Once we have surveyed the general details of our site, that is, of the book of the Bible we are studying, we proceed with a series of excavations of the land. This will mean hard work with the pick and shovel and sometimes delicate work with a brush or cloth. We will divide the book into units of thought generally composed of a few verses and in some cases, a few paragraphs that make up a single Field Study. We will dig into the details of the biblical text in order to unearth its treasures.
We will use specific tools to discover the truth and significance of each passage. In most cases, the following elements will be the tools of our trade:
- A structural analysis chart of the text. This tool will help us ask and answer the question, how is the text arranged? We will focus on how the author structured the biblical text under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The arrangement of the unit we are studying is fundamental to discover the author’s thought and purpose. It will help us to discern patterns, contrasts, emphases, progressions, conflicts, and arguments.
- An explanation of what the passage says. Here we will ask several different questions pertaining to our particular text. We will begin by asking, what are the key terms? We will examine key terms and phrases, identifying those elements in the passage which contribute most significantly to its meaning and message. We will then consider the question, what is the explanation? Within this section, we may ask a question like, what about the culture? where we will consider cultural issues that enlighten us on the original audience of the text. If necessary we will ask, what about the geography? or what about the history? The Christian faith is a historical faith and therefore bound to time and space. Images, ideas, and cultural practices are all bound to a geo-location which reveal to us the richness of the treasure that lies beneath the dirt.
- A historical contextual summary of the significance of the text. After using all of these tools, we are finally ready to take the treasures we discovered and summarize them. In this section, we answer the question, what is God saying? Our response will present a brief summary of our findings and conclusions. Many times, this section will also provide us with other biblical examples that further help our understanding and reinforce the lessons we have learned.
- A summary of the practical implications of the discoveries of our excavation. We finish every excavation answering the question, what does God want? The purpose of the Field Notes is to encourage explorers to grow in their faith and live by it. Such faith is not alive unless the treasures we excavate become realities in our daily lives. We will provide for you some of the major principles discovered, along with particular suggestions for practical application. These suggestions are aids which will help you explore additional implications that may apply more significantly to your particular life story.