Last week, I wrote about studying epistles. I think it's probably useful to actually look at a practical example. I tend to learn by doing, and I'm hoping that this may be instructive for someone. I recently was asked to present this material to the women of my church in September. I was supposed to do this over three one hour sessions, but the event was cancelled. This time, I will be teaching during the Sunday school hour, and the lessons will be for all of the women, including college and career students, and young married women. I will teach over six weeks. This will be good practice, writing on my blog.
For an example of how to approach an overview/outline, I chose the book of Titus. I chose it because it's short, and because I like the book. I could have done Jude; it's even shorter. But to get the idea of an overview, I think we need more than one chapter. There may be other books which are easier to use for an example, but Titus works well. Plus, I wanted to do block diagramming with it, and time was a factor.
I read the book about six times as I prepared, once listening to Max McLean at Bible Gateway. I also did a block diagram of the book. That task, forcing me to focus on individual phrases, generated a lot of questions I would go back and ask later when it comes to interpreting things more specifically. As I read through the book, I'm thinking paragraphs, and making notes about the content of those paragraphs.
So, as we look at the first chapter (and I'll be linking to the ESV), we can see that the first four verses are a greeting. That's fairly straightforward. It's certainly a more detailed greeting, but that's just how it's done. We don't greet like that, even in formal correspondence. When my son sends me text messages after school to tell me if he's going somewhere before coming home, he begins with "Yo, dawg." I guess it's better than no communication at all. But, I digress.
The next section: 1:5-9 begins with Paul's statement, "This is why I left you in Crete." Right away, we get an idea of the occasion. Paul is writing to Titus who is in Crete and he was left there for a purpose. As I read, I see that the reason Paul left him there was to appoint elders, so I would title that paragraph, "Qualifications for Elders." Underneath that heading, I could have subheadings with titles such as "Above reproach" (v.6,7) and "What he must not be" (v.7) and "What he must be." (v.8-9)
The next paragraph is from v. 10-16. Verse 10 begins with the word "for" which has lots of different meanings, but it generally signifies some kind of qualification or explanation. Paul is about to provide the basis for his concern about appointing such elders, and that is found in his statement, "For there are many who are insubordinate." He is explaining that the reason why he wants elders of such repute appointed is because there are some bad guys hanging around. That, too, is another clue to the occasion of the letter. I would title that paragraph, "The Insubordinate Ones," and under that heading, I could have headings such as "What they do," (v.11), "Cretans are Lazy" (v.12-13), "Rebuke them," (v.13) and under that heading of "Rebuke" them, the verses following, which explain why they need to be rebuked, we could title it "Why rebuke them." These of course, are not titles and heading set in stone, but they help me as I try to get an idea of what Paul is teaching.
The next chapter begins with the word "but," which is a term of contrast. What is Paul contrasting? He is about to contrast the insubordinate ones with what a description of what they are supposed to be. The section begins at 2:1 and ends at 2:10. The title of the paragraph could be "The Godly example" or something along that line. I would also title it "Teach Sound Doctrine." As you read through the book of Titus, you begin to see that the word "sound" and the word "doctrine" are key words, and I often like to title paragraphs with key words.
Under the heading of "Teach Sound Doctrine," we can also have subheadings, using the specific instructions to the people and gender groups, such as "Older Men," "Older Women," and so on. As I look at these exhortations, I also see another repeated phrase, "self-control." In comparison to the insubordinate people, there is a call for self-control. That gives me again an insight into problems Paul addressed, and we'll see that clarified as we read further description about those nasty folks later on in Chapter 3.
Again, the next section, v. 11-14 is begun with the word "for," and again, it is to signify that Paul is making a conclusion of sorts, and this time it is again a supportive one detailing why they must behave as he is directed. Why must they behave this way? Because the grace of God has appeared. I might title that, "The Grace of God" or some such thing, or maybe "The Reason for Sound Doctrine." The reason why they are to pursue sound doctrine and teach sound doctrine is because of what Jesus Christ has done. It is a reaction borne out of thankfulness and gratitude.
Verse 15 is an exhortation of what Titus is to do: declare these things. I would have that as a subheading under that the paragraph "Teach Sound Doctrine." I would call it "exhortation."
I can tell that Paul is changing topics when I read 3:1. He begins this next section, 3:1-11, with an imperative verb, "Remind." As I read to the end of the paragraph, I see a repeated phrase, and that is "good works." This paragraph is about being ready for good works. Under that heading, I would have further subheadings. Verse 1-2 is about our good works to outsiders. Verse 3-7 is another explanation from Paul about why they are to show good works to outsiders. Verse 3 talks about what we once were, and then verse 4 provides the contrast to show what we have been given in Christ. Verse 8 is another exhortation, with Paul telling Titus, "I want you to insist on these things." Verse 9-11 details what the contrast is to the good works. I might call that subheading, "Unfruitful works." The context of the paragraph is good works; those last verses provide the negative example.
This brings us to the last verses, 12-15, which are Paul's parting words.
My general topics would look like this, with the subheadings I mentioned. You may divide things a little differently.
1:1-4 Paul's Greeting
1:5-9 Qualifications for Elders
1:10-16 The Insubordinate Ones
2:1-10 Teach Sound Doctrine
2:11-15 Reasons to Teach Sound Doctrine
3:1-11 Be Ready for Good Works
3:12-15 Paul's Parting Words
Words and phrases I saw repeated are: sound, doctrine, good, good works, self-control.
The ESV Study Bible has a an outline of Titus; it's worth having a look at if you have an ESV Study Bible.
Next time, I think I'll wrap up the study of Epistle with some guidelines about interpreting Epistles and some things to avoid.