How To Study the Bible

Galatians Class Notes


I.         II Timothy 2:14-18

            A.        Many people don’t actually study their Bibles.

                        1.         Instead they search for statements which prove their ideas.

                        2.         In a sense, they make the Bible speak their thoughts instead of speaking the thoughts of the Bible - I Peter 4:11

II.        Observation - Seeing what is really there.

            A.        It is natural to color what we see with our own thoughts and ideas

                        1.         I remember playing a game called “Observation”.

                                    a.         A “Where is Waldo” -like picture was held up for 30 seconds, then you were quizzed about details in the picture.

                                    b.         It was amazing how often you just “knew” a certain fact was true, but when you went back to the picture you found your memory was faulty.

                        2.         If we are going to understand a book, we need to first fully grasp what is actually in the book.

            B.        Some things are only fully understood with repetition

                        1.         Examining a text over and over again.

                        2.         Looking at it from different perspectives to gain new insights.

            C.        Imagine a giant jigsaw puzzle. How do you put it together?

                        1.         You first find the obvious pieces – the corners

                        2.         You then find edges

                        3.         Finally you being filling the inside

            D.        We are going to start with the book of Galatians

                        1.         There are 66 books in the Bible, each written in a different style, in a different time period, by different authors, for different purposes.

                        2.         Is Galatians Old Testament or New Testament?

                                    a.         Why is this important to take note of?

                        3.         Our Bibles are organized by types of books.

                                    a.         Sections of the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets

                                    b.         Sections of the New Testament: Gospels, History, Letters, Prophecy

                                                (1)       Letters can be further divided into Letters by Paul and Letters by Others

                                                (2)       The letters of Paul can be divided into Letters to Churches and Letters to Individuals.

                                    c.         Where does Galatians fit into this scheme?

            E.        Assignment 1

                        1.         Read the book of Galatians in one sitting.

                        2.         Read the book of Galatians a second time, while jotting down the answers to the following questions

                                    a.         List frequently repeated words, phrases, or ideas.

                                    b.         Who are the people mentioned in the book?

                                    c.         What events are mentioned which would help date this book?

                                    d.         What locations are mentioned?

                                    e.         What kind of book is Galatians? Historical, Biographical, Poetic, Proverbial, Prophetic, Letter, or a combination?

            F.        Discuss Assignment 1

                        1.         List discoveries on the board

                                    a.         Key words

                                                (1)       Finding key words: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

                                                (2)       Which are synonyms?

                                    b.         People

                                                (1)       Which are synonyms? Pronouns?

                                                (2)       Since God is Three-in-One, how do we distinguish between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

                                    c.         Events

                                    d.         Locations

                                                (1)       Using a map

                                    e.         Time references

                                                (1)       Words like “then”, “after this”, “until”, “when”

                        2.         Discuss marking techniques for the text.

                        3.         Assignment 2 - Hand out the book of Galatians in double space format

                                    a.         Go through the entire book and mark all key words in a consistent fashion.

                                    b.         Go through the book again and mark all people

                                    c.         Go through the book again and mark all events, places, and anything dealing with time.

                                    d.         Make a fourth pass and look for synonyms, pronouns, and mark them appropriately.

                                    e.         Try to summarize the entire book in one statement.

            G.        Discuss Assignment 2

                        1.         Do a page in class, pooling everyone’s notes

                        2.         Was there any difficult passages?

                                    a.         Pronouns that you were not certain as to who was being referred?

                                    b.         What about words, such as “this” “it” “these” “those”?

                        3.         Did you learn more in this second assignment? Why?

                                    a.         Forced you to read and think about each word.

                                    b.         Marking made you slow down.

                        4.         Grouping verses

                                    a.         Segmented by

                                                (1)       Dates

                                                (2)       Places

                                                (3)       Topics

                                                (4)       Doctrines

                                                (5)       Major Characters

                                                (6)       Events

                        5.         Assignment 3

                                    a.         Find the major segments of Galatians and mark them (you might discover more than one way to divide the book).

                                    b.         Subdivide those segments into topics

            H.        Discuss Assignment 3

                        1.         How did you segment the book?

                                    a.         Where does the segments start and stop?

                        2.         Learning the details

                                    a.         Do not forget the context. Otherwise the overall direction and begin to stray

                                    b.         For each keyword, make a list of the things you learn about it within this book

                                                (1)       Use a separate list for each word.

                                                (2)       Answer the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions about this word

                                    c.         Do examples in class

                        3.         Assignment 4

                                    a.         Complete the lists of word details

                                    b.         Search for contrasts, underline the contrasting ideas. Place a slash between the contrasting ideas

                                    c.         Search for comparisons (often signal with “as” or “like”). Circle the two ideas and join the circles with a line.

