.

You can read and understand the text.

Sharing what you know can help others out.

Sharing what you know helps you learn it yourself better.


What is the last thing you learned while reading the Bible? Find someone to share that with.

OICA: Application August 12, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Application, General Principles, OICA.
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Hello. It has been awhile, but here we go. This is the last step in the OICA process. Application is extremely important, for what good is it for you to learn things if you never do anything about them. Now, saying this is the final step does not mean that you should wait till the end to apply things to your life. At any point during this process, even if you are simply reading a verse, if you feel like God is speaking to you, then you should try to apply whatever it is to your life. The reason this is the last step is because it is at the end of the process when you should reflect on what you have learned, not at the beginning or middle.

Application is broken into 2 categories: What you should do and what you should believe. Both of these are important. We need to do what God desires, because that will lead to better living and will glorify Him. But, we also need to have right beliefs. There are far too many lies in the world and we need to be saturated with the truth so that we are not deceived. Also, what we believe and think about shapes our values and morals and makes us who we are.

How to Live

The Bible is full of the wisdom of God. Our lives would be radically transformed if we simply did what the Bible said for us to do. We can see what God wants us to do in a few different ways. First, there are commands that are direct and specific for us. It is clear that we should love each other and not kill or steal, because these are explicitly stated in scripture. Some things though are not stated this explicitly. Sometimes we need to follow the example of one of the characters in Scripture. For instance, at the end of 2 Samuel 24, David wants to buy a field from Araunah, so that he may build an altar to sacrifice to the Lord. Araunah wants to give the land to the king, and in reality the king could have simply demanded it and he would have had to give it over. But David says, I will not sacrifice something to the Lord which does not cost me anything. This is not a command, but more of a principle which we can apply in different ways. God doesn’t want us to honor Him solely out of our excess, He wants us to obey even if it stretches us. As you are studying a passage, look for these principles to see if you can actually do something with what you are doing. In the example I just gave, God may want you to set aside some money from your budget and just bless others with it.

When we see people doing things in the Bible it does not automatically mean that we should do the same things. In fact a lot of things that the Biblical characters do are not for us today. The exception to this is Jesus. Jesus is the standard of how we should live and behave. We should not seek to live the same life as Jesus (collecting 12 disciples, doing miracles, and eventually dying on a cross). That was his mission, not ours. What we should focus on is his lifestyle. Jesus spent his life pouring into others, he spent a lot of time in prayer, he lived with integrity and did not compromise in the face of persecution and he gave glory to God. We can learn a lot simply by looking at the life of Jesus and seeing how we can live like him.

What to Believe

After you read/study a passage there are a few questions you can ask to get you thinking about what to believe. Obviously, not every question will apply to every passage, but every passage will have an answer to one of these questions if you think about it long enough. 1 Timothy 4:12 says that all scripture is useful for equipping and training in righteousness. Don’t give up on a passage if it seems difficult, just bring it to God and ask Him to reveal what you can learn from it?

1. How does this reveal Jesus?

2. What can I learn about God?

3. What does this tell me about humanity?

4. What can I learn about the interaction between God and man?

Write down whatever you learn and meditate on it until it sinks in.


1 Cor 2:16 says that we have the mind of Christ. What does this mean for us? How would our lives be different if we actually believed this?

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.


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?

Summary of Biblical Genres June 23, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in General Principles, Genre, Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hi. Today I want to review the major genres found in the Bible. I have already devoted a post to each of these genres, but I thought it would be good to have a short summary of each of them that you can refer to help you in the interpretation step of OICA. By placing the genres together, with a short description of each, you can see which genre you are dealing with and some of the things to look for as you try to interpret it. For a more detailed look you can review the longer posts I have done on the genres.


This is the most basic genre. It is where the author is describing events. This is the genre of books like Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Ruth, Esther, Acts and other places where there is a story being told.

1. Take it Literally

2. Treat it as a story. Find out what is going on, who the main characters on and why things are happening the way they are.


This genre is where people are speaking. It can be a sermon, a prayer, or any other long speech. The book of Job has a lot of this, but there are also examples in the Gospels, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and in the book of Acts.

1. For the most part take this literally. The exception to this is if it is in another genre like a parable, a poem, or a prophecy.

