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Day 8: Important Phrases

 

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Learn to Study the Bible with Logos: Part 2

Day 8: Find Occurrences of Important Phrases

Step 6: Look for and Study Important Words and Phrases and Connect Them to the Rest of Scripture

There are two main ways to approach interpretation. One gives priority to the intended meaning of the author, the other gives priority to the reader. Duvall and Hays summarize the approaches well, “This question has prompted a lively and sometimes heated debate, not only in secular literary circles, but also among students and scholars of the Bible. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the traditional approach to interpreting any literature, biblical or secular, was to assume that the author determines the meaning and the reader’s job is to find that meaning. Within the world of secular literary criticism, however, this approach came under attack throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, and many literary critics today argue that it is the reader, and not the author, who determines what a text means.”

Many Christians, whether they realize it or not, use the second of these approaches. When studying the Bible, the primary question they ask is, “What does this passage mean to me?” instead of “What did the author intend for this passage to mean?” This course is based on the assumption that the best way to understand the Bible is to first understand what the text meant to the author before asking questions about how the passage makes us feel or what the meaning is for contemporary life. That’s exactly why we are trying to understand the words of the passage—we want to know what Matthew intended for us to understand from the text.

We aren’t advocating that we can find exactly what the author intended by following a simple series of steps. We come to the text with presuppositions in life and preconceived ideas about the text itself. As we study the text with our presuppositions and preconceived ideas, careful observation and interpretation help us correct the initial interpretation we had, allowing us to see the author’s intended meaning. One of the most helpful concepts in understanding how this works is from Grant Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral. He explains, “I am spiraling nearer and nearer to the text’s intended meaning as I refine my hypotheses and allow the text to continue to challenge and correct those alternative interpretations, then to guide my delineation of its significance for my situation today.” Osborne’s work, while a bit on the technical side, is one of the most helpful books to read on biblical interpretation and a resource you’ll consult over and over again after you’ve read it.

Inline Search

Our careful observation of the text helped us notice that the phrase “it is written” occurs 4 times; Jesus says it three times and Satan says it once. When we find such repetition in the passage we are studying, it’s a great idea to find out if it appears in the rest of the book. That will help us understand why Matthew used these words in Matthew 4. Concordances are great tools for this kind of work because they list words alphabetically and tell you where those words occur in the Bible. Logos can act as a concordance, but it is far superior. Let me show you how.

With a paper copy of a concordance, it would be really difficult to find every place this phrase occurs in the Bible. Concordances find words, not phrases. We could try to find this information by looking up the word “written,” but it would take forever to figure out who said it and when it occurs after “it is.”

Let’s highlight the phrase, right-click it, ensure the selection is highlighted, and choose “Search: this resource (in line).” We notice that there are quotation marks around the phrase. This ensures that our search is looking for the exact phrase, not just occurrences of each word. We just turned our Bible into a concordance that finds phrases, not just words. What’s more, we can continue to interact with our Inline search like we have been with the biblical text with the context menu. The Information tool still returns great information and we can run Bible Word Studies from the context menu.

Because we used the Inline search and we have the words of Jesus appearing in red, we can very easily scroll through the gospels and see how important this phrase was in Jesus’ teaching, specifically in Matthew. If the words of Christ don’t appear in red, we can open our Program Settings from the Tools menu and turn them on. Notice that Jesus not only used Scripture as He resisted temptation but to authenticate His ministry as the Messiah. In Matthew 11:10, Jesus connects John the Baptist to Malachi 3:1, then in Matthew 26:24 and 31, Jesus connects the prophecies to Himself.

We’ve tapped into something of major importance to Matthew. As Donald Hagner states in the Word Biblical Commentary on Matthew, “This heavy dependence on the ot reflects Matthew’s interest in the gospel of the kingdom as the fulfillment of the ot expectation. Of particular interest in this regard are the so-called fulfillment quotations, one of the most distinctive features of Matthew…. The importance of the quotations is theological. They are Matthew’s own way of undergirding the manner in which the events of his narrative, indeed its totality, are to be understood as the fulfillment of what God had promised in the Scriptures.”

When it occurs in Matthew 4, the phrase “it is written” does not have the same overt ramifications as it does in the rest of the book because Jesus isn’t necessarily making a messianic statement, but it is connected. We’ve already spoken about how Jesus, in the temptation narrative, fulfills elements of Israel’s history in His experience in the wilderness. The fact that the phrase “it is written” appears in the narrative only strengthens that connection.

Let’s make a note about this by right clicking verse 4, choosing the reference, and adding a note to “Matthew 4 Notes.” Let’s also add attachment points to verses 6, 7, and 10.

The Inline search works for any resource we have access to in Logos, so we can search any word or phrase in any book. For instance, if we wanted to find every instance of “mercy” in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we can simply click the Inline Search Button, type “mercy” and press Enter.

Assignments

Here are your assignments:

  • Execute an inline search on a word or phrase that you believe is important in Matthew 4, study your results, and record your insights
  • Execute another inline search with that same word or phrase in your favorite commentary on Matthew to find where that commentary speaks about the concept you are looking at and add any insights you find to your Clippings document

You are making great progress. Tomorrow we’ll expand your interpretation skills by spending some time with the original languages.