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Long For Truth: Hermeneutics part 5: Using Arcing During the Observation Phase

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hermeneutics part 5: Using Arcing During the Observation Phase

Arc of Ephesians 1:1-14

My Arcing "Discovery"

Arcing has become an invaluable study tool for me. I remember when I first stumbled upon the site a few years ago. I was excited! I needed something fresh for my Bible study and this seemed to be it. I hungrily ate up the tutorial videos and began my journey into Arcing.

But there was one problem: I didn't really understand it fully. Here I sat after completing my first Arc on my own, staring blankly at a page full of labels. I understood what the labels were and what they meant, I just didn't understand what to do with them.

"Okay," I thought to myself, "I have a completed Arc. Now what?"

This was the question I kept asking myself over and over. I just didn't seem to be able to make the connection to the passage as a whole. Sure, I knew why 3a & 3b was an Action/Purpose, but how would I use that in teaching? I eventually lost interest and quit altogether.

Then a couple of months ago, the middle of May, to be exact, I took an interest in the book of Ephesians. Spiritually, I felt dry and needed to be refreshed. I started reading the book of Ephesians and my wonder for Jesus began creeping back in–in trickles at first, and as I read and re-read the book it came in waves that crashed over me and seemed to re-hydrate my spiritual life. That's when I went back to re-evaluate Arcing.

I took a different approach this time. I was determined not to quit until I had really grasped everything. I found the Power Point presentation online and read through it. And there, I discovered something that I had never known: How to "trace" back your Arcs to the main proposition of the entire passage.

This revolutionized Arcing for me! After I learned this the labels began making more sense. They were all interdependent upon the main proposition as a whole and part of the argument that was being used. Now, the book of Ephesians was really coming alive for me. I am excited as I continue this process. I am even signing up for a basic Arcing course in September, just to make sure that I've "got it."

Since the premise of Arcing to graphically display the flow of the thought in the author's text (it's so much more than that, though) I thought it would be helpful to use it during the Observation phase of hermeneutics. If you click the picture above it will take you to the the BibleArc website and the particular passage of Ephesians I have arced out.

Using Arcing in Observation

Now comes the big question: how do use Arcing during the observation phase?

First, you must understand what Arcing is. Arcing gives the flow of thought relationship in a passage. It is accomplished by dividing your passage into propositions. A proposition is simply a verbal idea (a statement containing a subject and a verb). Each new verbal idea is a new proposition. For example, if I say, "I drove to the hardware store in order to buy some nuts and bolts," I would have two separate propositions. 'I drove' contains the subject 'I' and the verb 'drove' (the prepositional phrase, 'to the hardware store' is part of the verbal idea). It is one proposition. The subject 'I,' which is implied by the verb 'bought' is another proposition. These two propositions relate to each other by the connecting thought 'in order to' which implies a purpose for the action, "I drove to the hardware store."

This example seems a bit simplified yet Scripture is argued upon these very grammatical ideas. The New Testament authors wrote for specific reasons to address a specific audience to propagate specific instructions. Of course, Arcing is a method that is not limited to the New Testament. I am only using this is as example.

When Arcing a passage you are seeking to determine what the author's main point of the passage is. Sometimes it obvious from the start. Other times you have to really work at it.

The observation part of hermeneutics is important because you're trying to determine the flow of thought, anyway. This is where Arcing comes in handy. Understanding how each proposition relates to each other and then to the passage as a whole will begin to answer some of the questions of the text, such as, why did Paul use that particular phrase?, or what did the author mean by that?

Using an example from the Arc of Ephesians 1:1-14, let's briefly look at propositions 4a-4b:

Proposition 4a tells us that God chose believers before the foundation of the world. That is, God chose those whom would be saved before He even created the Earth. At this point my Calvinist mind takes over. I automatically think that Paul is espousing the doctrine of predestination as the main theme. However, looking at proposition 4b pops the bubble on that idea. This "choosing" that God has done is for a purpose. The word 'that' at the beginning of 4b signals a Purpose connection to the Action of the choosing. The choosing is done with a view of having a people who are (a) holy & blameless, and (b) the holy and blameless people would be able to stand in the presence of the all consuming God without being consumed! Therefore, I would label these two propositions with an Action/Purpose relationship. Now I understand why Paul addresses predestination in this portion of Scripture. It is not to defend God's sovereignty in choosing His people, it is to declare God's purpose of having a people to Himself in the first place.

Let's look at one more example using the set of propositions from 7a-10b:

There are a lot of labels in this screenshot but I have marked the propositions that I would like to point out. Notice the Action/Purpose relationship that encompasses 7a-10b. This is important because verse 7 begins by telling believers that we have redemption. Often times, we see something like this and automatically smile because we get me-focused. But again, Paul pops our bubble as we trace the flow of thought in his argument. He goes on to explain that this redemption actually has it's fulfillment in God's plan through Jesus Christ for the purpose of uniting all things in His Son. Our redemption is included in this.

This kind of smacks in the face of modern-day preaching that would make the whole of salvation about our blessings, our redemption, and our inheritance. Paul makes it abundantly clear that salvation is for the purpose of God's glory and the exaltation and fulfillment of the ages in Christ rather than about us going to Heaven to have a big family reunion, which seems to be the predominate thought here in the Southern United States.

When Arcing is done correctly it can open up our understanding of the flow of the passage to a greater degree. Once we understand the flow of thought we will be able to easily move into word studies and interpretation with much more confidence.

If you would like to better understand Arcing or learn the method yourself I would encourage you to visit BibleArc and begin digging in. Thanks for reading.

Until we come to full maturity,

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