What Is "Arcing" and Why Is It Important?

Could you describe the basic idea of the Bible study method called "arcing"? Why is this method important?

Well, it was—how shall I not overstate it?—really, really important for me in the Fall of 1968 and the Spring of 1969 to learn it.

The principle is this: especially in the expository books of the New Testament and the Old Testament, where you have teaching and not so much a story (although the principles hold everywhere), paragraphs are made up of propositions. These are statements, questions, acclamations. They have a verb, they have a subject, and then other things surrounding those. That's a proposition.

Regarding the question of meaning, I'm banking on the assumption—and I would defend the assumption—that human authors inspired by God have meaning. That is, they intend to communicate something from their minds to my mind that will effect my heart for eternity. And it passes through our minds. And they've used words. And the way meaning works is that words fit together in propositions certain ways, and you get at that with sentence diagramming.

Sentence diagramming deals with how a prepositional phrase relates to a verb, or how an object relates to a verb. We all do this intuitively when we learn a language.

Arcing asks paragraphs what sentence diagramming asks propositions. That is, a paragraph is made up of different propositions (maybe 5 or 10 or 20). And the question is: How do they relate to each other?

And you write them out on a piece of paper. (That's the way I do it, anyway.) I write them out on a piece of paper or type them with a computer, a different proposition on each line.

For example:

Now there you've got four or five propositions, and the question is, "How do they work? How do they relate to each other logically?"

And the word "For" began each of those. That's true: that's Romans 1:16-18.

So you draw a line across the top and you draw these arcs. And each arc represents a proposition.

And you have symbols for all the logical connections that can exist there between the propositions ("G" stands for "Ground"), and you put them under these arcs. Then you draw a larger arc over two.


And now you see how "the power of God unto salvation" relates to "I am not ashamed". I am not ashamed because power is in the gospel! And now you've seen something that you might not have seen if you hadn't asked the question, "How do the two relate?"

And when you do a paragraph that gets 5 or 10 or 20 of those, all related to make one big point, you have seen so much more than if you just breezed over the paragraph.

So arcing is important to help rethink an author's thoughts after him and open the Bible in ways that, for me, it had never opened any other way.