How To Come Up With Your Own Bible Headings

We’ve been looking at this idea of studying the Bible using digital tools and we left off with tips on note taking. At this point I want to combine all the things we have thus far (reading the text of alternate versions across translation methodologies finally settling on a parallel work screen with note-taking tools on hand) and start examining the text.

If a person is proficient in original languages I’d probably suggest starting there since they can see the breaks in the passage (that is, if you’re reading any Greek text post-minuscule) but the average student probably doesn’t need to go there.

Many versions have a ton of scholarship backing the translation; the ones I’ve recommended (except the MSG) will probably give you the best footing. But, if you’re committed to the go-to-Greek-text: Nestle-Aland27/UBS4.

First, identify sentences. This is usually easy since, with the verse numbers turned off, you’ll probably just identify them with punctuation.

Next, identify paragraphs. A paragraph is a collection of sentences based on a common idea. This is usually pretty easy too since a lot of modern versions already come with paragraph breaks.

You might notice in your parallel reading that versions break them down differently. This is why you’ll want to also identify when the author changes what he’s talking about.

This sounds similar to a paragraph in that it’s dealing with an idea. But an idea might go through several paragraphs and still be about that one subject. What’s nice about identifying the Big Idea first, you can more easily identify the movement within the block.

For example John 9. The entire chapter has one idea/story: the man who was born blind is healed. Within that section there are several paragraphs comprise the entire unit: the discussion, the healing, the man alone, the man meeting Jesus again. But in all cases, it’s one unit of thought. This is called a pericope.

Usually modern versions divide periscopes by headings but we’ve turned them off. Sometimes you’ll read the text and realize that the pericope seems to continue. In other cases you’ll find that maybe there should be more pericopes than the translation suggests. By studying the text without the headers, we get to try to discover the unit of thought for ourselves, or at the very least come up with a heading which is more understandable for our personal notes.

  • Online: Sentence diagramming tools might be helpful. The good thing is that you can do a variation of this with just about any word processor or email program.

The Word <-subject

——-|In the Beginning <–time marker

—————-|was with God  <–modifies subject

—————-|was God <–modifies subject

  • Downloadables: BibleArc is a tool that’s available for a suggested yearly donation of $10 but they’ll work with you if you can’t afford that. Basically they have a method for you to breakdown sentences (or even collections of sentences) visually portray connecting thoughts. You can also check Sendraw, an opensource program by UCF’s Department of English that lets you diagram sentences. If you don’t know (or don’t remember) how to do that, check this easy walkthrough.
  • Paid: I personally haven’t seen anything like BibleArc in the expensive paid for suites though they do have many other interesting tools. For example, logos has a compare pericope tool which lets you compare what each version has decided was a unit of thought. It also has a very handy Word tree, which lets diagrams a word in relation to other thoughts within specific passages. Also for the iPad, you might want to check out some mind mapping apps.

When you’re done with this, you’ll be able to apply your own headings to the sections.

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