Chapter 17 - The Procedure for Studying Books
Before explaining the procedure for studying the books of the Bible,
something needs to be said about the danger of procedures without meaning.
Procedures Versus Meaning
As you glance through chapters 17 and 18 and see the detailed procedures,
you might easily feel that DBD seems quite complex. However, You
would be wise to follow these procedures precisely the way they are described.
From the experience of this writer and of many others you can be assured
that DBD works!
On the one hand, you are asked to try these procedures exactly as they
are spelled out in these two chapters. Use chapter 17 on several
books, and use chapter 18 on several topics. On the other hand, you
will not want to be a slave to these exact procedures forever. Once
you come to appreciate the basic DBD approach and have tried the procedures,
you will be able to supplement them and modify them without losing the
basic approach and the important principles on which the procedures are
built. You will want to adjust the procedures to suit your own personality,
abilities, and purposes in personal Bible study. Give DBD a try,
but treat it for what it is -- a tool -- your servant and not your master.
It would be quite easy for you to work through all the procedures and
still not study the Bible with understanding. It is possible
for a person to engage in all of these procedures and merely go through
the motions of Bible study with his mind disengaged. Always be alert
and thinking. It is of greatest importance that you approach the
Bible, not merely with mechanical gimmicks, but with the most basic approach
of all: reading and studying for meaning.
If you approach the Bible with the goal of producing a neat outline,
drawing a beautiful chart, finding hidden clues, or any other mechanical
gimmick, you may be able to do all of those things, yet you may never really
understand the passage you are working with. Furthermore, if you
begin by looking for special answers or hidden clues, you may easily overlook
the message that is right there in plain sight. Certainly the procedures
just mentioned have a proper place, but such procedures must not be allowed
to become ends in themselves. For instance, outlining is a legitimate
procedure, but you have not necessarily determined the meaning of a passage
merely because you have outlined the passage. Outlining is only a
tool to aid you in finding the structure of a passage, and thus a hint
of the meaning of the passage. But sometimes an outline can hide
the meaning of a passage rather than reveal it.
Read and study for meaning. Step back and look at the purpose
and significance of the entire passage instead of limiting yourself to
a spider's view. Continually relate every detail you see to the
main thrust or the central idea of the passage. Don't let the
details keep you from seeing the explicit teachings of the passage.
Don't cover up the meaning with insensitive, mechanical procedures.
Bible study must operate in the realm of meaning and not merely in the
realm of activity.
You will be better able to see the end from the beginning if you read
through this entire chapter before you begin to put any of the procedure
The eight steps in the procedure for studying books of the Bible are:
- Examine topics
This procedure balances a focus on the details with a focus on the book
as a whole. Bible study must involve a great deal of careful, objective,
detailed observation. But examining details is only one side of the
coin. You must also be able to see the large picture all at once.
In other words, look at the book panoramically as well as microscopically.
Using just one type of search gives an incomplete picture. Seeing
the whole, on the one hand, and scrutinizing the details, on the other
hand, are both necessary.
For instance, which person has a more complete view of a large forest
preserve, the helicopter pilot or the hiker? Obviously the pilot
sees some things the hiker does not, and the hiker sees some things the
pilot does not. So neither person's view of the forest preserve is
complete. However, the hiker can be helped a great deal by taking
a ride in the helicopter before going on a hike. He will then be
able to orient himself when he is on the ground. Each individual
trail will be better appreciated as it is understood in relation to other
trails and the entire forest preserve, and the hiker will be less likely
to get lost. Likewise, with literature, you should survey an entire
book before you engage in a detailed study of any particular section.
Your understanding of each section will be enhanced as you are able to
see its relation to the other sections and to the trends of thought
and emphases of the whole book. What otherwise might become a confusing
forest of details can become much more meaningful.
In the study of a Bible book, a third component as also needed.
After the details of each section of the book have been thoroughly scrutinized,
it is necessary to put all the parts back together again to review the
whole. Thus, your pattern in Bible book study should include first
a look at the whole, then the parts, then the whole again. The eight
steps listed above are in keeping with this pattern since they include
step 2 (the whole), steps 3, 4, and 5 (the parts), and step 6 (the whole
Step 1 - Pray
Pray. Does it really help? Before you pray you may want
to think about some of the promises regarding God's Word, some of the promises
regarding prayer, and some of the examples of prayer, such as
2 Timothy 3:15-17
Continue to pray with each of the follow steps, every time you study your
Bible. Pray each day before, during, and after you study. Ask
for help in understanding, wisdom in application, etc.
