Are you searching for ways to dive deeper into the Word? Do you want to learn to linger longer?
It’s true I love to worship creatively with Bible journaling and faith art. However, I also lurve Bible study! Anything that brings me a better understanding of God’s Word, sets me on fire!
Today, I would like to introduce you to my dear friend, Sue Johnson of @wellofblessing. Sue is sharing with us today, step-by-step instructions for verse mapping. She is an incredible teacher and lifelong learner of the Word.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.John 13:34 ESV
Verse Mapping is a fantastic way of studying an individual verse in proper context. I am using the James Method Verse Mapping Journal (not required). You can use a notebook, journal, or paper to take your notes, if you don’t have this journal.
We are going to walk through the steps in the Verse Mapping Journal for my study of John 13:34. A summary of the steps appears below:
- Write out the Verse in your primary translation – this is the translation you most often use for study purposes. I like using the ESV for my primary translation.
- Translations – write out the same verse in two or three different translations. I like to use Blue Letter Bible and other internet resources for this step. I will choose less formal translations for this step (maybe the NIV, NLT, or the Message – which is a paraphrase).
- Context – the third step is context: who wrote the book; when; to whom; and why. Knowing audience and purpose (as well as themes) is super helpful in establishing context. I consider this one of the most essential steps and like to use several study Bibles to help gain insight on the context of the overall book (John’s gospel in our example) as I can.
- Word Studies – The next step is to identify any “key words” you wish to look up in their original language to determine the meaning. Again, my go to for this is Blue Letter Bible (BLB). I highlight the words and then write down their meaning in the little circles on the left page.
- Cross References – I will either write out or list the applicable cross references to the source verse, depending on the number of cross references. This can be a fascinating exercise that leads to whole other studies!
- View of God – in this section, write out what you learn about God from the verse and the context of the verse in the book. Remember, when we read Scripture, we do so to learn about God first. I also find it very helpful to read the sections just before the verse and after the verse, to help better understand what is going on and how the verse sits in that context.
- View of Self – next, identify what you learn from your study about self, or humanity. It could be our propensity to sin, need for repentance, a longing for relationship with God. Read, study, pray and then write out what you discover.
- Reflection and Application – After you’ve spent your time studying, now reflect and think about how you can apply the truths you have found to yourself. What steps might you take? How can you be transformed in a certain way by God’s grace through what you have learned?
- Prayer – Express your heart in prayer to God.
Translations and Context
This is the start of my verse mapping for John 13:34. I begin with The James Method Verse Mapping Journal (you can use a notebook, paper, anything you have handy) by listing the verse and writing it out in my primary translation. I chose the ESV. Then, I wrote out the verse in 3 other translations: the NLT; JB Phillips; and The Message. It is helpful for me to use a combination of word for word and thought for thought translations.
Next, I filled out the CONTEXT section. The author is John; it is written roughly between 70-100AD; the audience includes followers of Jesus, which directly ties to the purpose of John’s Gospel — to confirm and secure Christians in the faith. I also added in John 20:31, which many scholars believe to be the key verse in the gospel.
The next step is all about choosing key words from the verse we are studying and then completing a word study. Some people look them up in a dictionary – I prefer to go with a lexicon where I can find the word in the original language (Greek, in this case). I highlighted my words and then, using BLB, completed a word study for: “new; commandment; give; love; one another.” One nice feature in BLB is the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, which sometimes provides a bit more detail in the definition. I was able to use that for a few of these word studies and it helps deepen the understanding.
For My Wordnerds in the Back!
Now for the fun exercise! After completing your word study, take out a sheet of paper and write out the verse, inserting each definition of the word(s) you studied. It can really enhance our understanding. I wrote mine out on a tag that I can washi into my page.
Let’s use mine as an example. I would write out, “Now I am the author and conceiver of effecting something unprecedented and unheard of: it is a prescribed rule that you have a preference for each other. Just as I have regarded your welfare, you are to regard the welfare of others in a reciprocal way.”
Now, how many of my #wordnerd friends get excited by that?! It can be a powerful spiritual activity that strengthens our inner being. Give it a try and post what you write in the comments section (bottom of page), so we all can be encouraged!
The next step of our verse mapping for John 13:34 is identifying applicable cross references, as well as gleaning insights into the verse (and overall context) about God and self.
I went to BLB for the cross references and there were so many, that I simply listed them all here. Sometimes, I will go to my Strong’s Concordance – it really is a function of time. I then look each one up, to see if some really speak to me. I also look for clues: what book (in the canonical order) is a reference mentioned first, mentioned last, and is there a book where multiple cross references are included. For example, in the list I have you will find a cross reference as early as Leviticus and as late as 2 John. Further, you will find two cross references in 1 John, which makes complete sense: we can connect the Gospel of John and the epistles by author: John. If you’ve worked with cross references much, you have discovered that you can go off on wonderful “verse trails,” and those can lead to further verse mapping exercises!
My observations about the View of God are housed in three things: the verse; the passage; and the book. I want to make sure I avoid the pitfall of, “text without context is pretext.” I also dug into some good study Bible notes for this section. Likewise, for the View of self, my notes reflect conclusions drawn based upon the verse in context: this new command was a sacrificial love – the one demonstrated by Jesus.
After times of study, reflection, and application, the last step is crafting a heartfelt prayer to God. It can be for yourself, for loved ones – however the Lord may lead you.
Beloved, there is great spiritual reinforcement in picking up that pen and writing! It is not to be overlooked. Think of it as engraving the words into your mind, your heart, your soul, and your spirit. This is especially so with prayer. It is writing out a need, a praise, a thanks, out of love. Though it is the last step in completing the verse map, consider it the beginning of the Holy Spirit doing a work in your life.
Sue has provided us with a printable with all the information you need to get started verse mapping. You can find it HERE.
Sue Johnson lives in Rhode Island and is a member of Renaissance Church in Providence. Sue was ordained in 2004 and has written and taught Bible Studies since that time. Her ministry has focused on discipleship of women through the word of God. She has partnered with Prison Fellowship Ministries and traveled around the country to women’s correctional facilities, offering a variety of Bible Studies and seminars. Sue has also been involved in Bible Journaling and founded the Facebook group, Sacra Via: Scripture Study, Art and Journaling. You can find Sue on Instagram at @wellofblessing.