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How to Read the Book: Paragraphs

Building from the previous chapter, authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays continue to unpack their method of developing a closer, inductive reading of Scripture. They turn our attention to noticing the details, expressing the patient attentiveness that we all should display with regard to studying the text: “Observe! Look some more. Observe some more. Look again. Ask questions of the text. Look again. See more. Dig! Make notes. Mark the observations you see. Reread the passage. Look for other details. There is more! Keep digging!”[1]

Duvall and Hays offer nine things to look for when reading Scripture. Two particularly interesting things to mention are:

  1. Purpose/Result Statements: “These are phrases or sentences that describe the reason, the result, or the consequence of some action.”[2] Consider, for example, Paul’s statement to the Ephesians: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10); or Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15). In both passage examples there is a particular end or result that cannot be missed. Therefore, learning to pay close attention to Purpose/Result Statements help to better understand the authors’ words.
  2. Conditional Clauses: “These are clauses that present the conditions whereby some action, consequence, reality, or result will happen. This conditional aspect will usually be introduced by the conditional conjunction ‘if.’”[3] Consider, for example, John’s words to the church: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). Here, the most important word, the one upon which everything is predicated is “If”.

Duvall and Hays remind us, at this point, that we are not interpreting the text yet. Rather, we are laying the proper groundwork for a robust interpretation.

Check back next week for Chapter 5: How to Read the Book – Discourses.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 71.

[2] Ibid, 74.

[3] Ibid, 75.

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