Sometimes when you do a search in the scriptures you get a LOT of results back, more than you can study in a single session. So how do you tackle a large study project in the scriptures and keep it organized? Sticky notes probably won’t cut it. You need a way to make the elephant bite-size and start nibbling away at it. Here are some ideas using Scripture Notes.
For our example, I will use the word “power” for a search. This is the process I would use to get started.
Searching for “power” all by itself, results in 859 hits distributed as follows.
My next step would be to see what other words that start with “power” are also in the scriptures. I then do a search for:
That says look up every word variation that starts with “power” but exclude the actual word “power.”
Then I start looking at the results and make a list of other words I see just so I’m aware of them. One easy way is to just append new negative search terms onto the original phrase to continuously eliminate verses from the list.
power* -power -powerful -powers
This left “powerfully” as the last remaining verse. Doing this only took a minute but now I know the forms of the word used in scripture.
From here, I can do one of several things depending on which I feel most useful at the moment.
1) Quick Connections. I might press ctrl-F to find all instances of the word “power” and turn on highlighting so I can skim the verses fast, looking for connections.
2) Lexicon. I can click the link button by one of the verses in Genesis to open up Blue Letter Bible’s site and do a search for the word power. It tells me there are 260 verses which contain the word (which matches my results above (118 + 142)).
I could now start hold my control (cmd on Mac) key down and click those Strong’s references by the word power to open each one in a new tab, but a better way to do it is to click the Lexicon button with the 32 over it. The 32 tells us there are 32 different Hebrew & Greek words used in the Bible that have been translated as power.
If we wanted to, we could open each one of these and see what verses are used with each of these.
For example, down the list, the word śārâ is only used in 2 verses. The first in Genesis 32:8 where Jacob wrestled with the angel and prevailed. The second is in Hosea 12:3 which is a reference to Jacob grabbing the heel of his brother on his exiting the womb saying by his strength he had power with God. Interesting that both are a type of grappling, perseverance type of power use. There’s probably more to it if I were to stop and think more about it, but for now I’ll just continue on.
You could spend a lot of time reading through these definitions and the verses listed under each one to see the verses with that meaning, drilling down into individual verses as you go along to establish more context for the meaning.
3) Pairing. Going back to the original search results, I want to know what other meaningful words are in the verses along with the word power. As I scan the list of verses, I jot down some words I see that I want to do searches on. like holy or holiness, glory, light, truth, miracle, endow, and spirit, and then perform those searches which produce sets of verses to study in that context.
power +holi* (5 results); power +hol* (99 results) power +glory (60 results) power +light (23 results) power +truth (24 results) power +miracl* (14 results) power +endow* (6 results) power +spirit* (87 results) power +prepar* (13 results)
Each of these could be a separate collection note if desired, and organizing them into a structure under the tag Power with subtags for each one if desired like:
And so on. Then your tag tree would reflect each of those subtopics under one main heading.
4) Process of Elimination. You could take all 859 results from the first search and put them into a collection note. That saves them as a single collection of verses which you can reopen at any time. Then as you go through each verse making notes and marking them, you remove them from the collection so the verse count gradually gets to zero as you study all the verses.
This can be helpful depending on the circumstances. I used this technique to go through all the If/Then statements in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants (Bible is yet to come). That was extremely valuable to me to do. This technique is useful if you don’t need to keep the verse collection intact because it’s a one-time project.
The other thing you can do with all the verses in one list like this is do some ctrl/cmd-F searches on the pane to find secondary words like I did with regular searches in #3 above. In other words, just do a find command for “glory” and skim down the list of 60 results on the entire list, moving selected verses into another collection note to the side instead of the original pane.
5) Use a temporary tag. Lets say you save all those topics above to those tag sets as you set up for a long-term study project. It might be difficult to keep track of them all and remember to go back to them. So, create an extra tag called “To Study” or something like that. When you complete an item you wanted to study that you saved here, just delete that “To Study” tag from the collection note, and it will drop off that list. It’s a simple way to come back to the topics you need to study in the future.
6) Other resources. You can also use other resources like the Topical Guide to find verses by topic that don’t necessarily use the same word you are searching for. Often verses convey a concept without using a particular word you are searching for so that’s a great resource to utilize as well.
Hopefully this provides a few ideas for you when you see a big search result set and how you might approach learning about it using Scripture Notes. If you have another unique way of studying big topics, please share it in the comments below. Once you have determined how to break up your study topic into appropriate pieces, then check out this article for how to study the scriptures. It goes into greater detail about all aspects of studying.
(Featured image by julief514 @ 123rf.com)
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