2. Determine the main point of whatever the person is saying.

3. Take things literally, but don’t believe everything that people say. In the book of Job, there are a lot of things said that are simply not true. If you know who is speaking you can determine if what they are saying is true or not.


Poetry is the genre of Psalms. It is full of symbolic language and is full of emotion.

1. Look for repetition. In ancient times, repetition was used for emphasis, so pay attention to the things that are said more than once.

2. Look for parallelism. Sometimes (especially in Proverbs) an idea will be stated and then restated either as its opposite or from a different perspective. The two ideas are basically saying the same thing

3. Don’t take the figurative parts literally! Look for the comparisons being made by the figures of speech.


The genre of prophecy is found wherever there are prophecies. These books are easy to recognize: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, etc. There are also prophecies in the Gospels, the Epistles and Revelation.

1. When you come across a prophecy see who it was given to originally (Israel, Judah, everyone). Interpret it first in light of the original hearers of the prophecy.

2. Look to see if the prophecy has already been fulfilled.

3. Please do not read too much into prophecy. Prophecy is not meant to be a map that lays out exactly what will happen in the end times. It is there to draw us to repentance and help us to be ready for when Christ returns.

4. Because of the symbolic nature of prophecy, there are many ways people have interpreted it. We need to be alert and keep watch for the signs of Christ’s return. But, ultimately, we do not know what it will be like. There are far too many debates and arguments over one persons interpretation of the end times vs. someone else. Eschatology (the study of the end times) should not supersede soteriology (the study of salvation). Our focus is and should continue to be the lost, not the last days, souls not signs.


The epistles fall under the bigger category of discourse. These are the letters that were written either to single individuals or groups. The majority are found in the New Testament, although there are some in the Old Testament as well (there are some in Nehemiah). They are addressed to a specific group for a specific purpose.

1. Find out who the author and the audience are.

2. Read the epistle in light of what the author was trying to say to the audience.

3. Try and figure out why the letter was written in the first place. What was it written in response to? You can actually answer a lot of these questions, simply by reading the epistle and looking for clues as to who it is written to and why it was written. Observation is the key.


There are four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are written as witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

1. Look for what each author emphasizes in his gospel. What are the important events or discourses that are recorded? Why are these recorded?

2. Try and read them with a fresh perspective. We have been so inundated with the story, that we can easily forget what it must have been like for the original hearers would have felt as they heard these Gospels. As you read them, forget the ending and put yourself in the shoes of someone reading it for the very first time. What would stand out?

3. Compare other Gospels. Because there are four Gospels, there are many things that are repeated in different Gospels. As you compare and contrast what is said in the different Gospels, you can get a sense of what each individual author was trying to emphasize.

4. Unless you are reading a parable or allegory, or someone is using a figure of speech take these books literally. Jesus actually did come down, become a man, die on a cross and rise again in 3 days.


Apocalypse is the genre of revelation. It is something big revealed to someone. This is similar to prophecy although in an apocalypse the events being described are of a large scale. This genre can be found in the book of Revelation and also parts of Daniel.

1. The goal of this genre is to get a big picture understanding of what is going on. Because of all the figurative and symbolic language there are certain things that we simply will not be able to know until they happen. We don’t need to understand every single detail, but merely let the pieces come together to show us a picture of what is to come.

2. This genre should not be taken literally.

3. As you read through, try and see how you would live your life differently if you had an eternal, God-prevails focus.

Wisdom Literature

Wisdom literature is basically Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, although there are other small sections throughout the Bible. This is the genre of wise sayings and the wisdom of man.

1. Proverbs – These are not promises. They are general truths that will help you live out your life in a godly manner.

2. Job/Ecclesiastes – There is wisdom in these books, but it is found at the end. Job’s friends spout out their false theology which God rebukes at the end. The writer of Ecclesiastes gives a cynical view of life, but then comes back at the end and points to God as the only one who gives meaning to life.


Parables are short stories that have a moral to be learned. Allegories also are short discourses, but are different from parables in that they have more than one point of comparison. These are mostly found in the Gospels.

1. Look at the situation or question to which the parable/allegory is a response to. How does this answer the situation/question?

