" Homiletics "

How to Use Structural Analysis in Sermon Preparation

It often happens that a language once studied becomes nothing more than a fond or not so fond memory. In order to prevent this, Bob Jones University offers a Greek Forum every semester to offer practical help for those who have studied Greek. This semester we invited Dr. Sidney Dyer, who received a Ph.D. in NT Interpretation from BJU in 1984, to speak on how to use structural analysis in sermon preparation for the purpose of accurately proclaiming God’s Word.

Dyer was concerned that people who have studied Greek often neglect this valuable tool. People are either too busy or too timid to use Greek. But if we have spent years in college or seminary to learn Greek, why ignore it? I agree with Dyer that studying a passage in Greek is invaluable to fully understand it. Reading a passage in Greek forces the interpreter to explore the details of the text. The interpreter has to slow down, helping him to figure out how the parts relate to the whole: how subordinate parts of a clause relate to the main clause and how individual parts of a paragraph relate to the main thesis of that paragraph. To understand how the parts relate to the whole is the key to correct interpretation.

When we come to a passage, it is easy to pick out words, phrases, or even entire verses that seem particularly interesting or that support a position we have taken. However, such an approach does injustice to the larger context of the passage. Words, phrases, and clauses are always interrelated. They never exist in a vacuum. In order to understand the relationship between all the elements in the passage, Dyer pointed out that we have to understand how they relate to one another. First, we have to recognize what clause is subordinate to what clause. Second, we have to understand how a clause is subordinate to another, i.e., how does a subordinate clause modify the main clause: does the subordinate clause present the reason for the main clause or the means by which the main clause is accomplished? By figuring out how parts are related to the whole, the main theme of the passage will emerge from the text. Around this main theme everything else in the passage revolves.

If we ignore how the parts of a passage relate to the whole, we cannot accurately interpret the passage. If we devote our time to figure out how every part relates to each other and how they contribute to the whole, the central point of the passage will naturally emerge before our eyes.