How to measure a “pericope”

In the latest edition of Reformation 21, Dr. Derek Thomas has provided a careful answer to the question of “how much?” when deciding what to preach. I think one will find his advice both practical and lucid. He writes,

“My question here focuses on one aspect of exegetical preaching: preaching from lengthy books of the Old Testament. In this case, short texts would imply series of considerable length—too long for the patience of most congregations not to mention the skill of most preachers. What I offer are a series of observations based on a combination of principles I hold dear, practices I have observed, and failures I have most certainly made.”

You can see the full article here.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the helpful article, Paul. I will soon launch into a series on Genesis 37-50: The Life of Joseph. As you know, preaching (especially OT) narrative can be a very daunting experience. Questions abound. For example, How to divide the text? What are the actual preachable units? What is the main point of this particular unit? And so it goes. Derek Thomas’ article has given me much to think about in my preparation. P.S. As I write this I’m sitting in Starbuck’s enjoying a hot cafe’ americano. Are you jealous?

  2. I would only be jealous if my taste buds were not currently wet with the flow of a “One Equal Venti Latte.”

    I found Thomas’s article very helpful and liberating in some ways. While our preaching of genres like NT epistles may demand a more verse-by-verse aproach, I think he argues persuasively that much of the OT should not be given the same treatment. I’m really enjoying my study of the Minor Prophets in this manner although it’s not obvious from the monstrosity of an article I posted about it. I’m not sure anyone got it.

  3. Chris,

    Another keen quote from Thomas, “One way to avoid the sense of repetition is to decide on emphasizing different features in different sermons even though the exegetical material is similar. Not everything in a text needs the same emphasis every time we preach it.”

  4. It is amazing how many articles I am reading these days about the need to preach on the Old Testament. I am sure that Dr. Barrick and Professor Essex screamed this at us, but I still walked away from TMS with more of an emphasis on the NT.

    Very good article! Thanks for exposing us to such good writings on a very needed subject.

  5. One thing I’m convinced of, Paul; a pericope is much more easily measured when one is consuming the liquid gold that is Starbuck’s coffee!

  6. I enjoyed Derek Thomas’ article. In a few areas he has a different perspective than Pastor John MacArthur but he makes some very good points in this essay.

    He also made a few mistakes (in my judgement). He claimed Lloyd-Jones style of preaching (very short sections of Scripture) “seemed to be what reformed preaching was about.” Thomas does not seem to agree with this point. He fails to mention the styles of Luther and Calvin. The golden standard of Reformed theology is John Calvin. He was a verse by verse expositor preaching BOTH the Old and New Testaments.

    I am not trying to defend MacArthur’s view point here (though i do agree with him), that slower is better than faster. MacArthur noted we should take them DEEP, real deep; and take them high, real high, into the heights of praise.

    I loved MacArthur’s sermon on this subject at the Shepherd’s conference two or three years ago.


  7. […] More than once I have been asked what is a “pericope” (pronounced: pe-ri-ke-pee) as it pertains to preaching (we’ve discussed this once before here). Its importance is mainly felt in, but not limited to, narrative portions of Scripture (as well as poetic sections). When preaching a section of Scripture it is crucial to know where the section begins and ends and it is the pericope that provides the framework. There are many clues as to defining the shape of a pericope which might include transitional words, plot or scene changes, syntactical markers, etc. It might also be argued that the pericope gives a textual limit to the one meaning of a given text which is of first importance in understanding the original meaning of a biblical author. Kaiser is helpful in showing the importance of this in our preaching: Words belong to sentences, and sentences usually belong to paragraphs, scenes, strophes, or larger units within the grammar of a genre. This is why I urge that a good expositional sermon never take less than a full paragraph, or its literary equivalent (e.g., a scene, a strope, or the like), as a basis. The reason is clear: Only the full paragraph, or its equivalent, contains on full idea or concept of that text. To split off some of its parts is to play with the text as it could be bent in any fashion in order to accomplish what we think is best (Preaching and Teaching the Old Testament, 54).   […]

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