The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read, Part 2 | Observation, Part 1

June 24, 2011

Update July 3, 2011: In the course of writing this series on how I study my Bible, everything I thought I knew about Bible study has been flipped on its head.  My world has been twisted upside down when it comes to the purpose of the Bible and what the Lord wants us to gain from it.  I have taken the last week to think through what I now believe about Bible Study and thankfully the two posts I have already posted need little change.  Please bear with me as I attempt to re-work my own method while teaching it to you.

Last week I explained why studying the Bible is so important.  It’s not enough to simply read it–I really believe that if you are to gain the most from it, you need to study it–dive into it and really see what God is saying.  Today I’m going to begin showing you the simplified, but still in-depth, way that I study my own Bible.  I’m so excited to share this with you.

Prayer

First, before anything else, it’s so important to pray.  I thank God for giving me the ability to read and to understand.  I thank Him for His Word and I pray that He would give me understanding.  I pray He would teach me something new and that He would give me wisdom as to how to apply what I learn to my life.  I’ll write a post about prayer at another time, but I’m convinced we (myself included) don’t fully grasp the importance of prayer.  Don’t skip this part of your time with the Lord or hurry through it.  Prayer is such a precious thing.  And really–you should be praying (i.e. having a conversation with God) throughout your entire time of study!  Talk to Him as if He’s right there next to you–because He is!

What will you study?

Before we can really get into how to study a passage, we need to pick a passage.  The best way to study the Bible is to start at the beginning of a book and work your way through to the end.  So often we will pull a verse or two out of a certain book and completely misinterpret the meaning because we do not know the context in which it was written.  In addition, what tends to happen when we do this is that we miss the point–we miss where Jesus is in the passage because all we see is a list of characteristics we should possess.  (Updated July 3, 2011)  The best way to keep from doing that is to study an entire book from top to bottom.  For your own study, I recommend The Book of Romans!

However, for our purposes here, although I just implored you not to do this, I’m going to focus on these tiny two verses: Titus 2:4-5.  As we go I will give you the context that you would have gained had you begun your study at the beginning of the book of Titus. (Updated July 3, 2011)  Later this summer I’ll be blogging about the profound impact these two little verses have had on my life, and so I think it would be wonderful to study them here with you first:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

How will you study?

There are three main sections to studying: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.  In Observation we are asking What does it say?  It’s so simple: just what does the text say?–without any in-depth studying.  It’s important to just stick to what we see right away in the text.  We won’t be speculating as to the meaning (Interpretation) or thinking about what we might do to apply the text (Application).  We are simply finding out exactly what this part of God’s Word says.

Where is this coming from?

Before we go too far, let me remind you that the meat and potatoes of what I’m about to show you is taken from Howard Hendricks’ Living by the Book.  If, by the end of this series, you want to know more, I encourage you get your own copy–he is much more detailed than I am going to be here.  For those of you in the Houston area, much of the simplification of Hendricks’ method I gained from taking a class from the fabulous Guy Jackson, called Bible Study Methods, at the College of Biblical Studies.  You might want to check that class out–it really is wonderful!

Observation

Remember that the whole point of observing the text is finding out: What does it say?

There are 13 parts to Observation.  Today we will be going over the first five of them.  All 13 parts usually take me one day of Bible study (Updated July 3, 2011):

1. Who?

Ask every “who” question you can.  Who is speaking to whom?  Who is being written of or spoken about?  Who is writing to whom?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • Paul, a bond-servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1) is writing to Titus, Paul’s true child in a common faith (1:4).
  • Paul is writing about young women (2:4).
  • Paul is also writing about older women (2:3).
  • Paul is writing about believers (1:5).
  • Paul is also writing about the word of God (2:5).

2. What?

Ask every “what question you can.  What is this about?  What is the whole passage about?  What is it saying about that?  What is the occasion, situation, circumstance?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • This is about what young women should be like–characteristics they should possess.
  • This is also about things that the older women should teach the younger (2:3-4)
  • This is about honoring the word of God (2:5)
  • This whole passage (chapter 2) is about the way that believers should live (2:11)
  • This whole passage (chapter 2) is Paul telling Titus how older men (2:2), older women (2:3-4), younger women (2:4-5), young men (2:6-8), and bondslaves (2:9-10) should live as believers (2:11-14).

