The process of study practiced in Constructing Faith begins with finding the key words in the text at hand. These important words will be used to help draw out the meaning of the text. They will help you organize the thoughts presented and play an important role in revealing the main point the text is making.
Because these words are so important, I wanted to share ideas for what to look for in your studies. May God bless the study of His word!
Here are the nine categories for key words that I look for in study.
- Long words–complicated words. Even if you know the meaning, write them down. They are usually important. Large words are usually only used out of necessity. They are saying something that can only be said with several smaller words.
- Very short words— Not every short word, but the connecting words, prepositions, conjunctions, etc, that are important in the large ideas of the text.
- Repeated words— This is an important one. The more the word is used, the more important it is in the context (usually). (Now I’m not talking about repetitive words like “a” or “the” or “and”. Those are incidental words usually, and you would only write them down if they fit number 2 in this list.) The repetitive words I am talking about are usually nouns or verbs that are repeated.
- Comparison words— Words like “like” or “as”. Keep in mind that those words might not be used. The text might simply compare them without using those comparison words. In that case, anytime you see comparisons, note them by writing the whole phrase or a main word from it so you remember the phrases when you think about these words again.
- Contrast words— Words that show contrasts. Examples: “But,” “however”
- Synonyms— Words that have similar meanings or thoughts. This could also include phrases. The Bible, especially the poetry of the Bible, is full of these kind of words. These are different than comparison words.
- Antonyms— These are words that have opposite meanings.
- Strange words— That is, ironic, unexpected, even confusing words. This is not related necessarily to the words of the original languages of the Bible. But you might find these strange words simply by noticing what is stated. And using a good Bible translation is helpful for that. (You can also look at commentaries after this stage to see if they suggest other words that you might not have noticed because of their strangeness in the original language.) These words are often found just by looking at the passage word by word and asking whether or not the word fits. (Don’t worry, with just a little practice this gets much faster and easier.)
- Words you don’t understand— You can’t know if a word is important or not if you do not understand them. This includes words we read all the time but have never asked ourselves, “What does it mean?” Usually these are “church words” like propitiation, redemption, etc. It might be difficult to find these because we tend to create a meaning and then forget that we were the ones who developed that meaning without looking into it. We are smart enough to do that, but sometimes we miss important nuances of meaning that are in the words. So be sure you clearly understand every word.