            I.         Discuss Assignment 4

                        1.         Finish word lists

                        2.         Review contrasts and comparisons

                        3.         Find the summaries or conclusions

                                    a.         Words like “for”, “for this reason”, “therefore”

                                    b.         Mark the word with triangular dots.

                                    c.         Then find the points leading to the conclusion. Mark the start of each point with numbers in the margins.

                        4.         Assignment 5

                                    a.         Find the summary and conclusion words and mark them.

                                    b.         Find the points leading to the conclusion for each marked summary word. Mark the points in the margin.

            J.         Discuss results of assignment 5

                        1.         Develop chapter themes. These will aid you in locating information in the future.

                        2.         Develop paragraph or section themes. These will help you see the flow of the book.

                        3.         Assignment 6

                                    a.         Complete writing themes for chapters and paragraphs.

                                    b.         Use your themes to outline the book

                                    c.         Locate lists in the text. Write the lists into the margin.

III.       Delving for Meaning

            A.        Context

                        1.         Meaning is not meaning if it doesn’t flow with the immediate context and the whole book

                                    a.         We have been working on the immediate context up until now

                                    b.         Our purpose is to learn what the author, who is ultimately God, meant in his writing.

                        2.         Meaning requires consistency with the whole Bible

                                    a.         How do we insure we have consistency with the entire Bible?

                                    b.         We need to search out similar statements in the rest of the Bible.

                                    c.         In other words, we need to develop a cross-reference system or at least use an existing one.

                                    d.         Use an exhaustive concordance to find where the same key words are used.

                                                (1)       Problem is that many translations a word in a variety of ways to make the reading flow better.

                                                (2)       Pay attention to other possible translations

                                    e.         Use a Bible dictionary to find the shades of meaning. Many dictionaries give passages to illustrate each of the shades.

                                    f.         Assignment 7

                                                (1)       Make a list of the verses in Galatians which you consider more difficult to understand

                                                (2)       For each difficulty, write your question at the top of a page of paper.

                                                (3)       Using a cross-reference, concordance, and dictionary to locate similar verses. Write down the possibilities down the left in a column.

                                                (4)       Look up each verse and write a short statement that helps with your question.

                                                (5)       Some verses will have nothing to do with your question. Cross them off your list.

                                                (6)       For each verse that deals with your question, look for cross-references to add to your list

                                                (7)       When the references comes to an end, select the prime verses which answer your question, add them to the margin of your Bible.

                        3.         Rule: The Scripture never contradicts itself

                        4.         Principle: When two passages appear to conflict, pick the clear passage over the obscure or difficult passage.

            B.        When understanding people, places, and events

                        1.         Find approximate dates for events

                                    a.         Record these dates in your margins

                        2.         Draw maps when places are mentioned to understand the movement and order of events.

                        3.         Look up other references to people and build a character sketch of each person.

                                    a.         Example: What is Peter like? What in his history shows the consistency of his behavior?

                                    b.         Record the verses which help you understand why a person behaved in a certain manner or shows consistent tendencies to do similar things.

                        4.         Using a Manners and Customs book to learn how things are done in that time period.

                                    a.         Example: Sheep and Shepherds.

            C.        Consider the meaning in light of the literary style of the book

                        1.         Example: Proverbs are wise sayings. They record the generally tendency of life, but they are not necessarily absolutes.

            D.        Figurative language

                        1.         Simile: A comparison between two things connected with words, such as “as”, “like”, “such as”, “as ... so”

                                    a.         examples: Revelation 1:14; Psalm 42:1

                        2.         Metaphor: An implied comparison between two things.

                                    a.         Example: John 15:5; Ephesians 6:17

                                    b.         The hint is if taken absolutely literally, the comparison would be nonsense.

                        3.         Exaggeration or hyperbole: A deliberate exaggeration for emphasis

                                    a.         Example: Psalm 119:20 - a soul is not physical. It cannot be crushed, but it wording is an exaggeration of grief.

                                    b.         Example: Matthew 23:24 - People can’t swallow camels, but it illustrates searching for minor problems while missing the large, obvious ones.

                        4.         Metonymy: A association where one object is used for a related object.

                                    a.         Example: Mark 1:5 - country used to represent the people in the country

                        5.         Synecdoche: Where a part is used to represent the whole or the whole is used to represent the part. Also a singular can be used for a plural or a plural for a singular.

                                    a.         Example: Mark 1:5 - While a large portion went out, it does not imply every single person went.

                                    b.         “God” can refer to the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit or the Godhead as a whole.

                                    c.         Jeremiah 25:29 - one sword represents many swords.

