in ,

A Handy way to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth

Sunset with an open Bible superimposed over it: Photo 165208206 / Clouds © Photodynamx |

[Originally published as part of the opening chapter of The Plot: An Overview of the Bible]

At the outset of this awesome biblical journey, realize the goal is to grasp the Bible’s big picture. The successful student masters the wider context of debated issues.

  • The meaning of a word depends partly on its context within the sentence.
  • The meaning of the sentence depends partly on its context with the paragraph.
  • The meaning of the paragraph on the chapter.
  • The meaning of the chapter on the book.
  • The proper understanding of even the book depends on its position within the context of the Bible.

Those who understand the big picture avoid getting lost in the details.

Advertisement Below:

Know the plot,
enjoy the twists;
know it not,
annoy your wits.

Knowing the big picture (i.e., the plot) and the plot twist are prerequisites for any serious Bible study. Imagine someone developing a theology of Genesis using a partial manuscript that omits the chapter about the fall. Without a clear understanding of the plot twist in the New Testament, any systematic theology will fail.

The “Sentence Within” Technique

As you read the Bible, learn to focus on the core ideas contained in its passages. Verses that may seem familiar will almost certainly present new information previously overlooked because every good Bible teacher will bring out new information from the Word.

Below, I have added bold words to highlight a sentence within a sentence:

Therefore every scribe concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old. Matthew 13:52

Notice that the bold words within that sentence highlight a smaller version of the sentence, drawing attention to a particular thought:

Every scribe brings out of his treasure things new and old.

Advertisement Below:

So the bold words not only form a sub-sentence, they indicate exactly which words support the point being made by the writer. Bold underlining brings into focus an even more basic idea, always forming an even tighter sentence:

Every scribe brings out things new.

Using your Tools Carefully

Techniques for studying the Bible, called hermeneutics, can be used properly or improperly. If used properly, this system of bold words and underlining can precisely denote one particular truth within a verse. The principle rule for using this technique properly is honesty. This is because leaving out a single word, especially a condition or negation, could distort a text.

If we were to form a sub-sentence, “He who does believe is condemned,” rather than Christ’s words, “He who does not believe is condemned,” we would be twisting the Bible in a dishonest way. Used correctly, however, the sentence-within technique greatly aids Bible study.

An Example

The first chapter of Ephesians contains Paul’s run-on, seven-verse sentence (Eph. 1:15-21). Once we find the key, “I give thanks for you,” this kernel of thought helps us keep the rest of the passage in context. The sub-sentence helps communicate Paul’s ideas to us, the readers. The reader then considers whether the original author of the greater quote, say, Paul or Jesus, also had in mind the same inner sentence. If so, then honest use of language and consideration of the context has indicated the validity of the sub-sentence.

What the Author was Thinking About

The sentence within a sentence technique is designed to highlight not individual words but complete thoughts. Grammatical elements like subject, verb, and object help to constrain the range of interpretation and narrows the possible scope of the meaning of the passage.

The power of this technique lies in its use of the linguistic restraints supplied by the original author. Using it, the student explores a Scripture with his mind’s eye being guided by the text itself and not by his own imagination. This “sentence within” technique aids those who want to analyze and focus while limiting the human tendency to distort.

It is much easier to avoid misunderstanding the text by focusing on a sentence within a sentence than when focusing on a single word within the sentence. This sentence technique supplements the standard practice of word study.

Advertisement Below:

Overemphasis on a single word can lead to the misinterpretation of a verse. One word could have a half dozen different meanings, giving a poor teacher ample leeway to mislead. If, however, the teacher disciplines himself so that he brings out the meaning of a verse by highlighting a sub-sentence within it, preferably complete with subject, verb, and object, he increases the likelihood of accuracy.

How This Works Out

Let’s suppose a TV evangelist who always talks about money preaches on the above verse. He might focus on a word study of treasure and talk for an hour suggesting that all believers should have earthly wealth. However, the above bold emphasis and underlining fine-tune the message of the text. This method safely helps to identify the point of the passage: that successful Bible teachers will bring attention to new and old lessons because men cannot deplete the riches of God’s Word.

There is an extra margin of safety in the nature of sentences within sentences, which tend to describe a subset of the original points made in the outer sentence.You can add yet another layer of emphasis through the use of italicsbold italics, and for maximum emphasis, bold underlined italics. If a word or phrase has all three highlights, like this, the point is indispensable.

Avatar photo

Written by Bob Enyart

Bob Enyart was cohost Real Science Radio with Fred Williams talking about science to debunk evolution and to show the evidence for the creator God including from biology, geology, astronomy, and physics. RSR didn't only talk the talk. They made their own discoveries, inventions, and breakthrough reports! And they debated atheists and Darwinists as well as spar with anti-creationists. Most fun of all, they got to interview the outstanding scientists who dare to challenge today's accepted creed that nothing created everything.

Advertisement Below:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Advertisement Below:
Advertisement Below:
Kansas Monument rocks: Photo 35213019 © Tommy Brison |

Digging Up Bones, Part 2

Spices on display at a market in Tehran: Photo 92584541 © Hoang Bao Nguyen |

Spices: the Spice of Life