Bible 347 Return to Syllabus

How to Study Discourse and Context

  1. Read over the chapter in which the passage is found. Try to determine if the chapter forms a section or if it is part of a greater section.

  2. Look at the texttype of the passage at hand. Ask if it is narrative, procedural, hortatory, persuasive, or expository. Ask if it has characteristics of any special genr‚.

  3. Mark up the verbs on a copy of the passage with different color pens or markers, using a different color for each tense or mood. Try to determine what tenses or moods might be used for foreground material and what might be used for background material.

  4. Summarize in a topic sentence the paragraph in which the passage is found. Repeat for any larger paragraphs or sections of which this paragraph is a part. Determine how this passage relates to these topic sentences or thesis statements.

  5. Analyze the paragraph structure and roles down to the sentence level by doing a constituent structure analysis. Determine how many levels of paragraphs your passage is embedded in and the relationship of your passage to the central thesis.

  6. Look for structures of chiasm, cycles, inclusio, and parallelism.

  7. Determine whether your passage is in a main part of the discourse, such as the inciting incident, the climax, or dénounment. Ask whether this affects the grammar.

  8. Track any participants and look for patterns among noun and pronoun usage. Chart this if necessary.

  9. Look for quotations, allusions, and parallels from/with other passages.

  10. Review your findings and try to determine what relevance any of these factors might have on meaning. Pay special attention to the relationship between your passage and the various contexts in which it is found (paragraph, greater paragraph, section, whole discourse).

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