Are you enjoying this new way of interacting with the Bible? You may find some parts of this process much easier than others. You may decide that you will only use this method for studying certain passages or under certain circumstances. And that is perfectly acceptable. The point is for you to interact more with the text in a variety of ways to get the greatest benefit from the message the text contains.
This week I am going to take you through the next exercise that Dr. Lee Gugliotto (http://empowerministries.org), the developer of this study method, suggests: Analyze the Passage.
Marking the Text
This exercise will require a few resources. You will need a concordance, I recommend a Strong’s Concordance (If you don’t have one or don’t know how to use one, see my article “Basic Tools.”), a standard dictionary, and if possible, the IVP Bible Background Commentary. (The IVP is not absolutely necessary. I will be discussing it in a future article.)
You will also need a copy of the passage that is not in your Bible and is reasonably large print. You can type the passage (just the passage you are studying) out on your computer, or you can often copy or print passages from an electronic Bible. You can also simply make a photo copy of the passage from your Bible. Additionally, you will need a small set of colored pencils. Twelve are usually enough for me.
You begin by carefully reading through the passage noting words and/or phrases that are repeated. You also look for key words; these are words that are obviously important to the message of the text.
Now go back through the text and select a color for each repeated word and color that word every time it is found in the passage. (For example leadeth in Psalm 23.)
Also pay attention to repeated references. In Psalm 23, references to God (Him, His, etc.) are numerous as are references to the author (me, mine, etc.). I actually included these in my study of Psalm 23. I wouldn’t necessarily include pronouns in every analysis, but I did in this instance because the heavy repetition seemed important. I used one color for every reference to God (so I did not distinguish between His and He) and one color for every reference to the author. The result was interesting.
You also want to highlight key terms. They will probably be repeated, even if it is not heavily.
Hopefully you have enough different colored pencils for this exercise. If not, get creative in creating separate markings for each new need.
Now that you have a colorful page, what is next? Well, you can do many things with this information. The first thing I do is to count the number of times the word is repeated. Repetition is very important in the Bible. The more often a word or phrase is repeated the more important it generally is. Counting the repetitions will give you an idea about key words as well.
Look up repeated and key words in the concordance. From here you can get two pieces of information: first, you can see if this word is frequently repeated through out the Bible or just the the works of the same author. (See my article “With All Your Heart, Pt 1“) This may not yield very clear information, as it may be a very frequently used word/phrase.
But now you also have the number for the original language dictionary, so look at the original word’s definition. Is it the same as the word that you find in your Bible? Possibly you’re not sure about the definition of a word in your language of study (English for me); in that case, look up the word in your standard dictionary. Perhaps the message of the text has been a little different than what you’ve been assuming.
One thing I discovered was that the word “leadeth” in Psalm 23, which occurs twice, is not the same original word. And the two words carry very different meanings. Knowing this expanded my understanding of the Psalm in ways that I did not envision.
These are merely a few ways of analyzing the passage based on repeated words and phrases. But once you have marked the text and done some thinking about the significance of the repetition, write your thoughts down in a notebook. This will help to solidify the ideas in your mind.
Enjoy this exercise. It is one of my favorites as it really helps me to slow down and pay attention to the text.