Psalms 1:1-3; 19:7-11; 119:18, 27, 33-34, 73, 105-112,
124-125, 129-136, 144, 169-176
Step 2 - Survey
Survey the whole book. During the first few times through the
book read it swiftly, and read it in one sitting without interruption.
Ignore the chapter and verse divisions. Read the book in several
different translations. Sometimes read it silently, sometimes aloud.
Do not look for any particular details during these first several
readings. Instead read for overall message and general impact.
Record these first general impressions in your notebook.
Then as you continue to read through the book, record the following
in your notebook:
Be sure to record all appropriate chapter and verse references in your
- Writer, place from which the book originated (locate
on a map), and when the book was written (before or after what key historical
- Recipients, and place of destination (locate on a map).
- When the main events described in the book took place (before
or after what key historical events).
- Occasion of writing (events or circumstances which prompted
the writing of the book), purpose for the writing.
- Type of literature (historical narrative, letter, didactic,
hortatory, poetic, apocalyptic, etc., or a combination of these), general
style, tone (atmosphere or spirit), and other characteristics of the book.
How did the writer feel when he wrote the book?
- Main thrust(s) (basic message, central theme, repeated emphases).
- Any major divisions which are obvious at this point.
When you find that one of the above items is not explicitly stated in
the book, make a note of that fact. Then record any relevant observations
(with references) on which you might base a conclusion regarding that item.
Be sure to keep your observations and your interpretations separate in
your thinking and to state your degree of certainty when you record your
At this point you should study more about the background of the book.
You will recall that a Bible passage should be interpreted in the light
of its historical and cultural setting. Thus you will want to learn
everything you can about the key historical and cultural items in the book.
Such items include the key cities and countries and their inhabitants,
other groups of people, historical events, and common cultural practices
that are mentioned in the book. For example, if you are studying
one of the letters in the New Testament, one of the items you should learn
about is the city or region in which the recipients of the letter lived
-- Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, or Thessalonica.
If you are studying one of the Old Testament prophets, you should find
out all you can about the main cities or countries mentioned by the prophet.
Obviously, cities and countries should be located on a map, and you
should find out as much as you can about the geographical settings which
you think might help you understand the text better. Check the time
period represented by the map to be sure that you are using a map which
matches the general date of the events mentioned in the book.
Information about each of the key historical and cultural items should
be researched in the following order. First, take note of everything
that the book itself says about that item. Second, use your complete
concordance to uncover all the other biblical references to that item,
and thus find out everything that the rest of the Bible says about it.
Third, research additional information which comes from secular history
and archeology by looking up the item in a few Bible dictionaries or Bible
encyclopedias. If, for instance, you are studying the Book of Philippians,
you will immediately locate Philippi on a map of the first-century Mediterranean
world or a map of Paul's missionary journeys. Then you should (1)
take note of everything that the book of Philippians says about Philippi;
(2) look up "Philippi" in your complete concordance to find out what other
Bible passages (especially those in the book of Acts) say about Philippi;
and finally (3) look up a few articles on the city of Philippi in some
Bible dictionaries or Bible encyclopedias to see what additional historical
and archeological findings might help you understand the city and its people.
Whereas articles on the city of Philippi will probably focus on
the geographical, historical, and civil aspects of the city, articles on
the book of Philippians will be much more interpretive of the text,
and you should keep that fact in mind if you decide to read them at this
point in your study.
You should then follow the same threefold process in researching other
key historical and cultural items found in the book you are studying.
Step 3 - Divide
Divide the book into major divisions. Do not force any preconceived
types of divisions onto the book (such as "introduction, body, conclusion").
Do not look for a certain number of divisions. Instead, look for
natural divisions. In other words, let the book divide itself.
Look for indications of division which are built right into the text,
such as a transitional phrase or a summary statement, a change to a new
subject, a change in the location of the action, a change of persons being
discussed, a gap in the time sequence, or a change in the literary form.
