Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ephesus: Study Methods pt1

Words and phrases and paragraphs.

This is the beginning of actually studying the text of the Bible. Most of the Ephesus project will be geared to reading the Bible, or even reading about the Bible, but from time to time some passages will get some close attention. This is one of those times.

The study of Ephesians will involve a great deal more reflection. It was written by the most highly revered teacher of Christian living, to the Church in the city of Ephesus, and it was written about what it is to live "the Christian life."

Every phrase in this letter has an easy meaning - and a deep meaning. I recommend first reading through, a chapter at a time, to get the overview - then go back and read one paragraph at a time. It is good to note that no word is in the Bible by accident (well, with English translations, this may only be 98% true) and each word is worth pondering.

As you begin this process, it will be helpful to look up each word, sometimes even if you think you know what it means (I strongly recommend looking up every word of four or more letters). Also look closely at each "Him" or "His" to see what they are really referring to. (If you can remember diagramming sentences, it will come in handy here - I can't remember how, but after taking a class in Bible interpretation I now know why they taught it in English class.)

This is the reason I preceded this article with one on Bible Dictionaries. Every word in the Bible will likely be in either a Bible Dictionary, or in an ordinary desk dictionary. Many will be in both.

As you read one paragraph (see below for paragraph divisions) at a time, look and think about each and every word and each and every phrase - and how they relate to the entire book. This should normally take several weeks.

If you find you cannot study a good half hour on each paragraph, you seriously need to get together with a mentor who can help you learn how to do this. But don't fret too much, your skills will improve with practice.

Because this process takes so long, you will need to read through the book on occasion to refresh yourself of the overall picture. On the days you read the whole book through, you may notice some things. One is that (after the two verse greeting) Paul starts with who God is, then what God has done and then goes on to what our duty is, as part of the Body of the Church. This is a constant with Paul - all of his books, from Romans through Philemon, begin with doctrine and end with duty.

Note On Paragraph Divisions:
I break up the letter to the Ephesians slightly differently than most Bibles - in their original form there were no verses or paragraphs (these are "historically recent" inventions, developed in the past thousand years, to help us locate and read stuff)

I would begin study at each of the 25 verse numbers listed below:

  • chap 1: 1,7,11,15
  • chap 2: 1,8,11,14,19
  • chap 3: 1,8,14
  • chap 4: 1,7,11,17,25
  • chap 5: 1,8,15,22,30
  • chap 6: 1,5,10,13,21

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