3. When?

When is this happening (both the story and the writing)?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • This is happening after Paul left Titus in Crete to set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city (1:5).

4. Where?

Where is this happening (both the story and the writing)?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • Paul left Titus in Crete, and talks about the Cretans (1:5; 1:12-13), so Titus is still in Crete and these are the believers Paul is helping Titus lead.

5. Structure

This is really sentence diagramming and/or outlining.  Now, before you go running from the room screaming, it sheds so much light onto a passage or verse that it’s worth the headache!  I promise!  Sometimes I think Structure would better be part of Interpretation, but I suppose this is a good place to start really looking at the text.  I often come back to my diagram or outline, though, during the Interpretation stage–and often after studying the passage more I realize that I diagrammed or outlined something–or the whole thing–incorrectly!  (Updated July 3, 2011)

Diagram short verses. Look for subjects, verbs, & modifying phrases.

Since our text, Titus 2:4-5 is so short, we will diagram it.  We’ll need to diagram one whole SENTENCE, though, so we’ll start with verse 3.

First, though, here is a wonderful little picture of how a basic sentence is diagrammed:

SUBJECT: The noun (a word or group of words which names a person, place, thing, or abstract concept) or pronoun (a word used as a substitute for a noun) which is the main subject of the sentence.

VERB: A word or group of words which asserts an action or state of being, makes a command, or asks a question.

COMPLEMENT: The direct object (a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a verb or shows the result of the action) or indirect object (tells to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done and who is receiving the direct object).

MODIFIER: Adjectives (a word or group of words which describes, limits, qualifies, quantifies, or makes exact a noun or pronoun) and Adverbs (a word or group of words which describes, limits, or clarifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs).

PREPOSITION: A word which shows the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and some other word in the sentence.

CONJUNCTION: A word or group of words which join two words, phrases, or clauses together.  I think you really need to check out this video for more valuable information about conjunctions. ;)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

This may not be perfect, but you get the point!  I know it might seem impossible to figure this out for yourself, but it’s so worth it.  It helps if you have a brother-in-law in seminary who loves you enough to email and text back and forth with you about this (like I do!), but if you have no such relative, never fear! There are many books out there to help if you really want to learn more about sentence diagramming.  In addition, The Reed-Kellogg Online Diagrammer will diagram short sentences for you.  Practice makes perfect!  Diagramming sentences is incredibly important in (later) rightly interpreting the Word!

Outline long passages.

  • Determine the one big idea.  Summarize it in one complete, simple sentence in third-person past tense.
  • Find and identify the categories (perhaps these are already split by paragraphs) and summarize each category in one complete sentence in third-person past tense.  All verses must be accounted for.  Break down each one into minor points.
  • Reveal the relationships.  Make sure all points support each other.  Rephrase and reword to reveal how it is all connected and related.

Usually you would do this for each section of a book when you study it from beginning to end, but for our purposes here I’ll show you how to outline Titus 2:1-10.

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.  Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

First, here is The One Big Idea & the initial outline, where I basically just copied the entire passage, splitting it up into main points and sub-points in a way that seemed to make the most sense:

Second, I copied and pasted the above outline and reworked the wording so that each point would flow together.  It’s important to change to wording (without changing the meaning, of course) to show how it all connects:

I’m sure this will change as I continue to study.  I will learn things that will show me that what I’ve written above is wrong.  But that’s okay.  It’s a learning process.  The point of this is to get your thoughts down so that in the Interpretation phase you can ask (and answer) a whole bunch of questions about the text.  For instance, I wasn’t sure where to put the italicized “so that” phrases in the outline.  I will figure it out when I start studying the words and reading commentaries.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!  We still have the second part of Observation to go!  I hope you’re excited to continue in this learning process with me.  I’ve tried to make this as easy to understand as possible, but I’m guessing I didn’t do as great a job as I wanted to.  If you have any questions about any of it–the process or what I’ve concluded–please ask!  I want to help!

Next time: Observation, part 2

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2 Responses to “The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read, Part 2 | Observation, Part 1”

  1. jravery said

    You lost me at “structure”…

    • Haha, You are not the only one! No worries, though, 99% of the reason is my fault for being confusing! Don’t throw the baby (this method) out with the bathwater (my poor explanation of “structure”)! Stay with me through the rest of this and I really think it will bless you (not just you, Jasmine . . . but you, too!) :)

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