This does not mean that every such change indicates a new major division
of the book, but you should notice all such changes as you attempt to find
the divisions which fit the book in the most natural way. Also, look
for divisions which have a definite relationship to the main thrust of
the book and the purpose of the book. Then give each major division
a short, descriptive title (perhaps four or five words) which will help
you remember its content.
Subdivide the major divisions and give your subdivisions titles.
Continue subdividing and giving titles until you are down to Immediate
Context Units (ICUs). An ICU may sometimes be the same as a paragraph
of the text, or it may include two or more very closely related paragraphs.
Also, an ICU may begin within one paragraph and/or end within a different
paragraph. The length of an ICU depends solely on how closely related
the paragraphs or parts of paragraphs are to each other. A typical
ICU may be approximately one half chapter in length, although many will
be longer and many will be shorter. Again, your subdivisions and
ICUs should be chosen according to the natural divisions found right in
the text. It will help you find these natural divisions if you take
careful note of both the grammatical structure of the text and the progression
of thought running through the text. Titles for ICUs should be descriptive,
brief (perhaps two or three words), and chosen specifically to bring the
content of the ICU back to your mind. Do not give the same title
to two ICUs.
Longer books may end up with major divisions, subdivisions, further
subdivisions, and then ICU's. Shorter books may end up with only
one major "division" and only a few ICU's.
Construct either a chart or a preliminary outline giving the titles
and references for all of your major divisions, subdivisions, and ICUs.
Your chart or outline will, of course, probably be revised several times
during the rest of your study. A book which ends up with two major
divisions, several subdivisions, and a few ICUs in most of the subdivisions
could be charted somewhat like the samplechart
|The Book of __________________________________________________
|1:1-4 Title (Opening/greeting/introduction/etc.)
Title of major division
|1:4-40 Title of sub division
||1:4-15 Title of ICU
|1:16-32 Title of ICU
|1:33-40 Title of ICU
|2:1-4:4 Title of sub division
||2:1-3:7 Title of ICU
|3:8-4:4 Title of ICU
|4:5-23 Title of sub division
||4:5-23 Title of ICU
(same as title of sub division since there is only one ICU
|4:24-6:9 Title of sub division
||4:24-37 Title of ICU
|5:1-14 Title of ICU
|5:15-38 Title of ICU
|6:1-9 Title of ICU
Title of major division
|6:10-9:31 Title of sub division
||6:10-20 Title of ICU
|6:21-7:2 Title of ICU
|7:3-40 Title of ICU
|8:1-9:5 Title of ICU
|9:6-31 Title of ICU
|9:32-11:31 Title of sub division
||9:32-10:37 Title of ICU
|11:1-16 Title of ICU
|11:17-31 Title of ICU
|11:32-35 Title (Close, etc.)
Although various types of charts could be used (vertical, horizontal,
spiral, etc.), the important things for the chart to display are (1) the
whole book at a glance; (2) the titles and references for each major division,
subdivision, and ICU; and (3) the relative length of each division.
A chart composed of closed rectangles gives the false impression that each
division is an isolated unit. It is better to draw an open chart,
as illustrated above, to display the fact that there is a flow of events
or an idea developing throughout the book, and that no division should
ever be thought of as separated from the others. After you have completed
your outline or chart, note which subjects or events the author dwells
on at length, and which subjects or events are treated as incidental.
This will give you further hints as to the purpose and main thrust of the
Step 4 - Scrutinize
Scrutinize, analyze, and meditate on each ICU, attacking it from twelve
different angles. Do not carry out any of these twelve operations
hastily. Careful scrutiny, analysis, and meditation requires time
and concentration. Examine. Reflect. Ponder. Be
Each of these twelve operations requires a different mental process.
It is important not only that each of the twelve operations be complete,
but also that they be completed in the order in which they are listed.
The twelve operations are:
- Read for meaning
- Respace the text
- Outline the ICU
- Note the function of this ICU
- Ask six standard questions
- Note grammatical details
- Identify relationships
- Alter the wording
- Paraphrase the ICU
- List the main teachings
- Condense the ICU
- Quiz, etc
As you carry out each of these twelve operations, be sure to write out
all of your observations, interpretations, and questions in your notebook.
(Review the four suggestions regarding making observations in chapter 8.)
