Sequences in the Bible

(Theja Tseikha) #1

Are sequences in the bible important? Apart from the genealogy and time, are the other sequences in which things are mentioned in the bible important? An example would be: Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.- are we to first be gracious and then reach out with truth? another could be 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.

(SeanO) #2

@Theja Unfortunately I cannot remember the reference for what I am about to say - so someone else can correct me if I am wrong. I think it may have been Reading the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee.

Anywho, the author made the point that when Paul creates these lists or sequences - like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 or thinks to put our minds on in Philippians 4:8, the point is not really the order.

Occasionally, as with faith, hope and love in 1 Cor 13, one of the virtues listed is the chief among them. But the lists are generally summaries without reference to order and not necessarily complete.

Even Paul’s list of thing not to do like in I Cor 6:9, were not necessarily comprehensive. Rather they only provided examples.

That said, I think each list or sequence would need to be read in context and considered carefully. For example, love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength is definitely saying love God with “everything that you are”. The list is not meant to provide a theological statement about the parts of humans - but rather is a list intended to represent the whole - everything - completely.

In the case of grace and truth, I would say that in my opinion order is not important. John’s intention, I think, was not to convey order but rather that Christ came with both grace and truth or truth and grace. Christ came to forgive the sinner and simultaneously condemn those who would not believe. I do not think this passage has anything to do with how we approach other people (grace first or truth first). I think that is a separate question.

I hope that was helpful.

(Theja Tseikha) #3

Thanks @SeanO. By the way one follow up question: How important is context in our reading of the Bible? Is it everything? Do we try to read each and everything written in the light of its context? Or can we sometimes take a verse or passage for our own personal interpretation?

(SeanO) #4

@Theja I would strongly suggest you read this book. It will provide much more detail than I can here.

If we take the Bible to be God’s Word, then we need to consider context and original audience. We cannot simply take a text to mean whatever we want it to…

The simplest version of this process is to answer each of these questions:

  1. What did this text mean to the original audience?
  2. How is my context different than the original context?
  3. How can I apply this truth in my context?

We need to go from “what it meant” to original audience to “what it means” for us. Some text do not mean as much for us personally - they are more historical. Other texts mean a great deal for us personally (like Paul’s letters).

The below images show some of the different levels of context that we need to take into account and what this process may look like.


(Theja Tseikha) #5

Thank you @SeanO :slight_smile: Will check the book out too. :v:

(David Cieszynski) #6

Hi Everyone,

Not sure if this helps but here is an extract from my exegesis on Deuteronomy Ch6 v4-9 "Daniel Block states that the NIV translation is ‘traditional’ but ‘misleads’ the reader and doesn’t reflect the depth and meaning of the Shema. The Shema reminds the reader that their devotion to Yahweh starts from the inside and works outwards. “The three Hebrew expressions, leb, nepes, me)od, represent three concentric circles, each of which represents a sphere of human existence” (Block, 2012, p 183).
leb = heart in this particular instance is for ‘inner-self’ heat and mind.
nepes = person means throat or gullet but in this particular text nepes is referring to one’s entire body.
me)od = substance the NIV translates this strength which follows LXX that reads ‘dynamis’ (power), but the true translation actually goes deeper and can be seen as more meaningful sacrifice. If we were translate the word more accurately it would be ‘resources’ therefore this would not only include the physical elements of ourselves but also our financial, social standing and in the Israelite sense their worldly possessions.

So for me Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength was intended to be a specific order.

I find it interesting that scholars think Jonah was one of the earlier OT books with Galatians being an early NT book but they are further down their respective sections of the Bible.

(SeanO) #7

@David_Cieszynski To me the idea of three concentric circles sounds a bit speculative. Do you know how many other commentators share that specific interpretation? What is their theological background?

I checked the translation of the Hebrew word for ‘might’ and had trouble arriving at ‘resources’. Did he cite a particular lexicon that he used for that definition? It can mean might or ‘exceedingly’ according to Could check my fancy lexicon in logos if I get more time. has the following notes for heart and soul:

9 tn Heb “heart.” In OT physiology the heart (לֵב, לֵבָב; levav, lev) was considered the seat of the mind or intellect, so that one could think with one’s heart. See A. Luc, NIDOTTE 2:749-54.

10 tn Heb “soul”; “being.” Contrary to Hellenistic ideas of a soul that is discrete and separate from the body and spirit, OT anthropology equated the “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) with the person himself. It is therefore best in most cases to translate נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) as “being” or the like. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 10-25; D. Fredericks, NIDOTTE 3:133-34.

