Guidelines for selecting a passage

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Apr 24 2022 8:25 PM

What are your favorite guidelines for determining the boundaries of an appropriate passage (pericope) to read, study, teach or pray?

Ones I already know:

  • Windows on Jesus: Methods in Gospel Exegesis by Wim Weren 
  • Dean B. Deppe, All Roads Lead to the Text: Eight Methods of Inquiry into the Bible
  • David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 24 2022 9:36 PM

MJ. Smith:
What are your favorite guidelines for determining the boundaries of an appropriate passage (pericope) to read, study, teach or pray?

My initial reaction is that I don't use "guidelines" as any passage is appropriate to read, study and teach. But what do you mean by "determining the boundaries" in light of the last resource which is a series of essays on NT Interpretation (covering Basic Methods and Special Issues)?

Dave
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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 24 2022 9:58 PM

Dave Hooton:
My initial reaction is that I don't use "guidelines" as any passage is appropriate to read, study and teach

You may not think of them as guidelines, but you have some commonsense rules (at a minimum) for where to start and where to finish.

You would perhaps chose this

 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;h with you I am well pleased.”

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mk 1:9–11.

but I doubt that you would ever chose this

from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mk 1:9–10.

. I was trying to get answers that were not triggered by the term pericope.

The references I gave all use the term pericope, two use "traditional" boundary markers, the other uses Discourse Analysis markers.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 4 2022 5:07 PM

MJ. Smith:
What are your favorite guidelines for determining the boundaries of an appropriate passage (pericope) to read, study,

Excellent question, many times people do not stop to think about methods used to approach study, analysis, etc.

As you probably know my main interest is Systematics, but I am well aware of the importance of historical, Biblical, exegetical, and other tools.

The key idea is that many tools, allow one to work in different projects, with better ease and convenience if the right tool is used.

As proposed by the NDBT:

"Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole Bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole and, to achieve this, it must work with the mutual interaction of the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the various corpora, and with the inter-relationships of these within the whole canon of Scripture. Only in this way do we take proper account of the fact that God has spoken to us in Scripture."

 Rosner, B. S. (2000). Biblical Theology. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 3). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

So I believe much in intertextuality and diachronic analysis.

Note that according to NDBT concepts is the way to go over word studies:

So in order to do synthesis, we need to go to different tools by different traditions to see what verses (or pericopes) they think are related to a topic.

https://www.logos.com/search?query=topical&sortBy=Relevance&limit=60&page=1&ownership=all&geographicAvailability=availableToMe 

So yes, Thompson chain reference, cross-references books, Bible dictionaries, etc. are helpful.

https://www.logos.com/product/391/topical-analysis-of-the-bible

https://www.logos.com/product/16107/dictionary-of-bible-themes 

 https://www.logos.com/product/37717/catholic-topical-index 

Once you get a list of probable pericopes that are relevant, it would be good to see if there are any discourse analysis books on any of them, to try to see the main train of thoughts identified to clarify what seems more important (need to check with the Holy Spirit for confirmation, or adding missing conceptual parts).

Then you can double check with:

https://www.logos.com/product/27277/new-dictionary-of-biblical-theology 

Then you may try to do a topical inductive study (having enlarged previously your conceptual framework), and then check with any resource that does just that kind of study.

Historically different angles were used for different doctrines / topics, so it helps to check that too.

To get a macro idea of what the whole process entails:

Remember, when evaluating doctrine, not only must it jibe with Scripture, but also should be compatible with the Character and Nature of God.

So in order to get to a decent theological construct, synchronic analysis alone ain't gonna cut it.

Hope some of the above helps answer your question.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 4 2022 5:25 PM

Thank you, Hamilton. My question was intended to be much more specific - given a long block of scripture text, how do you break it into pericopes. I'm not interested in how to use other people's pericope divisions, I'm interested in DIY pericopes. As such, much of your post is off-topic.

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 4 2022 9:04 PM

MJ. Smith:
What are your favorite guidelines for determining the boundaries of an appropriate passage (pericope) to read, study, teach or pray?

Genre context => How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

Keep Smiling Smile

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Gregory Lawhorn | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 4:53 AM

I preach verse-by-verse through biblical books; very rarely do I preach topically. Right now I'm preaching through Matthew, and I'm starting Matthew 14 this coming Sunday. As I plan a few weeks at a time, I simply read the text and note how the narrative unfolds. 

I see Matthew 14 as comprising three specific, related narratives.

