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Outlining A Bible Passage IV: Working on Themes

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An outline of a bible passage is a summary for the close reading you make of a passage when you make a sentence flow of it. A well-made outline can serve one a lot of purposes later on, especially when one has to to work on consecutive sections of a book (as the example we have from Colossians) or to work on a theme.


A biblical theme is an idea common to biblical passages that may be consecutively or disparately found in a single book or different books of the Scriptures. An example of a biblical theme is “Covenant”, “Kingdom of God”, or even “Love”. As one goes through the Sunday or daily gospel readings, studying them and making outlines of them, one begins to see common words and phrases, patterns of action and reaction, contrasting and parallel ideas across different selections. One example of this would be the three predictions of the Sufferings of the Son of Man in the Gospel of Mark which are read on different Sundays of the year (Year B) and during the weekdays of Ordinary Time (weekday gospels are the same every year).


The selections from Mark that contain the three predictions of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Son of Man are found in Mark 8:27-35 (24th Sunday), Mark 9:30-37 (25th Sunday) and Mark 10:35-45 (29th Sunday). This last selection though not containing the prediction about the death and resurrection of Jesus has a lesson that cannot be understood apart from it. In fact, the setting of the story itself is the third prediction about the death and resurrection of the Son of Man (vv. 32-34).

Let us say one has made outlines of the above passages and have collected them together with the notes made from their respective sentence flows. These bunch of notes can help one get into a deeper study and reflection of the passages where the predictions occur: in Mark 8:31-32, 9:30-31 and 10:33-34. The outlines point out where the verses are found and the sentence flows — since these are copies of the texts themselves — provide the content of the passages which with suitable marks and annotations already made, cuts the work of thematic study into half. From there, one can already compare the predictions and note how these become more vivid until Mark 10.


Comparing the contexts of these passages, one finds out that the predictions are first openly made by Jesus after his identity as Messiah has been proclaimed and that all of these predictions are followed by a teaching on discipleship. The second occurence is made after the Transfiguration while the last occurence of the prediction in Mark 10 is surrounded by a context where there are echoes of the Baptism of Jesus and anticipate his entrance into Jerusalem and his prayer in Gethsemane as well as his arrest, trial, suffering, death and resurrection. This last may even force one to review outlines made on the Baptism of Jesus and even the ones made during the season of Lent (if one has been making outlines of the liturgical readings during that time). Thus, even if one does not have a memory as robust as that of Guy the Carthusian or St. Augustine, all the notes already taken down and the outlines laboriously made can help one ruminate on the words of the Lord’s prediction of His Passion, Death and Resurrection and draw from them further knowledge and inspiration for prayer and life. 

Originally posted 2009-09-12 22:06:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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