To help keep your notes organized, you may want to put your observations
on a form with columns like those shown below.
|Reference ___________________ Title ___________________ Page _____
|Translation __________________________________________ Date _____
||Resultant Interpretation & Questions
Number your observations consecutively so that you can refer to
them easily by number when you write out your interpretations. Not
all observations will have corresponding interpretations. However,
every interpretation must have at least one corresponding observation on
which it is based. Whenever possible, write out your interpretation
directly across from the observation(s) on which it is based. Whenever
you write out a question, look again at the entire ICU to see if the answer
is there. If not, list the several alternatives you feel might be
good potential answers to the question.
1. Read for meaning
Begin making observations on the ICU simply by carefully reading
the ICU for meaning. Read the ICU as a unit (as a whole,
from beginning to end without stopping) many times. Then read
it again as a unit several times in different translations. Each
time you read it, try to read it as though it were your first time!
Take time to meditate on the meaning and the main point of the ICU.
Many people have trouble concentrating on what they are reading.
They forget the previous sentence while they are reading the present one.
To overcome this lack of memory and concentration, develop the habit of
holding a summary of the essence of the previous sentences consciously
in your mind as you read each new sentence. In this way you can readily
identify the development of the thought in each ICU. This
takes hard mental work, but it is also very important if you are going
to read for meaning.
Don't overlook the obvious teachings of the passage. If
you begin your search by looking for hidden clues or minute details, you
may miss what is right on the surface. The message that is in plain
view is what you should see first.
Also, put yourself into the situation by trying to think as the
writer, the original readers, and the persons mentioned in the text might
have thought. Imagine that you are present to see and hear all that
is done and said. Visualize each event and situation. Take
part in the action and identify and empathize with each character in turn,
thinking his thoughts and understanding his emotions. Again, however,
beware of the temptation to get more out of the text than is actually there.
Do not try to make striking observations.
Discover the one or two sentences which express the one central thought
or main point of the ICU. Let the text give its own emphasis,
its own main idea. It will be very tempting to impose your own emphasis
on the text, depending on how you want to use the text and what point you
want it to make. What point, however, did the writer intend
to stress here? What is the built-in emphasis? Be especially
sensitive to ideas which are repeated throughout the larger context.
Write down the main point and then note the thought relationship of each
sentence to that main point. Keep the entire ICU in mind as you scrutinize
each part of it.
Then reread the passage as a whole.
2. Respace the text
Respace the text, clause by clause, phrase by phrase. You will
find examples of respaced texts in Chapter 8. Do not change any of the words or punctuation when you respace
the text. The only thing you should change is the spacing of the
clauses and phrases. Respacing the text requires two basic mental
operations which are at the heart of all meaningful reading. First
you must identify the units of thought (clauses or phrases) in the text.
Second, you must identify how each phrase or clause relates to the phrase
or clause immediately before it and immediately after it. When you
respace the text, you are merely spacing the thought units on the page
according to the way they already relate to each other in the text.
Usually the main statements in the ICU should begin at the left margin,
and the other phrases, clauses, and sentences should be indented appropriately.
Many of the modifying phrases and clauses can begin under the word they
modify. Sometimes modifying phrases located within a clause can be
respaced above the clause to reveal the uninterrupted flow of thought in
that clause. If there are several consecutive phrases which are parallel
to each other in thought, space them immediately under each other in order
to indicate that parallel relationship. If there is a clause which
refers to or explains a certain word in an earlier clause, use a dotted
or broken line to indicate that relationship.
You will be better able to spot the structure of each sentence if you
take careful note of the connectives and conjunctions (and, but, for,
when, therefore, if, because, after, although, since, so that, till, while,
etc.). You may not be able to respace the text so as to indicate
all of the relationships you see, but try to indicate the basic thought
relationships and grammatical relationships which you find already
there in the text.
Then you may want to underline the key words and clauses in your respaced
ICU. Reread your respaced text as a whole for meaning. Use
this respaced text throughout the rest of your study of this ICU.
Respacing the text is most helpful with didactic portions of Scripture,
and may not always be necessary for long narrative portions. If this
respacing is done thoughtfully and patiently, several of the following
operations will be simplified. The outline will stand out for you.
Further relationships will be more easily identified. And the condensation
will be taken mainly from your underlined sentences.
