Mirror-Reading With Themes, Phrases And Keywords

Knowing the keywords and phrases of a book of the Bible can help when trying to mirror-read it.

Theological vs Responsive Themes

Recognizing themes is important when mirror-reading the Bible. Many people know the value of themes but most frame the theme in terms of theology instead of the situational context.  In other words, they organize their themes in categories of theological doctrines.  Typical themes for the book of Romans might be sin, salvation and sanctification. However, this is the wrong approach, and themes should instead be framed in terms of what the Biblical author was responding to.  

Themes should be organized in categories of the false teachings they were responding to.  One of the main themes in the New Testament is correcting the false teaching that certain people (e.g. gentiles, women, children, slaves) were excluded in some fashion from the Kingdom of God.  One of the main themes in the Old Testament is the correcting of the false teaching that the Israelites needed other gods besides Yahweh. You can watch my video on those themes here.  

There are sub-themes that address either separate false teachings or false teachings that build off of the main themes.  @@It is critical that you don’t approach the Bible as a theology book but as a response to the situation of the original reader@@.

Phrases and Keywords - The Building Blocks of Themes

Themes will usually use a set of phrases and keywords, so that, when you read a certain phrase or keyword, you will know to which theme it belongs and which false teaching it is responding to.  For example, in Ephesians, one of the themes deals with inheritance because there was a false teaching about inheritance.  Phrases and keywords for that theme not only include the word “inheritance” but also, “Obtain a Lot”, “Length and Width”, “Measure”, “Heir”, “Redemption of the land”, “Seal”, “pledge”, “Possession”, and “predetermined”.

Another theme deals with a false teaching about the Temple.  Phrases and keywords for the theme not only include the word “Temple” but also “foundation”, “building”, “access”, “dwell” and “wall”.

Bible Translations for Finding Themes

 Graphic credit:  Dan Dowd

Graphic credit: Dan Dowd

When trying to identify themes, it’s important to use the right Bible translation.  If you're not working with the original languages then you’ll need a word-for-word translation like the KJV or the ESV.  You want a translation that is fairly consistent in the way that it translates the original languages. Paraphrase translations such as The Message will translate words different ways, and you will not be able to recognize the phrases and keywords that are the building blocks for themes.