  • 14:1-12 - the account of John the Baptist's execution
  • 14:13-21 - the feeding of the 5,000
  • 14:22-33 - Jesus walks on the water

I see 14:12-13 linking the account of John's death and Jesus, whose response is to go away by Himself, only to be followed by a crowd.

14:22-23 indicates that the feeding of the 5,000 interrupted, but did not prevent, Jesus from going away to pray by Himself. 

Finally, I see 14:34-36 as belonging to the text that follows in chapter 15 and would preach it as part of what follows.

Whether or not each DIY pericope is covered in a single sermon is determined by my study. I might devote a sermon to 14:22-23 and Jesus' prayer life, or include it as part of the larger passage. But if I do break it out as a separate message it will be within the context of the larger passage. 

I tend to follow Second Timothy 3:16 and the work the Word does in and for us as a guide: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. I have the advantage of 15 or 20 hours of study; my congregation doesn't. So I'm very happy to take a couple of weeks on a single passage to patiently and carefully explore rather than trying to cram everything into a single message.

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xnman | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 5:52 AM

I'm a bit like Gregory Lawhorn... I do like verse by verse studying and preaching.... 

Let's say I'm studying the parables of Jesus.... which tends to throw the study into a topical study.... 

So I come down to the Good Samaritan Luke 10:29-37 which is where the main part of the parable is.

This is a great big parable which is rich in different emphasis and teachings. And... to really gleam what the parable is about.... one must back  up to include Luke 10:25-28.

So what started off as a "Topical Study" and it could stay there... but it actually, very easily, morphs into being an expository study that exposes the many different aspects of the parable.

The break points, might be different depending on the different studying or teaching your doing... for example... I'll use 2 examples....

If a topical study, the breakpoints might be starting at Luke 10:30 thru Luke 10:37... just gleam the highlights and such....

An expository study... might start at Luke 10:25 thru Luke 10:37 which would include more study and information about the lawyer and possibly go into Deuteronomy and Leviticus for background on the commands to love and even bring in what Jesus told another lawyer in John 3. 

In other words.... I would suggest that the type of study could and most likely would necessarily change the break points ..or boundaries.

xn = Christan  man=man -- Acts 11:26 "....and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch".

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 7:07 AM

MJ. Smith:
Thank you, Hamilton. My question was intended to be much more specific

Is one has done inductive study, then notes on important themes can be used.

The looking into other sources is to make sure you do not leave anything out.

In the end you have to decide the limit for passages to consider what is relevant.

Double checking with other traditions allows you to see if common conclusions on certain themes point to a more universal principle being involved.

So if one was to study commands of Christ, how would one go about it?

Perhaps:

"A. DIDACTIC UTTERANCES.—1. The moral teaching of Christ concerned itself with general principles rather than with precepts. The Sermon on the Mount, which contains the chief elements of His ethical teaching, is not a code of injunctions, but a declaration of the fundamental principles that underlie His Kingdom; and the particular instances of right conduct mentioned in that discourse are not commandments, but illustrations of these principles. When He teaches His disciples regarding righteousness and sin, He avoids laying down laws regarding special acts, but goes at once to the very heart of moral distinctions, revealing the general principles which rule all special cases. Thus He solved all questions of meat by a single sentence, which ‘made all meats clean’ (Mk 7:19 RV); and He answered all questions of casuistry regarding Sabbath observance by pointing out the beneficent principle which led to its institution. In a word, He reduced all right action, whether towards God or towards man, to a fulfilling, and all wrong action to an outraging, of the one all-embracing commandment of Love. And thus His teaching finds its application in every act in every age.

There is but one exception recorded in our Gospels,—that in reference to divorce (Mk 10:11, 12, cf. Mt 5:32, 19:9). In this case He gives a concise and direct precept; but a precept, obedience to which purifies the human race at its source."

Grierson, C. T. P. (1906). Prophet. In J. Hastings (Ed.), A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels: Aaron–Zion (Vol. 2, p. 435). Edinburgh; New York: T&T Clark; Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[bold added for emphasis].

So in a block of text, how many principles are contained? are they related? why? how would you break up the text block? why would you do it?

Resources may give you idea how others have done it, then by looking at their particular situations (context), you may get an idea of how it could apply to the particular context your are dealing with, maybe.

In the capture below, there is a warning of not leaving out relevant information, and not getting into a particular text some eisegesical notions.

So the micro pericope should be like a jigsaw puzzle piece of the larger group. 

 

So for a more specific example: rituals in the OT could be considered like a tutor that prepared persons for the actual fulfillment of God's promise of eventually coming down to teach them. (mobile ed on Hebraic thought explains more about rituals and their influence).