3. Outline the ICU
Make a detailed outline of the thought progression (the argument)
in the ICU. In order to be most informative, each point in your outline,
especially the main points, should be a sentence or a long phrase, not
merely a word or two. Get your outline from the sense of the text
itself. Make your outline as descriptive and interpretive as possible.
Avoid cute or alliterated outlines. You may need to experiment with
several revised outlines before you feel you have the one which fits the
text most naturally. After you have outlined the ICU, reread it as
a whole for meaning.
See Partial Outline of Christine Doctrine in Chapter 15 for an illustration of a standard, traditional outlining system.
4. Note the function of this ICU
Note the function of this ICU by determining how this ICU relates to
the larger context. Why is this ICU included? Why is it included
where it is? Note the progression of thought or action in the larger
context. Are there any new teachings or new elements in this ICU?
How did this ICU function for the original readers? If you tend to
think pictorially or graphically, try to diagram the relationships you
find between this ICU and the larger context. Then reread the passage
as a whole for meaning.
5. Ask six standard questions
Ask questions of the ICU. There are six standard questions with
which you should begin:
Then reread the passage as a whole for meaning.
- Who? Individuals? Groups? Person speaking? Persons spoken to? etc.
- When? Chronology? Sequence? What events have just happened? etc.
- Where? Geography? (Locate on a map.) Surroundings or setting? etc.
- What? Content? Issues? Actions? Events? Teachings? Problems? etc.
- How? Means? Methods? etc.
- Why? Motives? Purpose? Cause? Result? etc.
6. Note grammatical details
Carefully note such details as:
Note the overall structural form. Note the particular literary techniques,
figures of speech, and idioms, employed in this ICU. If you are able,
make a grammatical diagram of the key sentences. Then reread the
passage as a whole for meaning. (If you are not familiar with the
above grammatical details, you should spend some time studying a book on
- The parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections)
- Number (singular or plural)
- Tense (past perfect, past, present perfect, present, future perfect, future)
- Voice (active when the subject is acting, or passive when the subject is being acted upon)
- Mood (indicative when expressing a fact; subjunctive when expressing a possibility or wish; or imperative when expressing a command or request)
- Antecedents of pronouns
- Direct objects and indirect objects
7. Identify relationships
Search out the internal and external relationships and connections
and identify them accurately. Internal relationships are relationships
between two or more items within this particular ICU. External
relationships are relationships between items in this ICU and items in
the larger context.
This operation is important for all portions of Scripture, but it is
especially crucial for didactic portions. Reflect on each item (each
fact, idea, event, etc.) in the ICU and think about how it relates to the
rest of the items in the same sentence, in the same ICU, and outside the
ICU. Then, when you describe in your notes what you have found, do
not merely write that one item "is related to" another item. Instead,
describe the actual relationship by identifying it as one of the relationships
listed in the chart at the end of this section. (Do not be disturbed
if you are not immediately able to sort out all of the types of relationships.
Nor should you feel that you must memorize technical names for all of these
types of relationships. However, the list at the end of this section
should help you appreciate the fact that there are many types of relationships,
and that being aware of the varied types of relationships can help you
analyze a Bible passage more thoughtfully and more accurately.)
The point is: Don't just look for isolated facts, ideas, or events.
Find the connections and relationships that are in the text, and describe
them as accurately as you can. And do not be satisfied when you have
found one or two relationships. Keep looking. After all, you
cannot make inductive inferences unless you first find relationships.
Many of the relational questions in the list below should be asked of the
passage in order to identify and clarify the internal and external relationships
found in the text.
Sometimes the relationships will be stated explicitly in the text.
Other times they will be implicit. The more you ponder the passage,
other questions will come to mind as they are stimulated by the events
and ideas in the ICU. Pursue every question. Some of
them will turn out to be very significant avenues of inquiry. The
more questions you ask of the passage, the more answers you will discover.
Cultivate your curiosity. Ask. Ask. Ask. Remember
to write down all of you observations and interpretations in your notebook.
If you tend to think pictorially or graphically, try to diagram the more
significant relationships which you find. Then reread the passage
as a whole for meaning.
