Thursday, April 26, 2007

Biblical Interpretation: Day 2

The day passed by pretty fast today and I had good fun. Here’s a summary of the class.

Grammatical Structure
We need to observe how phrases, words and sentence construction connect and relate to one another. One of the ways to help us uncover the grammatical structure of passages is by way of sentence diagramming. It is particularly helpful with Pauline writings. There are several ways to do sentence diagramming. What we are doing however, is just sentence flow – simpler and less complicated.

According to Kar Yong, seek ye first the Main Verb, the Object, Subject, and the rest will be added unto you. The rest being the modifiers, i.e. the prepositional phrases, adjectives, adverbs, dependent clauses.

Word Study
Words can contain several meanings and when we read bible passages, we need to determine the most likely meaning of the words. As a general rule, the usage determines the meaning of the word and not the other way round, that is: the meaning of the word should not determine its usage.

The meaning of words also develops and changes over time. Therefore we need to be careful to know their meaning in their time of usage and most importantly not to read the meaning of our time into them. A very good example is certainly the word “gay”.

Performing a word study is quite a simple and systematic process, though the effort may not be. First, we read the passage and identify the significant words that control and give meaning to the passage. Take note that we especially need to be careful with words that we are familiar with. Next, we determine the range of possible meanings. It can be done in a progressive manner starting from the book itself, e.g. the book of Romans, then onto the Pauline letters, the rest of NT, the rest of the bible and even extra-biblical sources. Thirdly, we consult dictionaries and lexicons. And finally, we determine out of the range of meaning, the most likely one.

The Rest of the Day
We spend a lot of time doing sentence diagramming and some word study, as well as going through some available and good online resources where we can get our hands into some really good materials. Kar Yong promised to update his website with the latest links.

And I changed my mind on the Historical Cultural Context Study selection of text, deciding instead on Luke 23:2, John 19:12-15 and Acts 25:8 which centers on Caesar and I would most probably have to work on the Roman Empire to understand what Caesar meant to the Jews.

Lee Mei and I spent 3 hours going scouring the library for materials to help us in our assignments. I am quite focused this time in what I wanted to do and therefore I am quite happy with what I manage to get.

As a close to the day, I completed and submitted my sentence diagramming of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 as the assignment of the day. I was actually only required to construct a sentence flow of the passage but I was so fascinated by some words and phrases that I did a bit more. We were given the freedom to be creative anyway.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NASB)
(Click to enlarge)

What fascinated me were three things:

1. the repetitive usage of the words “death” and life”
2. the possible connection between “jars of clay” and “death of Jesus”; “all-surpassing power” and “the life of Jesus”
3. the usage of “we-us-our” throughout the whole passage until the last word “you” – I have to really work this out one day because the flow is really illogical on face value.

More tomorrow.

Picture by Herb Collingridge


  1. Oh how I love this comment:

    "According to Kar Yong, seek ye first the Main Verb, the Object, Subject, and the rest will be added unto you. The rest being the modifiers, i.e. the prepositional phrases, adjectives, adverbs, dependent clauses."

    Pearlie- for your information you DEFINITELY fall into my Theology Blogger category!!!I admire your astuteness and your desire to learn.

  2. Hi Pearlie,

    Kar Yong sounds like a fun guy, and there you are with English, grammar & the Bible - all the things you love! So glad people all over the world are enjoying Bridget's birthday! ;)

  3. Haha ... definitely Theology Blogger eh? Good to know that at least I am not the preachy kind :)

  4. Julia,
    Yes, he is and yes you are right and no wonder I have been enjoying myself.

    Wish Bridget a Happy Birthday for me!