Progressively (diachronic) in the Bible, then we see the last messenger of God (Jesus), then giving universal principles that showed that love is where it is at, but the kind of love that requires discipline, sacrifice, right intent, mindset, etc. just like rituals before required.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 3:20 PM

Sorry, you're still off target - yes, genre may be one of many markers that when they converge indicate a pericope boundary, but it is rarely sufficient by itself. My question is not about Bible interpretation but applies more broadly to many resources a user may wish to study.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Kathleen Marie | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 10:15 PM

I decide what I conclude about a passage, and strip it down to just the verses that lead to that conclusion. If I come to multiple conclusions, I decide if I will pick just one topic or more than one topic. If I pick multiple topics, then the range of verses must cover all the topics I chose.

This can be abused, obviously, if I were to start with a personal agenda and then choose just the verses to support MY thoughts. But if I truly start with the text and let it speak for itself, I am confident that it is acceptable to trust my judgement to choose the boundaries according to what I concluded. Especially if I took the time to write context summaries for the chapter and the book.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 11:22 PM

Very interesting thread. It turns out that I already have many of these resources in Logos, I just need to read those.

Some years ago I used this method with Gospels: the boundary is:
1. when the time changes explicitly 
2. when the location changes explicitly 
3. when the speaker (or speaker group) changes explicitly 
4. when the audience changes explicitly 

In some cases this ended up in quite long pericopes, like the Sermon of the mount ...

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 5 2022 11:37 PM

Veli, that sound much like you read Wim Weren, a scholar I read just at the right time as to be heavily influenced by him.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2022 7:10 AM

MJ:

Did not have any findings with the search of the term pericope in the following resources, maybe they use alternate terms:

https://www.logos.com/product/39266/sermon-treks-trailways-to-creative-preaching 

https://www.logos.com/product/155087/a-preachers-guide-to-lectionary-sermon-series 

They probably mention a process for identifying applicable pericopes, or their rationale for choosing what they picked.

Introduction

Chapter 1.

Preaching from the Christian Year

Chapter 2.

Preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary: Strengths

Chapter 3.

Preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary: Cautions

Chapter 4.

Preaching through a Book of the Bible (Continuous Lectionary)

Chapter 5.

Preaching from the African American Lectionary and Other Cultural and Civic Calendars

Chapter 6.

Preaching from the Chronology of the Bible and from Schools of Thought within the Bible

Chapter 7.

Preaching a Series That Starts with the Bible

Chapter 8.

Preaching from Doctrines, Practices, and Personal and Social Issues

Chapter 9.

Preaching from a Free Selection of Biblical Texts or Themes

Notes 

 Allen, R. J. (2013). Sermon treks: trailways to creative preaching. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2022 2:12 PM

Thanks Hamilton. Yes, I do have preaching resources on using lectionary-defined pericopes. They sometimes provide a bit of help but rarely discuss defining a pericope since they are assumed to be pre-defined. I'll check out the references you suggest.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2022 4:48 PM

Years ago I once heard an older preacher say that when you're quoting Scripture you should always start one verse before the verses you're basing your argument on, and end one verse after them. His reasoning was that if you're using the text appropriately, reading the two extra verses will just take a moment.  But if you find that including them undermines your argument, it's a warning that you're taking your verses out of context.

Of course, some times it won't work, because there's an obvious change of subject in the text such that you'd just confuse your audience if you were to include an extra verse or two. But I've tried over the years to stay true to the spirit of his advice, and include a little extra context beyond the specific text that I'm teaching or studying.  It's been a helpful bit of discipline for me, and has made me much more careful about context.

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Matt Hamrick | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 9 2022 5:35 PM

MJ. Smith:

What are your favorite guidelines for determining the boundaries of an appropriate passage (pericope) to read, study, teach or pray?

Ones I already know:

  • Windows on Jesus: Methods in Gospel Exegesis by Wim Weren 
  • Dean B. Deppe, All Roads Lead to the Text: Eight Methods of Inquiry into the Bible
  • David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues

I use the clause visualizations in Logos to make an initial outline without paying attention to the verses. I take the clauses, subjects, verbs to make an initial outline and I turn this outline in my initial sermon outline that follows the scripture. This practice chooses my boundaries for me. At some point I will check the passage analysis compare pericopes to make sure my outline is mostly following the bibles I own. I seldom change anything from this practice but it does have me question why some bibles differ. Original languages did not have verses so boundaries came by ideas and that's the purpose of using the clause visualizations.

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