Types of Relationships
One item (one fact, idea, event, etc.) in the text, which will be referred to by using the
letter A, could be related to another item, which will be referred to by using the letter B, in a variety of ways. Here are some of the types of relationships that you may find as you examine the text.
Is A numerically greater than B? Does A occur
more often that B? Does A have larger dimensions than B?
How is A located in relation to B? How are A and B located in relation
Chronological relationship (fixed events).
When did A occur? How many
days or years separate A and B? What is the order of these fixed
(order of unfixed events; a set of steps, stages, or events that has a
beginning and an end and does not necessarily repeat itself). Does
A come before or after B? Is A first, fourth, etc. in the sequence?
Is A part of a string of events leading to B?
(a repeating set of steps, stages, forces, events, etc.). Do A and
B recur in the same order repeatedly?
Reciprocating or vice versa relationship.
Do A and B occur alternately?
Can A lead to B as well as B lead to A? Does A relate to B in the
same way that B relates to A?
Cause-effect or parent-offspring relationship.
Does A bring about B?
Is A the cause, or one of the causes, of B? Is A the result, or one
of the results, of B? Beware of assuming that a chronological
or sequential relationship is automatically a cause-effect relationship.
Agency or means-end relationship.
Is A the tool or agent that is used by B to accomplish
Comparative or contrastive relationship.
Are A and B identical? Similar?
Overlapping? Different? Mutually exclusive? Opposites?
Is A positive while B is negative? These relationships can be analyzed
by listing the characteristics of A and B in two side-by-side columns and
then attempting to match up the characteristics of A with the characteristics
Is A part of the evidence that supports the proposition
B? Is A one of the reasons why B is true?
Inclusive (or the opposite: exclusive) relationship.
Does A (the whole) include
B (the part)? Does A exclude B?
Must A be true before B can logically be true?
Must A take place before B can take place? Is A necessary for B?
Inferential relationship (If A, then B).
If A is true, then B will be true.
A is sufficient for B.
Is A more important than B. Is A greater than B?
Does A have authority over B? Is B required to submit to A?
Is A one of the attributes, characteristics, or
qualities of B? Is A one of the ways in which B functions?
Is A an example or illustration of B? Is
A "applied" to (or explained in terms of) B so as to clarify A?
Does A give the worth, or describe the value, of
Problem-solution or question-answer relationship.
Is A the problem to which
B is the solution? Is A the question that is answered by B?
Is A the moral principle while B describes the
practical application of A?
Secondary or sibling relationship.
Are A and B parts of the same whole?
Results of the same cause? Are A and B related to each other only
because they are primarily related to C?
Are A and B completely independent of each other? Totally irrelevant
to each other?
Of course, the types of relationships
listed above often overlap. You may often find that A and B are related
to each other in more than one way.
8. Alter the wording
Alter the wording of the text. Try reading each sentence omitting
one word or phrase, then the next, etc., in order to see the contribution
which each word of phrase makes to the meaning of the sentence. Do
the same with each paragraph, omitting each sentence in turn. Also,
it will help you appreciate what the text actually says if you think about
what the text could have said but did not. In order to do this, temporarily
change each word and each phrase and thus consider a wide variety of substitutions
in the text. Try making changes in the grammatical forms of the words
(refer to the grammatical details listed in operation 6), as well as changes
in the actual words, substituting words which are at times opposite in
meaning, and at times close in meaning, to the words which are in the text.
Do not misunderstand the intent of this operation. You are not
trying to find wording which makes better sense. If that were your
goal, then you would actually be revising the Bible according to your own
wisdom. The intent of this operation is not to alter the wording
and then leave it in its altered state. The intent is to temporarily
alter the wording so that the significance and impact of the "original"
wording can be better understood and appreciated. Then reread the
passage as a whole for meaning.
If you find that the interpretation of the ICU hinges on the precise
meaning of one particular word in the ICU, you may need to do a word study
at this point. See Chapter 18 for additional thoughts related to
9. Paraphrase the ICU
Paraphrase the ICU in your own words. Rewrite the entire passage,
sentence by sentence. Do not merely look at one word at a time and
then substitute a synonym. That can be done with very little thought
about the meaning in the ICU. Instead, look at each sentence and
think about its meaning in light of the entire ICU. Then substitute
another sentence which is made up of mostly different words but which means
exactly the same thing. Then reread the passage as a whole for meaning.