                        6.         Personification: An object is given characteristics or attributes that belong to people

                                    a.         Example: Isaiah 55:12

                        7.         Irony: A statement which says the opposite of what is meant. It can take the form of a rhetorical question.

                                    a.         Example: I Corinthians 4:8

                                    b.         Example: I Kings 22:1-23

                                    c.         Ironic statements are spotted when the statement is obviously not true and the target audience would know it is not true.

                        8.         Assignment 8

                                    a.         Go through the book and mark the examples of figurative language.

            E.        Representative language

                        1.         Parables

                                    a.         They illustrate a doctrine. They should not be used to establish the doctrine.

                                    b.         Purpose: Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12

                                    c.         To keep to the point search for why it was told. What prompted the parable?

                                                (1)       Luke 15:2

                                                (2)       Luke 18:9

                                    d.         Look to see if the parable has been explained. Do not add meaning that the speaker doesn’t give.

                                    e.         Find the central idea of the parable. No detail of the story should be given a meaning that is no in accordance to the central theme

                                    f.         Distinguish relevant and irrelevant details. Some details are added to polish the story, but do not add meaning to the central theme.

                                                (1)       Example: Mark 4:13

                                                (2)       Example: The meaning of the broom in the parable of the lost coin.

                                    g.         Make sure you understand the customs of the day.

                                                (1)       Example: The parable of the wise and foolish virgins.

                        2.         Allegory

                                    a.         A past event used to illustrate deeper meanings than what the surface story appears to give.

                                                (1)       In a sense, it is an extended metaphor.

                                                (2)       Again, it is illustrative. You don’t establish doctrine with an allegory.

                                    b.         List the features or key people, events, or places in the allegory.

                                    c.         Note the interpretation given within the text. Allegories almost always have its meaning described within themselves.

                                    d.         Don’t extend the allegory beyond the intended point.

                                    e.         Don’t expect to assign meaning to every detail. After all this was a past event.

                        3.         Types

                                    a.         It comes from a Greek word dealing with stamping. The die is the type and the impression is the antitype.

                                    b.         Types are always identified by God, though not necessarily explicitly.

                                                (1)       Example: Romans 5:14

                                                            (a)       Adam is the type

                                                            (b)       Jesus is the antitype

                                                (2)       Example: I Corinthians 15:45

                        4.         Symbols

                                    a.         A picture or an object that represents another object

                                    b.         Example: Revelation1:20

                                    c.         A symbol may take on different meanings in different context

                                                (1)       Example: Ephesians 5:26; John 7:37-39

                                    d.         While a symbol may represent several things, in any single passage it has a single meaning

                                    e.         Find other passages which give meaning to a symbol to understand the possible representations.

                        5.         Assignment 9

                                    a.         Look for and mark all representative language

                                    b.         Note the meaning in your margins or mark with graphics.

            F.        For really puzzling passages, check several commentaries.

                        1.         Commentaries are the writings of man. They can be, and frequently are, wrong.

                        2.         Yet, sometimes a commentator will mention a view or a passage that will shed light on a passage

            G.        Composition Styles

                        1.         Writings are organized to help bring across a meaning

                        2.         Preparation - background information given to prepare the reader for the material that follows

                                    a.         Example: John 1:1-18

                        3.         Comparison - two things are compared to show similarities

                                    a.         Example: II Timothy 2:3

                        4.         Contrast - Two things are compared to show differences

                                    a.         Example: II Timothy 1:9

                        5.         Repetition - Used to highlight an idea

                                    a.         Example: John 1:1-14

                        6.         Progression - Ideas are built upon previous ideas

                                    a.         Example: John 1:1, 14, 17 - We are not fully told who is the word until verse 17.

                        7.         Climax - The pinnacle reached by a progression

                        8.         Pivotal Point - Where there is a change elements of story

                                    a.         Example: Matthew 24:35 is the pivot between the Matthew 23:1-24:34 and Matthew 24:36-25:46

                                    b.         Acts which follows Peter and then Paul

                        9.         Radiation - a central idea from which or to which other ideas point

                                    a.         Example: I Corinthians 15 radiates around the resurrection

                        10.       Interchange - A sequential alternating between two or more thoughts.

                                    a.         Example: The beginning of Luke: John-Jesus-John-Jesus

                        11.       General to Specific (Deductive) or Specific to General (Inductive)

                        12.       Cause and Effect

                                    a.         The cause of Lazarus’ death - John 11:4

                                    b.         The effect of Lazarus’ death - John 11:45; 12:17-18

                        13.       Explanation - An idea is presented and then explained

                                    a.         John 6 - bread of life

                        14.       Interrogation - Question, generally followed by an answer

                                    a.         Romans 6:1-2

                        15.       Summary - Restating highlights

                                    a.         Deuteronomy 1-4

                                    b.         Acts 7