At my church we have been doing a midweek Bible study called ‘Total Immersion Bible Study’. Our focus is the book of Philippians and rather than zoom in and obsess over one word or perhaps two we are backing out and looking at the whole book all at once.
It came as a surprise to me that you can read the entire book in about 11 minutes, at a reasonable pace. Some amazing insights come when you hear the whole thing all at once. Paul has some basic themes that he keeps coming back to in this letter but you miss them when you only read one sentence or two at a time. You miss the forest for the trees. This was after all, a letter from Paul thanking this group of Christians for their support. When was the last time you read a thank-you card sentence by sentence and then referred to study guides or dictionaries?
We are experimenting with some on-line class options and are posting recordings of the classes on the Tintern church website so that people at home (or at a distiance) can pull up a chair and join us each week. Click hereto download a class recording or check out the handouts. I hope to get the podcasting going by the end of the month.
Last night we looked at word clouds using a great website called http://www.wordle.net/ On this you can enter some text and then the computer creates a composite image of the words you have entered. More frequent words appear larger and less frequent words appear smaller. After you take out the common English words (and, if, of, and so on) you get an interesting insight into the book as a whole. When you enter the entire book of Philippians here are some examples of what you get:
On a related note, I finished reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink this week; it is a book about how important right brain (holistic) thinking is. Left-brain thinking is logical, linear, analytical, organized. Right-brain thinking is intuitive, all at once, creative, thinking. You follow directions with your Left-brain, you recognize your mother with your Right-brain. Bible study (at least in my fellowship) has long been a Left-brain practice. Bible verses were pulled apart, dissected, and analysed in Bible class but not much time was ever spent looking at the whole picture. Just like reading the whole book gives your Left-brain a look at the whole book, looking at these word clouds above lets your Right-brain see the whole book in one shot. If you clear your mind (and still your Left-brain) you can get insight into some of the main points of the whole book.
One thing that is immediately obvious is how often the word Christ appears. We had an interesting discussion of how key that word is. Paul, reflecting the joy that was his, made it clear that joy is a product of being ‘in Christ’, hope comes from knowing Christ and so on. It was an interesting discussion and we will be referring to these clouds again. You are welcome to join us each week. Download the class and follow along.