2. For a parable find the one key point being made and don’t try to see more than is there. For an allegory look for the main point and see how each of the points of comparison adds to this main idea.

Ethical Instruction

In this genre I would put proverbs, laws, and promises.  These are found throughout the Bible, but there are a lot in Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and of course Proverbs.

1. Proverbs are not promises and should not be taken as such.

2. Promises are not universal. See who they are for and if they apply to you.

3. A lot of the Old Testament laws were only for the people back then. As a general rule, we need to follow the Old Testament laws that are also found in the New Testament.


What is your favorite genre and why?

Interpretation: Summary June 9, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hello, all. For the past few weeks we have been going through the Interpretation step of OICA (Observe, Interpret, Correlate, Apply). Today, I want to finish up Interpretation, by giving you an overview/summary which you can refer to whenever you are studying a text. For the summary of Observation you can see my previous post here.

Interpretation is a more in depth look at the text. It is in this phase that you use whatever reference tools you have and study different aspects of the text. If you have done a thorough job on Observation and put in the time in Interpretation, you should have a good grasp of what the text is saying. Even if you don’t have all the resources to do each of these steps, you can still do a few of them and doing so will get you to the heart of the text. There are 6 steps to Inerpretation.

1. Genre Analysis

We have already spent a lot of time going over the different genres. Figure out which genre/s your passage fits in and use that information to make sure you are interpreting the passage correctly.

2. Word Studies

Find two or three important words and do a short word study on each of them. After each word study answer the question: How does this help me understand my passage better.

3. Historical/Cultural Studies

For this step find two or three cultural issues to study and find out more about them. It is also in this step that you want to research any geographic issues in your text. Again, after each study ask yourself how it relates to your passage.

4. Discourse Analysis

For discourse analysis try and understand the relationships between each of the propositions. If this is not possible, at least break your passage into two or three main ideas and figure out the relationships between these bigger chunks.

5. Contextualization

For this step read the bigger context of your passage in an effort to figure out what is going on both before and after your text. Without spending too much time read and ry to summarize the sections before and after your text. You don’t need to understand them completely, but just enough to see how your passage fits in to the overall picture.

6. Summary

After you have done these steps you should have a good idea of what your passage is saying. Using what you learned in analyzing the discourse write a paragraph summarizing the main ideas and transitions in the passage. This should help bring everything together so that you can write a ONE sentence summary of the passage. Try and make this sentence as short and simple as possible, without leaving any of the big ideas of the text. If you are having trouble with this go back and look over the discourse some more.


Think of a passage that became more alive after you learned something more about it. What did you learn that helped you understand the passage better?

Interpretation: Discourse Analysis – part 2 June 4, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hello. Today we are continuing our discussion of Discourse Analysis. Last week was all about finding the propositions. This time I want to talk about “determining the relationships”. Every proposition is related to another one is some way or another. Sometimes the relationship is stated, but a lot of times it is not stated. Before we can get into the details of comparing propositions we need to distinguish between “subordinate” and “coordinate” relationships.

Subordinate vs. Coordinate Relationships

Every proposition is related to another one in some way or another. The most basic way they are related is if they are coordinate or subordinate. Coordinating propositions are on the same level grammatically, while a subordinating conjunction is dependent on another proposition for its meaning. Coordinating propositions are related with the words “and” or “or”. Pretty much any other conjunction (but, so, therefore, when, if, etc.) will be for subordinating propositions. If there is no conjunction you will have to look at the logic to decide if its coordinate or subordinate. If I say: I went to the store and went for a bike ride. These are two coordinating conjunctions. Not only is there an “and” in between them, but they are two separate ideas that are not dependent on each other. But, if the sentence is: I went to the store by riding my bike. This is a subordinate relationship. “by riding my bike” does not make sense alone, it needs to have the first part of the sentence there in order for it to make sense.

Clauses can be connected grammatically or logically. Sometimes, you will have a word that shows how the clauses are related. As I mentioned earlier the words “and” or “or” are grammatical clues that help you see that the clauses are related coordinately.  Subordinate clauses are marked with words like: “but”, “until”, “while”, “by”, “so that”, “in order to”, “because”, “as a result”, etc. These words are not absolutes, but just clues to help you see that you are most likely dealing with a subordinate clause. These are the grammatical clues. But, just because there are no connecting words, does not mean that the clauses are not related. Sometimes they are related logically, with no grammatical clues at all.