10. List the main teachings
List the main teachings which are stated explicitly or implicitly in
the ICU. An explicit teaching is one that is stated clearly and directly
in the text. Explicit teaching are very easy to list. However,
very careful when listing implicit teachings. Implicit teaching
include (1) ideas which must be assumed in order for the explicit statements
in the passage to make sense, or (2) ideas which can be inferred from the
explicit statements in the passage. For example, Genesis 1:1 dies
not explicitly state that God exists. Nevertheless, that verse cannot
make sense unless it is assumed that God does in fact exist. Thus,
the idea that God exists would be an implicit teaching of Genesis 1:1.
The idea that God created the heavens and the earth would be an explicit
teaching of Genesis 1:1.
Then reread the passage as a whole for meaning.
11. Condense the ICU
Write a condensation of the ICU. Boil down the essence of the
text into a summary which is approximately one fifth as long as the ICU.
Be sure to include all the essential events and ideas contained in the
ICU, only in abbreviated form. Then reread the passage as a whole
12. Quiz, etc.
Write a quiz based on this ICU made up of true-false, fill-in-the-blank,
and short-answer questions. Or, if the ICU is a narrative, write
a brief report (a front page article or a magazine special) describing
the events and the people involved. Or, draw a picture of the setting.
Or, write a diary entry with records the events and feelings from one or
several individuals' points of view. Then reread the passage as a
whole for meaning.
When you have completed all of the operations with this ICU, do the
same with the next ICU, etc.
Occasionally review your titles for the major divisions, subdivisions,
and ICUs so that you can keep an overview of the entire book fresh in your
Step 5 - Examine Topics
Study topics throughout the book. For example, what does the book
say about the Scriptures, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Satan, man, sin,
faith, salvation, righteous living, the church, the future, etc.?
You may also want to choose topics about which you have written interesting
observations or questions. Also study key words used repeatedly in
the book, especially words which you suspect might be used in a special
technical sense. Along with regular topics and key words, you might
find it interesting to trace various categories of statements, such as
commands, warnings, etc. through the book. Be sure to note to whom
these are addressed, conditions placed on the promises, etc.
As you examine everything that the book has to say on whatever topics
and key words you choose, you will not want to be content merely to tabulate
all the statements. Also ponder them, relate them, and summarize
them. Be sure to study each topic in light of (1) how it relates
to the main thrust of the book, and (2) how each mention of the topic relates
to the ICU in which it is found.
More specific procedures for studying a topic throughout the entire
Bible are spelled out in Chapter 18.
Step 6 - Synthesize
Put all the parts together (all the ICU's subdivisions, and topics).
Relate all the parts to each other. Integrate all the parts into
a meaningful whole. As you do so, you may need to revise some of
you initial survey findings, your major divisions, etc.
Combine your titles and think through the entire book. You may
even want to memorize your main titles. Combine your outlines of
each ICU so that you have a complete outline of the book. Also combine
your condensations of each ICU so that you have a running summary of the
Read the entire book. Write a brief capsule (three or four sentences)
which expresses the heart of the book.
Step 7 - Compare
Up to this point you should have used interpretive aids sparingly.
Now, however, you should compare your understanding of the book with the
understandings of others by using a variety of interpretive aids.
When you find differences of interpretation, carefully examine the reasons
they give for their interpretations. Then reexamine the reasons for
your own interpretation. Remember that the Bible book itself is your
final appeal. Any "debate" should drive you back to the Bible.
Also compare your findings with what you have already discovered in
your study of other Bible books and topics. Relate and integrate.
Step 8 - Apply
Put the teachings you have discovered to use in your life. Of
course, any applications which can be made before this step are commended,
provided you are certain you have the proper interpretation before you
make the application. Go back and read through all the practical
applications you thought of while you were writing out your observations
and interpretations. Some of the principles may find direct application
in your life. In other cases you may have to discern the general
spiritual principle underlying the various specific statements and situations,
so that the principle can be transferred to your circumstances. Consider
all the possibilities. Are there some passage you should memorize,
some commands you should obey, some examples to follow, some promises to
claim, some errors to avoid, some attitudes to adopt?
Finally, do not neglect to share your findings with others.
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