The key to understanding a Scripture passage is often to first understand the larger theme of the book it’s in. Commentaries or study Bibles may point out major themes for you, but you can find them yourself if you know where to look. Here are three ways to find a biblical book’s theme:
- Read through the opening and closing paragraphs of a book. The writer may leave a clue for you in the opening or closing paragraph of a book. This is especially common in the epistles. If you notice a common theme in both the opening and closing paragraphs, you know you’re on to something. For example, Peter speaks to the process of growing “in the knowledge of God” in the first and last paragraph of 2 Peter. This theme ties together everything in between. Study 2 Peter with that in mind, and many complex passages become easier to unravel.
- Look for repeated words, phrases, or ideas. Remember that when the biblical writers penned Scripture, emphasis markings like bold, italics, and underlining were not used because they took up valuable space on the page. Romans 8, a well-known passage, draws special attention to the Holy Spirit, mentioning it 20 times in 38 verses.
- Look for a purpose statement. There isn’t a clear statement of purpose in every book, but when a biblical writer spells out his reason for writing a book, or his hope for how it will impact the reader, take special note. Luke provides a clear purpose statement at the beginning of his Gospel (Luke 1:1–4). Any study of Luke will benefit from regular references to this introduction and statement of purpose.
If you’re studying with the Faithlife Study Bible, these markers and much more are explained in its three layers of study notes. Download the Faithlife Study Bible app for free from your app store of choice.