Take for example these two sentences:

Michael Jordan is really good at basketball. He would easily beat me in a one-on-one game.

These two sentences are related, but there is no conjunction between them. They could simply be coordinate clauses with no dependent relationship, but the second clause could also be subordinate. If you think about it, you could actually make one big sentence out of these two little ones, and put the word “therefore” in between them. Or you could start the first sentence with the word “because”. Either way the relationship would be more clear with a connecting word. But as they stand you can still see the logical relationship between them. “Because” MJ is so good at basketball, he would win in a game of one-on-one.

It is important to look for these logical relationships, because often there will be no words to help determine the relationship.

Coordinating Relationships

Once you decide if you are dealing with subordinate or coordinate clauses then you can see what type of relationship you are dealing with. Subordinate relationships are far more common and a little more difficult so we will start with the easier coordinating relationships. There are three types of coordinating relationships: Series (S), Progression (P) and Alternative (A). Each category has a letter or symbol which is used to abbreviate it. When you are actually doing Discourse Analysis you can just use the abbreviations.

Series (S) – 2 ideas that are related in a general way. I ate a sandwich and drank a glass of milk.

Progression (P) – 2 ideas that are related and are either building toward something or diminishing into something. The boy ran away from home. He stole a gun and held up a bank.

Alternative (A) – 2 ideas showing different possibilities. I could take a nap or I could clean my room.

Subordinate Relationships

Subordinating relationships are adverbial in nature. They tell when, where, why or how something is done. Therefore it is important to distinguish which clause/idea is the main idea and which one is helping to describe it. This is important because sometimes the main idea comes after the clause that is describing it. As you are going through the process of DA try and make a note of what these main ideas are. They will give you insight into what the passage as a whole is about.

Action-Manner (Ac/Mn) – A statement and the statement about how it was accomplished. I got ready for bed, by putting on my p.j.’s and brushing my teeth.

Comparison (Cf) – A statement that describes the main statement with a comparison. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Negative-Positive (-/+) – A statements where one is positive and one is negative. You are dead to sin, but alive in Christ.

Idea-Explanation (Id/Ex) – One idea is given and another idea explains it in more detail. It was a great day, the day I was born.

Question-Answer (Q/A) – A question and an answer. What book are you reading? I am reading the Bible.

Ground (G) – A statement that tells why something is. Mary and Joseph to Jesus to Egypt because Herod was trying to kill him.

Inference (the abbreviation for inference is a triangle of dots, just like the shorthand way of writing the word “therefore”) – A conclusion drawn from a statement. My t.v. is broken therefore I will not be watching it.

Action-Result (Ac/Res) – One action happens and another one results from that action (the second action is not planned). She laughed so hard that she snorted.

Action-Purpose (Ac/Pur) – One action that is designed so that another action will happen. I went to the store to buy some shoes.

Conditional (If/Th) – 2 statements where one is the “if” and one is the “then”. Sometimes the words “if” and “then” are not there, but the relationship is still there. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Temporal (T) – A statement that tells when something else is taking place. They went for a run while it was still light out.

Locative (L) – A statement that tells where something else is happening. I want to be where the people are.

Bilateral (Bi) – This is a statement that serves 2 purposes. It supports what comes before it, and what comes after it. Because I am thirsty, I need some water, so that I do not dehydrate.

Concessive (Csv) –  This is something that happens in spite of something else. Even though it was cold, I went for a walk in the park.

Situation – Response (Sit/Res) – A statement in response to an idea. The people shouted “Surprise” and he fainted.

All of these are just guides to help you figure out what the passage is about. There are different options for how two propositions relate to each other. For each set, go through the options and see what makes the most sense with the context. Once you see how the smaller units fit together, put them together into bigger units and compare those bigger units as if they were single propositions. The goal is to get a big picture idea of what the passage is about and to understand how all the smaller units relate together to make up that bigger idea.

