Friday, October 10, 2008

A Question on the way to Exposition

A responder to this blog raised an excellent question about diagramming the text in preparation for making an expository outline. I would like to make sure that this question does get answered, because it is both helpful and important.

The essence of the question came from my recommendation of Lee Kantenwein's "Diagrammatical Analysis" approach presented in his booklet by that title. The question concerned the applicability of Kantenwein's approach to various literary genres of the biblical text. The responder felt that this approach to diagramming would work best for the epistles or other shorter, fairly direct kinds of passages, but questioned its helpfulness for diagramming other genres.

I do want to point out that Kantenwein has some good examples of using his approach with poetic material, and I have found it personally helpful with that genre. A superb example of this can be seen in George J. Zemek's "The Word of God in The Child of God" (a commentary on Psalm 119 - self published). From page 388 ff. Zemek provides his diagrams for the entire psalm with notes that relate to his expository outlines in the text of the commentary.

But mainly I want to say that I agree with the essence of the question. This form of diagramming is not best used with narrative, apocalyptic, and longer portions of text. It can take way too long to do and yields relatively fewer results than it does with other genres, especially the epistles. So what else should we do?

I probably should have mentioned this previously, so I am glad the question came up so I can mention it now. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. has some great sections in his book "Toward an Exegetical Theology" (Baker, 1981) on what he calls "block diagramming". He gives both explanation and examples of what this is and how to do it in his book. This works well with longer and especially narrative portions of Scripture. It would be well worth your time if you've never seen it.

The point I really want to make is that we need some approach or tool that forces us to consider every word of the text in relation to its context. There is not a prize for getting your diagram correct, but there is great reward in seeing the importance and connection of every word to what is going on in the text itself. Whatever form you come up with to force you to do that work is good.

No comments:

Post a Comment