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Outlining a Bible Passage

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Two Saturdays ago, I introduced the activity of outlining a bible passage in our BEC Training Module. We associate outlines for term papers and speeches we are assigned to write. But outlines are also important for understanding an article one is reading or to follow a lecture that is complicated. Outlining can also be important for reading and studying Scriptures especially when one has the responsibility of helping other people to understand the message of Scriptures. From the list of links below, one would observe that outlining is very similar to what I have called “creating Sentence Flows”. The only difference is that in outlines, one presents a bible passage as a list of ideas together with their verse references.

Outlining the Text of Scripture
The outlining method described here is similar to the sentence flow we create; it also makes use of grammar and syntax.
Outlining a Bible passage for dummies, Acts 17:24
The process is similar to what we call “creating a Sentence Flow”.
How to Make an Informal Outline of a Bible Passage
This is a PDF document a normal browser would not present it as a page but would ask you to download it. So that you can read it, you must have Adobe Reader installed or at least the small but very useful CoolPDF Reader

Sentence Flow and Outlines

When we create a Sentence Flow for a scriptural text, we are actually creating a graphical copy of a text showing how the elements of a text (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, clauses, etc.) appear in the text. In an outline, we show how these elements are related to one another. A brief example is from the account of the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11).

Sample Sentence Flow from Mark 1:9-11

9 It happened in those days that
Jesus came
from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized
in the Jordan
by John.
10 On coming up out of the water
he saw

the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending

upon him.
11 And a voice came
from the heavens,

“You are my Son;
the Beloved
with you I am well pleased.”

It is easy to see in this Sentence Flow that the named characters of the passage are Jesus, John the Baptist and a voice with a speaking part. One can also see that Jesus performs the main actions here (he came, he saw) and though the Baptist is the subject of a verb, the verb in question is in the passive and gives more prominence to Jesus as the one receiving baptism. In verse 10, we notice that Jesus “sees” the heavens and the Spirit as he was coming up out of the water. Finally, in verse 11, a voice is introduced as coming from the torn heavens; from what is said, we are made to understand that it is presenting Jesus. All of this happened “in those days” (v.9)

Outline of Mark 1:9-11

So how is this Sentence Flow translated into an outline? Here is one way of doing it:

(9a) Temporal introduction: In those days
(9b) Jesus is baptized at the Jordan by the Baptist
(10) What Jesus saw as he came out of the waters (10a)
(10b) the heavens being torn open
(10c) the Spirit descending
(11a) a Voice presents Jesus
(11b) My Son
(11c) the Beloved
(11d) In You I am Pleased

Notice that I have introduced letters into the outline. I am using letters to identify the elements of a verse that are important for the understanding of the text. Consider verse 11: I divide it mentally into two parts, the introduction of the voice and what it says. Then I further divide and label what it says into three smaller parts

Mark 1:11

The outline is not yet finished as it is, since an outline is also a logical presentation of a passage in the form of a list. Our outline then still be made into something more “orderly” as follows:

  1. Temporal introduction (9a)
  2. Jesus is baptized at the Jordan by the Baptist (9b)
  3. After getting baptized (= “as he was going up out of the water”) (10)
    • Jesus saw

      1. the heavens being torn open (10b)
      2. the Spirit descending(c)
    • A voice presents Jesus as (11a)
      1. my Son (11b)
      2. the Beloved (11c)
      3. in whom I am well-pleased (11d)

As one can see, this kind of outline can help one catalogue not only verses and words, but also helps one identify the key ideas of a text. Further, if in the course of studying the rest of the Gospel of Mark, one also creates outlines of the passages read, then after some time, one will have outlines of passages that will help one understand how to group the Marcan passages into sections and sub-sections.

Originally posted 2009-09-01 22:18:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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