There is a lot more to say on this topic, but there are far better resources out there. If you are really interested in Discourse Analysis I would recommend the book “Interpreting the Pauline Epistles” by Thomas Schreiner, which I used in the formation of this present blog post. More importantly though is the website: www.biblearc.com. This site has videos and other tools which are amazing. Not only can you learn all about arcing there, but you can actually do it there as well. I would highly recommend at least checking out the site.


No reflection. Just go check out the site I just mentioned.

Interpretation: Discourse Analysis – part 1 May 19, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hello again. It has been awhile. I hope you have been enjoying the blog up to this point. Conceptually, we are about to get into the most difficult aspect of the exegetical process – discourse analysis. Discourse analysis, may be tricky at first, but it is vital to the understanding of a passage.  If you take your time and apply this to your study of a passage it will give you a whole new perspective and make the passage “come alive”.

Basic Definition

Discourse analysis should be done as part of the Interpretation step. It will help to have the background info you have gained from the Observation step. In general discourse analysis is “analyzing the discourse”. It is breaking down a passage into its smaller units and identifying the relationships between them. I like to think of it as dissecting a passage. If a paragraph is represented by a pile of bones, then discourse analysis would be the process of putting the bones together so that you can see the skeletal shape and know what type of animal you are looking at.

Overview of the Process

Discourse analysis consists of 3 steps. Step 1 is finding the propositions. Step 2 is determining the relationships between the propositions. And step 3 is summarizing your results. The propositions are the small units that make up what a sentence or verse is saying. By identifying these small units you can synthesize verses down to their smallest pieces and then compare them together. Because the propositions are smaller, they are more manageable and can help us see the bigger picture more easily. Once we get the basic structure of a passage, then we can see how the smaller details fit in.

Finding the Propositions

Because this is such a complex topic, I wanted to break it down in to two parts. In this first part, I will go over the first step (finding the propositions). Next week, I will talk about  step 2 (determining their relationships) then finish with step 3 (summarizing).

So, what is a proposition? A proposition is basically a statement. It has a verb and a subject (the person or thing doing the verb). Apart from that there are many things that are added onto the proposition to make it into a sentence. There can be an object that the verb is done on (direct object) or you can add adjectives and adverbs to describe things in more detail. There can be prepositions, indirect objects, and genitives all adding to the proposition and explaining it in someway or another.

In this first step we are simply looking for the propositions. Every proposition has a verb or verbal idea. Therefore, these verbs are the first things to look for to determine the propositions. Find every verb or verbal idea in your passage. As a general rule, each proposition only has one verb, although sometimes there are two verbs working together to make one verbal idea. You can see this with helping verbs (“He will be done at 5” is one proposition because “will” and “be” are part of the verb “done”). As you are looking for these verbs find the basic “heart” of the proposition (the verb and its subject), but you also need to see where it begins and ends. A lot of propositions end in either some type of punctuation, like a comma or a period, or they end with a conjuction (“and”, “but”, “therefore”, etc.).

examples of propositions

1. I went to the store. (To simplify this to its most basic part would be “I went”. This is the verb and its subject. The “to the store” just explains the proposition more.)

2. We drove to the mountains and went hiking. (In this example, there are 2 propositions: “we drove” and “we went hiking”. You can see that even though the word “we” is only used once it applies to both verbs.)

3. My big, fat, greedy brother ate my taco when I wasn’t looking. (Again this is 2 propositions: “my brother ate” and “I wasn’t looking”. All the other words, simply give more detail to the propositions.)

Always try and supply a subject to each proposition, even if one is not stated. The subject is sometimes stated earlier and you just need to find it and plug it in. Other times the subject is not stated at all. This is the case with imperatives like “Stop!” or “Don’t eat that” (both of these have the implied subject “you”).

When looking for propositions, don’t be fooled by: 1 –  verbal ideas that describe nouns or 2 – verbs as part of clauses which describe nouns.

examples of #1

The girl petted the purring cat. (This is one proposition – “the girl petted”. “Purring” is describing the cat and so is not a separate proposition.)

The boy swatted the fly, buzzing by his head. (This is one proposition also – “the boy swatted the fly”. The word “buzzing” is describing the fly and is not part of a separate proposition.)

examples of #2

The girl who reads books likes to write. (The proposition here is – “the girl likes to write”. “Who reads books” is another adjectival phrase which describes the girl.)

