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Sentence Flows: Making Sense of It

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The most recent addition to AgustinongPinoy is a website that extends Res Biblica. It is called The Bible Workshop. It was created to meet the needs of some of our parishioners who are engaged in the biblical apostolate. It has articles on the Sunday Gospels written in the form of a how-to. The method of study that underlies these “how-tos” is exegetical diagramming called “the Sentence Flow.” The Sentence Flow is not original to me. In fact, others have written about it. We have applied the method to the gospels since it is easier to use on narratives. But it can work well with discourses too, like the letters of Paul. The method consists in copying the biblical passage to be studied and to breaking it down into small phrases, and arranging such phrases though text-indentation, so as to show how those phrases function within the text. When sentence flowing is done well, it becomes easy to see the grammar and syntax of the text.

Some days ago, one of those who attend my bible sessions asked me about the Sentence Flow. Here is how the conversation went, more or less…

BEC Leader
I am getting confused. Is the “sentence flow” a way of interpreting the Scriptures
Me
It is a way. It is the way all Scriptures is interpreted — through close reading. What we do with the “Sentence Flow” is simply to “objectify” on paper what we do most often with our eyes and mind.
BEC Leader
But all this concern with grammar and syntax. Are we still treating the Scriptures as inspired when we read it as if it were any other piece of literature?
Myself
Actually, the Catholic understanding of Scriptures is such that we have to respect the “human dimension” of the text — its grammar and syntax — before we could reach the “spiritually inspired dimension” of the text. It is like the Incarnation, you see. One must accept the humanity of Christ before one can really appreciate His Divinity. Faith in the Divinity of Christ passes through his humanity. It is the same way with Scriptures.
BEC Leader
But it is so difficult. Can’t we just read Scriptures the way other people read it and not bother with sentence flows?
Myself
Well, you are a BEC leader; you will be guiding others in the way they read Scriptures. If you will be doing that habitually, you should at least demonstrate that you have better reading skills. And the only way that you can improve your reading skills is to do your sentence flow exercises.
BEC Leader
But I can hardly remember what is a “noun”, an “adverb”, or an “adjective”…
Myself
Ask your Grade VI daughter…
BEC Leader
… besides, I have no time for this. I still have to go to work, you know!
Myself
Time is relative in this case. When you are still beginning to do sentence flows, a short gospel selection may require an hour or two from you. When sentence flowing has become a habit, the same gospel selection that took you hours to diagram before, may take only a few minutes. It is all about getting used to it. Besides, sentence flowing makes you more familiar with the biblical text in a way that ordinary reading would not do. For one thing, it helps you memorize a text.
BEC Leader
But should we require this activity with our members in the BEC?
Myself
You don’t have to and you shouldn’t. Sentence flowing should be your characteristic activity when preparing the Sunday readings for a BEC session. When you are in a meeting, you help your members understand the text of the Scriptures by explaining it to them and helping them apply it to their lives.
BEC Leader
But I thought sentence flowing is already interpretation!
Myself
It is. When you do the Sentence Flow, you are interpreting how the translator of your modern bible is rendering the original Hebrew or Greek text. But that is just one part of your job. You should also be able to “apply” the studied bible passage to the situation of your BEC members.
BEC Leader
So the sentence flow is just some sort of an introduction to the understanding of the text?
Myself
Correct. First you understand the text “objectively”, then you appropriate its meaning so that help your BEC members appropriate the meaning for themselves.
BEC Leader
What you call “appropriation”, is it still the same as what we understand from the text after analyzing the sentence flow?
Myself
More or less. Actually, after you make your sentence flow and your analysis of it, the results would suggest to you ways of “applying the text” for your BEC sessions. It is what I do for the Sunday Thoughts or at the end of the Sunday Lectionary articles at the Bible Workshop.
BEC Leader
Is it the same as when the spiritual senses of Scriptures where the spiritual sense is tied up with the literal sense?
Myself
Precisely
BEC Leader
So I still have to work on the Sentence Flow since it helps in getting the literal sense of the biblical passage?
Myself
Correct again!

I have written quite a few pages on “Sentence Flows” at the Bible Workshop. Here they are. Please refer also to the Principles of Study of the Bible Workshop. See also the article called “Our Study of a Scriptural Text

Originally posted 2009-03-30 18:15:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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