By now, of course, you are well on your way to becoming an expert at reading and observing the Bible! We have discussed how to read sentences and how to read paragraphs. We have suggested things to look for while reading. We have encouraged you to look, look, and look some more. By now we trust you have done some serious reading and serious scrutinizing of God’s Word. Keep working hard! Push on! The best is yet to come.
Now we focus on discourses. We are using the term discourse to refer to units of connected text that are longer than paragraphs. There are other terms we could have used (story, pericope, episode, unit of thought, chapter), but we like the fluidity of the term discourse. A discourse can be a smaller episode within a story (David and Goliath), or it can be the longer story itself (the David narratives). A discourse can be two related paragraphs in one of Paul’s letters. We are not hung up on the terminology or the definition. Our goal in this unit is to help you to tackle longer units of biblical text.
The Bible is not a collection of short, disconnected sentences or unrelated paragraphs. The Bible is a story. Themes are intertwined throughout the text from paragraph to paragraph. Numerous markers and connections tie these paragraphs together. While it is critical to start with the small details at the sentence level, it is also imperative that we move on to the paragraph level and then on to the discourse level. God’s message is not restricted to small units of text. Much of the message of the Bible is embedded in larger units of text. Discovering this message requires us to make observations at the discourse level. How do we see or observe large chunks of text?
The answer is not complicated. Everything that you have learned in the previous unit about sentences and paragraphs also applies to discourses. Word repetition, cause-and-effect, general-to-specific, conjunctions, and so forth—all these are applicable to the study of discourses. The basic discipline that you developed involving focused, intensive observation is exactly the skill you need to sink your teeth into longer units of text. However, in this unit we will add a few more items to your list of things to look for—items that are more specific to reading at the discourse level. We will also illustrate these features for you with some intriguing passages.
But first … a lesson on observation from the master of observation, Sherlock Holmes.