I saw a generic, romantic, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, comedy last night. (This is an extreme example of a phrase that is describing a noun and is not a separate proposition. The simplified proposition is – “I saw a comedy”.)


Discourse analysis has 3 parts

1. Finding the propositions

2. Determining the relationships

3. Summarizing

Propositions are made up of subjects and verbs

Look for the basic part of a proposition and also it’s beginning and end

Some words look like verbs, but are actually functioning as adjectives


For this reflection I will write a paragraph. This is very easy. Simply read it and find all the propositions, then put them in simplified form. Don’t write out the whole proposition. Take special note of punctuation and conjunctions so that you can see the beginning and end of each proposition. This will be good practice for you. I will list the simplified propositions with their subject, verb and object at the end of the paragraph. By the way, this is the paragraph. Go!

1. I will write a paragraph

2. this is easy

3. (you) read it

4. (you) find the propositions

5. (you) put them

6. (you) write out the proposition

7. (you) take note

8. you can see the beginning (and end) – this verb has 2 objects

9. this will be practice

10. I will list the propositions

11. this is the paragraph

12. (you) go

Interpretation: Cultural Studies April 7, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hello all. I don’t have too much to say on this topic, as I have already said a lot about historical/cultural studies here. Today, I would like to finish up the discussion on these cultural studies. In the Observation step of OICA you make note of these different historical/cultural issues. It is in the Interpretation step that you actually research these issues. If you already have a list of the historical/cultural issues found in your passage, great. If not, you should go through and find some of them. If you are having trouble finding some, look at the people, the places, the interactions, the objects, etc. Even if you find some thing that you think you know, it is good to check it out anyway because it could be different for us then it was back then.

Once you have a list of issues, pick some to study more in depth. Depending on how big your passage is, you can do as many or as few as needed. Obviously, the more you do, the better it will be, but even if you just do one or two it will be helpful. Pick out the things that either seem important to the general idea of the passage or just pick things that seem interesting to you. Don’t try and pick out the one issue that will “unlock” the passage. These cultural studies should shed more light on the specifics of the passage, and should not be taken as the “meaning” of the passage. Just like with word studies, cultural studies add to the overall interpretation of the passage. Don’t rely on these cultural studies to discover the meaning of the passage without taking into consideration the other aspects of interpretation like word studies and discourse analysis. The main thing is to learn more about your passage, and pretty much any issue you decide to study will lead you toward this goal.

I know this may seem anti-climatic, but doing these cultural/historical studies is actually fairly simple. Get yourself a Bible dictionary and look up each issue. If there are cross-references to other verses listed then take a look at those so that you can get a feel for some of the other contexts. Once you have read and studied it a little bit, try and summarize your findings into one or two sentences. Finally, write down how this study impacts your understanding of the passage. This last step is the most important.

That is it. If you already have a Bible dictionary, great! If not, you should get one. For the most part the content is similar. I would make sure you get one that is as thorough as possible (not abridged). Look at the length of the articles and how much cross references they give. Another thing to look for is pictures and maps. Finally, make sure you get something that is up to date. We are continually learning more and more about these ancient worlds and you want to have the most current information. If you don’t have access to a Bible dictionary and can’t buy one (at this time) here is a link to an online version. There are a few different ones here, but they are pretty old. Even so, an old dictionary is better than none at all.


For the reflection, do a study on the idea of “hospitality”. This is one of the biggest values for the ancient world and is something that we (especially in America) are unfamiliar with. If you can, think of a passage that has hospitality in it, and see how this new information can help your understanding of the passage.

