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Synthetic Charts

I. The value and method of making charts


Perhaps one of the most useful tools for you to employ in order to get the most out of your
Bible study is a chart, sometimes referred to as a synthetic chart.

A. The place of the chart in relation to other methods:
Why should anybody consider using a chart? It is one way of summarizing, recording, and
preserving ones findings and ones thoughts. It is not intended to eliminate but rather to
supplement other methods such as the outline, enumerative summary, abstract, digest, essay,
thesis, paraphrase, memorizing, examination, question, the underlined or annotated text, etc.
It is like a mariners map to aid in navigating the oceans of words, pages, books, ideas,
people, events, etc.

B. Some of the advantages of the chart:
It appeals to the eye gate. Because of its organizational structure, a chart is very appealing.
Furthermore, pictures and charts are more readily remembered than words. A chart also has
the capacity to reveal the operation and apply the laws of composition.

Using a chart offers its users different perspectives at a glance. You can see things as a whole
or the sum of the parts. It provides the overall theme and then breaks the book down into
smaller manageable parts. A chart allows the users to recognize the unity and centrality of
features, dominant purposes or ideas, and shows how the details are subordinated into their
larger patterns. It also allows for easy comparison since it illuminates distinctive qualities and
ideas. This system often gives clues to a passage or books organization and purpose. Look
for themes, ideas or words that are repeated and note them in your chart. A chart can also
show how a book or letter is proportioned. Remember, the way an author expands on or
abbreviates themes often reflects his aims. One final benefit of a chart is its ability to
pinpoint the authors emphasis. He may emphasize by contrast, by proportion, by language,
by repetition, by position, by atmosphere in attaining his aims. All of these can be easily
observed and then noted in the chart.

So whats in it for you? Why should you expend all this time and energy on creating a chart?

The following section has been modified from Dean G. McKee

1. For the viewer:
a) It provides ideas at a glance.
b) It provides the strength of the impression.
c) It delivers from the quagmires of detail on to the highway of the dominant idea, the
stepping-stones to the significant, a guiding star to the overall plan.

2. For the chart-maker:
The benefits are the same as for the viewer but more so:
a) It provides a means of note-taking and recording of ideas with a minimum of writing.
b) It allows for a minimum of interference with the appreciative processes.

3. For all:
a) It is portable.
b) It promotes economy of memory. There is less forgetting because of emphasis upon the
visual, upon the above laws, and upon thinking.

II. The nature or contents of a chart:
1. In general it should be simple, clear, graphic, intelligent, and should reveal the dominant
aims and ideas. It should synthesize as well as analyze; generalize even more than
particularize; characterize as well as itemize; describe as well as record.

2. Specifically it may show:
a) Main divisions of a book, a subject, a period of history.
b) Theme or organizing purpose; how parts contribute to theme.
c) Pivotal events or key chapters, verses, phrases, and climax.
d) Who? -- persons; What? -- events; Where? -- geography; When? -- time element.
e) Literary features: (genre) stories, poems, laws, descriptions, figures of speech, distinctive
vocabulary, quotable passages, etc.
f) Comparison of beginning and end of book.
g) Chapter titles, perhaps paragraph titles.
h) Relation to other books; relation to contemporary events, persons, etc.
i) Characteristics of sections and of book as a whole.
j) Topical studies: God, man, sin, holiness, law, sacrifice, suffering, justice, righteousness,
prophets, priests, kings, the covenant, chosen people, etc.
k) List of summary observations (especially with topical studies where there is much detail:
to answer, What is the significance of this?).
l) Choice quotations or descriptive phrases from secondary sources (indicate sources).

III. How to develop a chart
1. Take a sheet of paper (typewriter size, not larger than two sheets). A file folder works
great and it makes your work more permanent.
2. Draw a line the long way. It is your staff, like the musicians (5 lines and 4 spaces). In the
first space, write the title of the book. In the next space write out things like: the date the
book was written, the genre, overall theme etc. These spaces can be filled in later. You
may not know the overall theme until the very end. Thats quite all right. Dont feel like
you have to have all the answers right away. Fill in the blanks as you go along.
3. Now start building off the main idea and break the book down into smaller units. Read or
scan material rapidly, and mark on the chart as you go the main features, chapters, and
events. Note any turning points or divisions.
4. Read again to group related chapters. Fix more accurately divisions and sub-divisions.
Note key expressions, phrases, and characteristics in appropriate places. Seek to grasp the
progressive steps in the attainment of the authors purpose. Organize the whole around
the climax of the book or topic or period.
5. Keep thinking backward and forward in the book. Connect related passages by arrows or
in some way make them stand out together to the eye.
6. Keep note of special topics, and at the appropriate time work these out on your chart. If
these involve considerable detail, use catch words or phrases to bring to mind the detail
and then draw up a short list of summary observations on the topic: findings and their
7. Incorporate choice descriptive sentences from secondary or other sources.
8. Keep details subordinate. Ponder significance as wholes, units, larger relationships. Seek
to move from particular to general.
IV. Some Dont and Dos in Charting:
1. Dont make it too large. Do keep it convenient to work on, something you can see at a
glance. Use both sides of the inside of a folder to write out your chart, and then add
sermon or teaching notes as you get into a more in-depth study of the book.
2. Dont make it too elaborate. It is better to make several charts, each featuring one or two
ideas, than to make it over-complicated to the loss of a charts advantage.
3. Dont let the mechanics usurp its usefulness! Observation and thought are requisite to
valuable construction. Do keep it neat and orderly, but useful and practical.
4. Dont let your imagination get out of control, but do cultivate a disciplined imagination,
an independent judgment, a fruitful creativity and originality.

5. Dont give way to designs that convey only the obvious and obscure the really
significant. Do make it meaningful.
6. Dont get sidetracked by details, minor points, or controversial issues. Do keep on the
main thoroughfares.
7. Dont be discouraged by your first attempts. Do try again. Remember that charts are
valuable not only in studying but in teaching. Keep making charts. Study the method
continually. Do use other methods as well.
8. Dont forget to indicate sources. Do include source references and give quotations
exactly in quotation marks with author, title, and page of book.
9. Dont be sloppy in your research. Do cultivate certain habits of orderly procedure.
10. Dont roll. Do fold flat if the chart is too large.

The following will give you an idea of what a synthetic chart of 1 Peter would look like.
Your assignment will, of course, not be this detailed:

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