(David Cieszynski) #8

Hi Sean,

As I’ve just started my exegesis I can’t answer your question, the deadline
is the last Wednesday in March. Hopefully then I maybe able to give more of
an answer.


David Cieszynski

(SeanO) #9

@David_Cieszynski Look forward to hearing what you discover :slight_smile:

(Jimmy Sellers) #10

Out of curiosity what is speculative about Block’s commentary on Dt 6:4-5? Is it the treatment of v.5 as individual steps in the command as opposed to viewing the verse as one step? To be honest looking at it as concentric circles makes sense and I believe would fit how Hebrews of the day would/could understand it.
As an aside I found this in THE JPS TORAH COMMENTARY:

“And since meʾod can also means “property,” “with all your might” was taken to mean “with all your wealth or possessions.”

And from the footnotes:

Linguistically this is possible. In Akkadian maʾādu means “be plentiful, increase,” and in the Hebrew of the Second Temple period there is a noun meʾod, “property” (CD IX, 11; XII, 10; Ecclus. 7:30).
Tigay, J. H. (1996). Deuteronomy (p. 77). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

(Dave Kenny) #11

hi @Theja,

I think @SeanO gave you two excellent posts… very helpful. A prof from my school used a single sentence to sum it all up for me that I found helpful. It is this: “Never make a text mean what it never meant”… for him, this was the golden rule of sound biblical interpretation. I liked it because it was short and sweet :slight_smile:

@David_Cieszynski, I too have studied Deuteronomy at some length for one of my courses… I found quite a few commentaries that supported that the word order sequence was likely significant… but not all

@Jimmy_Sellers, the JPS Commentary series is one of my personal favourites! I am very sympathetic with the interpretation that ‘might’ in this context would signify all of a man’s wealth and possessions… Moses way of saying that you gotta love God with everything you got… God demands no less


(Theja Tseikha) #12

As the JPS Commentary has been mentioned above, what are some other commentaries that you guys would suggest for a normal personal Bible study? :slight_smile:

(SeanO) #13

@Jimmy_Sellers By speculative, I simply mean that the concept of spheres appears, to me, to be forced onto the text. Even if those were culturally valid interpretations of the words, I am generally cautious of assigning meaning to texts that the texts do not assign to themselves without very good reason for doing so.

I suppose this is a minimalist approach to Bible interpretation? :slight_smile:

I don’t like going beyond what I can be certain of…

(SeanO) #14

@Theja I like to glance at the following. I’m sure the other guys have some great recommendations for actual commentaries that go verse by verse.

Can we find the Gospel in the list of names in Genesis 5?
(Carson Weitnauer) #15

To pop in, one of the challenges is that each book of the Bible has different commentaries hat are most insightful. To read from both orthodox, God-glorifying, faithful perspectives but also to invest in understanding the text from other points of view is also important.

For everyday study, I would recommend the ESV study Bible, which comes with great notes and is a good starting point for most people.

(Dave Kenny) #16

Hi @Theja,

Great advice coming from all around. One of the things that needs to be mentioned about the JPS commentary series is that it is explicitly Jewish… you will not find Christian interpretation there, but the Jewish scholars are very high quality… that’s the value there

I wouldn’t recommend the JPS series for someone until they begin to express interest in stepping into the academic realm of Bible commentaries… then it is quite good

In addition that what has been mentioned, I have found this commentary series to be very accessible and helpful. It is of an evangelical persuasion. Most theological libraries carry this set


(David Cieszynski) #17

I have the Deuteronomy one by Daniel Block which has been helpful in my exegesis.

(Jennifer Judson) #18


I’d just like to comment on the part of your question concerning “sequences.” It’s valuable to remember that your Bible is a translation. It’s also valuable to find out what the priorities of that translation were. Some translations try to stay as close to the syntax as the original Greek, but they can be difficult to read and understand. Some translations are trying to make the language as accessible to today’s reader as possible. There’s a pretty wide spectrum. The good news is that all responsible translations try very hard to stay true to the meaning of the text.

That being said Hebrew and Greek both have words that do not translate easily and language structure adds additional challenges. Add to that the Greek New Testament had no punctuation. So is it possible in a given sentence that the sequence of words may be very different in different translations? Yes.

A great thing about web sites like and others is that it’s easy to see the same verses in different translations. That can be very helpful in developing a fuller understanding.

Sean O’s guidance was very helpful and you can’t go wrong with a book by Gordon D. Fee.