Interpretation: Word Studies pt. 2 March 18, 2010

Posted by TJ Friend in Interpretaion, OICA.
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Hello again. In case you missed it here is the  link to Word Studies part one. Today I will be continuing on with my series on OICA. We just finished the “O” section (Observation) and are moving on with Interpretation. Last week we talked a little bit about word studies and how to do them. Today, I want to go over some of the dangers associated with word studies. My goal is not to scare you away from word studies, but to save you from misusing them. Word studies are an integral part of the exegetical process for without understanding the words of the text you can’t understand the text. Because the Bible was not originally written in English there is some work that needs to be done to understand the words the way the original hearers would have understood them. Because we are so far removed from the original cultures of the Bible we need to be careful not to come at word studies too lightly. To even get a general idea of a word its original language takes a lot of work and patience. Also, we are studying words in a limited context. If we truly wanted to understand the words of the Bible we would have to learn the languages and immerse ourselves not only in the text of the Bible, but all the writings in that language. And even if we did this, we would still have a limited understanding of the language, because it would be entirely literature based. In addition to all this, we are not familiar enough with the culture of the Biblical world to be able to put these words into a social context. Doing a word study is like standing in the fog at night and trying to make out a figure a long way off. And that is only when we do them correctly. Do it wrong and its like trying to make out that same figure only being blindfolded.

1. Don’t do word studies in English

I regret even having to put this here, because it seems so obvious, but unfortunately this is not the case. There are people out there, maybe even pastors, who don’t worry about the Greek or Hebrew at all and do word studies simply by looking them up in a regular dictionary (like Webster’s). The whole point of doing a word study is to understand what the word meant to the original hearers. It is a way to bridge the gap between what a word meant in their language and how we have translated in ours. Just looking at the English words and their definitions tells you nothing about the nuances of meanings in the Greek or Hebrew. And, many times one word in English is used to translate many different words in Greek or Hebrew.

2. Don’t add extra meanings into a text

A lot of words in Greek and Hebrew are versatile in their functions. One word can mean many different things depending on the context. Sometimes these meanings overlap, but often they do not. When studying a word, you will come across different definitions. You can’t simply cram all these definitions into one context and make some sort of super word. Pick out the best definition for your context and leave the rest for their contexts. Sometimes people will see a Greek word and assume it must have all sorts of hidden deeper meanings. Whatever definition you get for a word must be limited by the context. Take the word “anxious” for instance. In the Greek this word can have either a negative or positive connotation. Usually, it is negative and warned against, (as in stressing out about something) but not always. This word can also be translated as concerned for, or caring about. If you tried to put both of those definitions together into one text it would be confusing at best and heresy at worst.

3. Don’t use etymology for your definition

Etymology is the study of words and where they came from. This is a two-part caution: 1. Don’t try and break a word into its parts and derive your defintion from that and 2. Don’t look at what words come from your word as part of your definition.

First #1 – A lot of words come from other words. There is a root word and then with the addition of prefixes or suffixes you can get other words. We see this even in English. A place where you dorm is called a “dormitory”. A place where you labor is a “laboratory”. And a place where you burst forth like lava from a volcano is a lavatory. (Actually this word comes from the root “lavar” – to wash) The important thing to see is that even if words are related you can not mix and match their definitions. Each word needs to be analyzed uniquely.

Second #2 – If your word is the root of other words, don’t input their definitions back into the definition of your word. The classic example of this is the word dunamis. This is the word for power. It is translated basically as “ability”. Our word dynamite comes from this Greek word. Because of this, some people will say that dunamis is “explosive power”. Was the Biblical author thinking about dynamite when he used this word? Probably not, since dynamite is a relatively new invention.

4. Do the work yourself

if you want to know what a word means, research it yourself. In case you missed it you can check out how to do this in my previous blog. First off, you can only get better at word studies by practice and so you should try to do as many as possible. Part of the joy of doing word studies is the stuff you learn as you are doing it. Getting there is half the fun. But, more importantly, we are dealing with the Bible, and we need to take it seriously. It is unwise to base your theology or beliefs on someone else’s work. This can lead to some serious errors. This is especially relevant if you are planning on teaching or preaching. It is fine to verify your findings with others to make sure you are on the right track, but you are doing yourself and others a disservice if you do not put in the work for yourself, but simply try and find someone else’s definition for your word.

A note of hope

Word studies can actually be fun and enlightening. You can learn things about a text that you would not be able to learn without doing a word study. Although, there are some things to watch out for, if you are truly seeking to understand a text and willing to put in the work, you will most likely be fine. It is important to remember that word studies are just a small part of the process and should ultimately lead you toward a better understanding of your passage.


Think of a time when you were  in a service where a ptreacher brought out the nuances of a word in Greek or Hebrew? How did this help your understanding of the passage?